I really like maps, and I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because they help me realize exactly where things are. Since we started Echo, we take one worship service early in the year to reflect on the past year and look forward at what lies ahead. I'll call it my "mapping" sermon. It's always one of my favorite messages because 1) it doesn't take nearly as much research as a regular sermon; I just make an outline and share what's on my heart and 2) it's a reminder to me where God has brought us.
Tonight was the night of that service. And I enjoyed myself profusely.
I continually forget how amazing these past five years have been for us. In the spring of 2005, the plan for a new church in urban Cincinnati started to take root in our lives. Quitting my job, selling our house, moving downtown were all part of the plan and now I'm finally willing to admit that those were some of the most frightening things I've ever had to do. If I'm really being honest, I didn't want to take those risks. But looking at life on the other side, and I can assert that those were the best days of my young life.
It's all because I had no idea. I didn't know what would be. But I believed.
You see, there's belief, and then there's unadulterated, burning your bridges, downright stupid belief; it's the kind of thing that makes no sense on paper, and even less sense in real life. Although I like to think that I'm a visionary, I had no idea how this thing would look. In fact, the only thing I knew is that it had the potential for becoming a life-defining failure. But even though we really haven't "made-it" even yet, just looking in the past makes me optimistic about the future. God was there yesterday. He'll be there tomorrow. That's my happy place.
And here's the truly inspiring part: tonight, as I was being encouraged while recalling from whence we came, I was surrounded by people who were owning it too. They weren't there with me when I was in seminary, as the DNA of our church was being formed. Neither where they there during a dinner when Kelly shed tears acknowledging that we needed to plant this church. Nor were they present as Aaron Burgess, I, and our wives prayed in a suburban shopping mall for what Echo would mean to our city. But even though they weren't there, they've bought into it; it's all their history too. They've taken possession of this past and will undoubtedly shape Echo's future.
So tonight, I'm thankful for belief; for faith, for patience, for the journey.
Speaking of journey, tonight, as Kaelyn headed off to bed, she sang some lyrics from her father's childhood.
"Don't stop believin' . . . " the three year old belted out.
And her daddy smiled, because he hadn't.