For whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God. Ruth 1:16
Over forty years ago, Becky repeated these familiar words at our wedding, and neither of us had any idea what they might mean. How could any twenty-something couple possibly know the “goest” and the “lodgest” that lay ahead? Or what it might mean to become part of a family and then to start a family? Though we know him so much better than we did 40 plus years ago, as we have traveled together on the journey of marriage, our God has only shown himself more and more to be the faithful God before whom we made those amazing marriage promises.
Now there is a new season, a next part of the journey, coming our way in less than a year. Since we announced our retirement – set for mid-year, 2020 – one of the most frequently posed questions is the whither question. “Whither wilt thou goest?” we’re asked. In fact, we’ve been asking the whither question of ourselves for a while and have finally come to an answer.
The great joys of our life together are our family – now three children and their spouses plus eight grandchildren, and living life with our God beside us through calm and storm, joy and sorrow. The whither in retirement question had to be answered, then, with “closer to family” and “as part of a strong church family.”
The circles on the map indicate where our children and their families live; finding a whither closer to family is no easy task. A place to lodge the same distance from each of the families in our family would put us somewhere in southeast Wyoming. Cheyenne would do the trick. 1,084 miles east gets you to Sturgis, Michigan, 1,115 miles northwest puts you at Ephrata, Washington, and a quick drive 1,106 miles southeast and you’ve crossed the Mississippi into Memphis, Tennessee.
Parents learn early on that “just the same” is bad policy for good family life.
We decided not to fill our retirement with 1,100 mile drives, so we started looking at those circles, each circle on the map representing a one-hour drive radius from one of the families in the family. Over the course of the last many months, each circle took its turn as number one on the list of whither we goest.
We also began to look for faithful churches within each of those one-hour circles. EPC would be nice; Reformed, warm, and with a strong sense of worship and mission was mandatory. We’ve visited a hundred or more websites, listened to dozens of online sermons, and visited a few churches in person.
And we prayed. We prayed a lot. God answered. Sometimes he startled us with his answers. Sometimes he was patient as we were slow to hear what he was saying. In time, God’s time, God’s answer to our whither question has become clear.
None of the circles got any closer to the others or to Cheyenne, Wyoming. The thought of not being close to each of the little families in our family is still only agonizingly difficult. But we – God – found a town on the edge of one of those one hour circles, and it seems to be just the right place. We’ll be an hour from one of the families.
Saint Andrew Evangelical Presbyterian Church is right in the middle of town. We’ve worshiped at Saint Andrew. We’re beginning to get to know Pastor Adam and a couple of the elders. It should be a good place to sit in the same pew and serve together.
We’ll drive or fly into those other circles on the map as often as we can.
“Whither thou goest,” Becky said all those years ago. This town on the edge of one of the one hour circles, this town with Saint Andrew EPC right in the middle of it, was not on any whither list we would have made forty years ago. “My ways are not your ways,” says the Lord.
So, thanks be to God! We can answer when someone asks, “Whither wilt thou goest?”
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