Necessary Endings

Necessary Endings

by Cathee Poulsen

It all began about a year ago. Late December 2019. A sinking feeling that it was time to let some things go. To walk away from what seemed good, purposeful, and satisfying in many ways. Which only made the decision harder.

Have you ever struggled with a decision like that? Knowing that something isn’t working anymore, but walking away would create other issues you aren’t ready to deal with?

I kept pushing the heaviness aside until one morning when I decided it was time to face what I was feeling and ask for God’s direction. I bought myself a strong coffee, drove to a quiet place where I wouldn’t be interrupted, and settled on a hidden bench in the park.

If I resigned from the position, as I felt God required, it would mean leaving the one thing I most enjoyed in ministry at the time. And how would I explain to the others? They wouldn’t understand. I didn’t understand!

Asking for Confirmation

I don’t believe in putting out fleeces. I know God answered Gideon — twice — but I also know He’d already answered Gideon’s questions before he asked for reassurance. Somehow that’s always seemed like a lack of faith. 

But God is so faithful and over many decades of listening for His direction, I’ve learned to trust His prompting, even when I don’t understand what He’s after. I wanted to be someone who would just move with God at the first call and not need a lot of explanation. 

It isn’t always quite that easy, is it?

Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him, and he will act. Ps. 37:5 ESV

Commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established. Prov. 16:3

He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. 1 These. 5:24

These are old, familiar and trusted words to me. They’ve carried me through many deep waters when I wasn’t sure I was taking the right path.

But this time, I needed confirmation. So I asked God to confirm what I felt He was asking me to do. To give up my current ministry assignment.

God is Faithful

I don’t remember how soon after I prayed that prayer—within the week, I think—I was at the gym, plugging along on the treadmill, listening to a podcast. Two men were talking about the end of the year and some shifts they were making in what had been high priority for them in 2019. 

“This is something I have loved participating in over the last 10 years. Walking the El Camino in Spain with a group of people. But I’ve felt strongly that God has said this is the last year I will do it. 

My shot up antenna on high alert.

Then the other person said, “I just closed out a great national tour on an emotional high. But I sense it is over and if I don’t walk away, what He has next will not come.”

Wow! I knew this was the Lord’s voice. They went on for a while with a conversation about things ending necessarily, but I already new I’d gotten what I needed.

Now What?

After making my break, I moved forward with what was in my path to do next. We entered the pandemic and by March we all knew something was way off. Church services were cancelled, Zoom magically appeared right when we needed it, eventually Drive-In Church Services materialized and we moved through the months wondering who pulled the plug on life as we’d known it. 

Our small group  took off three or four weeks but by May we were back on track. Spending a year learning what it is to be an apprentice of Jesus. To be with Him, to be like Him and to do what He would do if He were me. Spiritual growth was evident, people were excited about what they were learning.

Have you ever thought about “Now what?” as a prayer rather than a complaint? Me either, but soon my heart began to ask that question without the frustration, but rather with anticipation. I was following a specific path, a road that would lead somewhere, even though there were no answers yet. 

The Holy Spirit doesn’t direct us that intentionally without some kind of follow-through. In the waiting we learn to detach from our supposed outcomes. Or to let go of desires that were more self-driven than Spirit-led. It would be eight months before I got my next direction, but thankfully I felt at peace.

We are a team, a spiritual partnership, Bob and I, and we continued to pray together and wait. We both sensed strongly that God was working things together for good and it would take as long as it took.

Surprised by Joy

One Sunday in August we decided to visit some friends who attend a different church and go out for lunch afterward. It was a typical Florida summer day, dripping with humidity, the unforgiving sun worrying us already at 9:30. But after weeks of slogging through Covid and masks and no hugging, it seemed like the rebirth of the world to walk into a noisy, full church service.

I suppose there was nothing really remarkable about the service. It was good and the panel of two couples talking about marriage and its challenges felt spontaneous and helpful. But I could feel something waking up in me. A sort of joy bubbling up inside. 

I didn’t hear a voice. The heavens didn’t open and a bird fly down. But I knew that I knew I was leaving one season and entering another. The winds of change had blown us into a new place.

Stand at the Crossroads

The hardest part has been trying to explain all this to friends who we love and who love us but don’t understand why we made a move. It makes about as much sense as that stanza from a favorite childhood poem 

The time has come,’ the Walrus said,

      To talk of many things:

Of shoes — and ships — and sealing-wax —

      Of cabbages — and kings —

And why the sea is boiling hot —

      And whether pigs have wings.’

The Walrus and the Carpenter, by Lewis Carroll

I have no explanation because God gave us no explanation. We just knew it was the right thing and now as time unfolds, and new chances to minister arise, we begin to understand just a little bit. Necessary endings can be good. Healthy. Life-giving.

This year, the year that was to give us 2020 vision, is rolling on to its expected and welcomed end. Most would say they’re happy to see it go and have mixed hopes for 2021. 

Have you been able to get through 2020 without permanent damage to your soul? Or better yet: have you come out the other side more mature than ever before? And full of joy?

Moving in sync with Jesus, as we follow the narrow path, is not always comfortable. But surrender and obedience are always worth it.

May this coming year be bright with the hope that your steps were ordained from the foundation of the world. You are the Chosen. 

Tuck this verse in your heart as an assurance that what lies ahead is good and that you are loved.

“This is what the Lord says: Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.” Jeremiah 6:16

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Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing Cathee!! 2020 has been a very challenging year for everyone, for sure!! We have had our direction changed also by God. We are amazed at where we are and the things that are happening in our lives. Like you, we are asking “what’s next?” but with such an anticipation and expectation! We, my daughter Kaylie who is in 7th grade, and I are just so excited about the awesome days ahead. Never would we have imagined being where we are and the people who are a part of our lives. God always has a plan and I am learning to trust His moves in our lives.

  2. “Why we made a move?” You left me in suspense. A wonderful story of listening to God and knowing His whispers are directing your path. But then the story stopped. You made a move from church? You made a move to a new home? You made an emotional, soul, move? I’m intrigued. We also made a very spontaneous move last year, to a new home. It was almost instant. We saw, we said yes, we moved. It has been pure JOY during this COVID season. Knowing you are right where you are suppose to be is so freeing. We, also, are where we are suppose to be. We’re in a new home and I’m working full time at church, again. I expect I will ‘retire’ for the third time this Spring? Only God knows. We are so blessed!! Thanks for your beautiful story.

  3. I love you Miss Cathee. I am not sure if you remember the prayers you prayed over me making me feel that I was as special to God as any other person in this world. A poor Kentuckian hillbilly with no hope of ever being anything but that. You were the first to tell us to go back to our room and get before the Lord. Listen and wait for Him to speak. I have been waiting and listen ever since. Oh how I love my Jesus. But the most important is finding out how much He loves me. Thank you for showing me how to get quite before Him and just soak in His presence. It makes my joy full. There are times I think of you and I just thank the Lord for putting you in my life. I know He would of sent someone else if you hadn’t answered that season in your life, but aren’t you glad you did. I would hate to think of waiting until heaven to get to know you and missed out on knowing this beautiful daughter of Abraham

  4. Lynne Jones Lawler

    Cathee, thank you! This message hits home for me this morning. We are (and have been) praying for God’s continued direction as we ask “What next, Lord?” Some of the answers we have, some are still in the works and we are content to know that when it is time to know, He will tell us. 🙂 2020 has been a year more different than any I can remember for sure! Our state (AL) has been hit pretty hard by the pandemic but we have, so far, been spared by His grace and we are grateful! Bless you and Bob and the new direction God is taking you in. Love you, friends!

  5. Thank you Cathee! Well stated and I find often that I know what He wants me to do but don’t get an explanation nor can I explain it to others. His will. That’s all that I need to know to do it. This year has been a great year for growing closer to Christ and for honing my listening skills for the Spirit’s guidance. May He continue to bless you as you remain faithful to Him.

  6. Beautiful. Necessary. Love you.

  7. This brought me sooooo much peace!

  8. It certainly has been an interesting journey. It was a journey of faith and trust and we now see a little more clearly the path before us. I am thankful for every challenge because it bolstered my faith and I am better person and wiser from it. I stand amazed in the presence of the LORD! What a faithful God we serve.

  9. Great word. I like that bench pic too. Love you, partner.

  10. Oh Tiff you always have and still do have such a way with words. We can plan our lives away and God many times has totally different plans for us. Bless you dear friend in the new year. Love to you and your beautiful family. Tiff

  11. This was a beautiful post Cathee as always.
    Love to read everything you write.
    Very good explanation of the changes you made
    In your life. I’m so glad you have been in mine.

  12. Saludos Cathee. Jose here. We met at the recent coaches’ meeting. Wow! This reading was definitely for me. After our return from Nicaragua , we took a year of rest and then said, “o.k. Lord, now what?”. We’re ready to get back in the trenches and it seems to me we’re where the Lord wants us to be. Hate to admit it, but I’m the Gideon type. I’d feel so much better with a real clear sign like we had when we left to Nicaragua. Maybe I need to go the gym (I really need it!), get my earbuds on, and listen to a podcast! LOL. Meanwhile, we’ll just keep on praying. Thanks for the encouragement. Saludos to Bob. Jose and Mayra.

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