Paul suggests in Philippians that we are to be content in all things. This is a text that may be quoted to a pastor's wife when she is feeling restless and uncomfortable with her situation. Basically it's good advice, but is it possible to become too content? This happened to me.
My husband, Lee, and I had been in the same conference in North America for 15 years—yes, that's right, a record-setting 15 years! We had begun our stint there with him serving as conference secretary. Then after a few years, he was elected president. I loved my job in the conference office, and after many years of taking whatever flexible job I could find so I could fit into school schedules and church work, it seemed that I had finally come into my own.
Both of us said that professionally, we should probably move one more time before retirement. Maybe we were in a rut. Maybe the field needed new blood. Fifteen years in the same home is long enough to have divided the tulips in the flower garden, redecorated the house and put down deep, deep roots. We knew who belonged to which family throughout the conference. We had seen children start first grade and enter college. It was truly home, and we loved it.
Early in August 1995, we had driven 130 miles to our church's youth camp to attend a retreat for pastoral families. This was always a happy, relaxed week, and we were eager to be with our workers. We got settled in our cabin, greeted the families as they arrived and ate supper. The first meeting was to start at about 7 o'clock. My husband had organized the service, and one of the pastors was leading a song service in the lodge. Lee was sitting on the front row in readiness. We anticipated growth, love, and companionship during the next few days.
About this time I remembered one phone call that I needed to make. I slipped into the office of the lodge and discovered that someone else was using the phone, so I stood quietly waiting until it was free. In just a moment the woman who was using the phone, hung up and turned to leave. Startled to see me standing there she said, "That call was actually for you. You're to call your neighbor. There's been a storm and your house is damaged."
Knowing my neighbor's number by heart, I quickly dialed and heard the shaky voice on the other end of the line tell me that a tree had been snapped off in a storm and had fallen onto and through the roof of our home, over our bedroom.
I slipped up to the front row where Lee was ready to begin the meeting. I whispered the news to him, and he turned in disbelief and asked, "Our house? Our house?" He stood and gave the shortest greeting he has ever given and then made the announcement that we would be leaving immediately. Several men and women came and volunteered to go back with us to the city to help.
That was a very long two and a half-hour trip. At first we talked about what ifs and possibilities. Then as we pulled into our little town, we both became just short of the point of holding our breaths.
The first thing we checked was the outside of the house and the tree itself. We saw with relief that the tree had rolled off the roof and onto the ground in the only clearing in the back yard. We experienced emotions which were a cross between reluctance and eagerness as we entered the house. When we saw the bedroom, we sighed with relief. In spite of the more than 3 x 6 foot gap in the ceiling, it could have been much worse. It had rained six inches in a very short time and everything was wet—but there didn't seem to be a lot of permanent damage.
Two men started removing furniture and wet, soggy insulation which had scattered throughout the room. When the furniture was cleared, they pulled up the wet carpet. My husband had checked downstairs and found that the water had just begun dripping into a storage area. Other helpers moved the mountain of things which were on the shelves there. Because of the fast work, not one box was even dampened.
The women turned their attention to emptying out the drawers of waterlogged clothing. The closet was at the other end of the bedroom, so the hanging clothes were spared. In the wee hours of the morning, with the roof patched and the damage under control, the pastors' wives left for a nearby home, a truck with three pastors returned to the camp, and two pastors spread out their sleeping bags on our living floor to sleep. Our guest room downstairs became our bedroom for the next month. The next morning, with chain saws in hand, the able pastors began cutting the branches from the century-old tree.
Before we had turned out the lights to sleep that morning, I had said to my husband, "Do you think the Lord is trying to tell us something? Is He nudging us to get the house ready to sell so we can move on to the next appointment He has for us?"
The insurance company agreed that the water damage necessitated new carpeting and fresh decorating throughout the upstairs. The insurance even paid for a complete new roof. Moving completely out of the upstairs gave us a very good opportunity to sort our possessions which led to discarding, selling, and giving away things we didn't need. With the upstairs all fresh and clean, we decide to paint and recarpet the downstairs, giving us a completely renovated home.
"Is the Lord trying to tell us something?" I kept asking. All the time we kept working at our jobs as if God intended us to stay there forever. It was quite a shock when we were approached a few months later with the possibility of moving to Russia. We knew that God had certainly gotten our attention, but this possibility was more traumatic than the experience of the tree falling through the roof. This is one time when He certainly didn't speak in a still small voice!
As the Russia possibility was developing, our conference Women's Retreat was held. Months before the speaker had asked me to learn and then sing a song to go with her presentations. The chorus of the song says, "Here I am, Lord. Is it I, Lord? I have heard you calling in the night. I will go, Lord, if you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart." As I met with my friends for what would perhaps be the last time, can you imagine how difficult it was to hold my secret in my soul? Can you imagine how I prayerfully sang that song?
By this time we decided that if the call came, we would accept. How could we do otherwise? The time came to put our house on the market, and Lee went to Russia to begin his work. Our freshly decorated house that sported a new roof sold in less than a week. We sold possessions, stored other possessions, said good-bye to our families and moved to Moscow. We were secure in the fact that we were where God wanted us to be.
The Bible tells us to be content, but there is a danger of becoming too content. He usually speaks in a still small voice, but sometimes He shouts. Many people receive calls to move and their houses don't sell, ours did.
The end results are the same if you have put your life in His hands. Whatever it takes to get your attention, it's comforting to know that you are where God wants you to be at the moment and that when He wants you to move, He will let you know.