How we ended up going back to Colorado
My next post will cover the specifics of what we’ll be doing in Colorado and when we’re moving, but this post is devoted to telling the story of how this all came about in the first place.
In April, Michelle and I were able to go to a church planting conference in Orlando called Exponential. We were very excited to have some time for just the two of us (a couple days before the conference) and that Cory was able to come down for the conference too. One of the first breakout sessions Cory and Michelle chose to go to a different session than I did (or I guess I chose a different one than they did–that sounded very “the world revolves around me”!). I went to a session led by Alan Hirsch. He was focusing on liminal experiences and their benefit for the church.
Briefly, a liminal experience is when you leave a known and secure place/setting/state of life for one that is uncomfortable and stretching before being returned to the original one–as a vastly changed person often with a changed status. The clearest example of this is with some of the world’s indigenous tribes when boys are raised by the women of the camp, then when they reach a certain age they are taken away and put through rites of passage, after which they return to the tribe as men.
As Alan was talking about this and diagramming it on his famous whiteboard, I had an experience like I’ve only had three or four times in my life. I was overcome by the presence of the Holy Spirit to the point I felt physically impacted by it, and in that time he showed me that coming to Aurora was a liminal experience for us and that we were supposed to go back. You should see the page in my journal when this happened, it’s a mess. The first thing I wrote was, “I think the Holy Spirit just told me we’re supposed to go back to Denver.”
Despite the power of this experience, I immediately started talking myself out of it. “No, there are some good things happening in Aurora, God wouldn’t want us to leave now.” “What would we even do? This is crazy. This can’t be right.” “We don’t even have anything we could do there. God, you can’t be serious.” I kept this up for the rest of the day. I resolved to pray about it–hard–and not say anything to Michelle at least until the next day. I didn’t want to lay something like this on her without being absolutely sure it was God.
By the next morning I knew there was no way around it. God had told me what we should do and I had to tell Michelle. We sat outside at a Starbucks in Orlando as I told her how I thought God wanted to rock our world–again. We both cried. But it was a holy cry–a mixture of joy, sadness, wonder, and the realization that the Holy Spirit was telling us what to do. That morning launched us into a season of fervent prayer as we started asking God what he was doing together.
It was interesting that as we prayed about it we both found we hoped he wouldn’t make us do it. If a year after moving to Aurora you had asked if we wanted to go back to Denver we would have said yes for sure. Now, two years after leaving we found that though we loved Denver, we loved the people and place God brought us to and it was really hard to think about leaving. For more than two weeks we asked God to let us out of it. Multiple times we had ourselves convinced that we should stay in Aurora–until we prayed about it–and then we were unified in the conviction that God’s calling wasn’t changing.
Three weeks after the initial encounter with the Holy Spirit we decided the only thing we could do was start being obedient and pursue what might be there for us in Denver. In that process we discovered that the shape of our liminal experience was not only leaving Denver and going back, but leaving the institutional church and going back as well. I fought that one hard initially. I knew God couldn’t want that for us. But my resistance to his call faded on that count over time as well. There were a few opportunities that came up, and over time God led us to one. I won’t go into the details here, but the way we ended up heading for Mountair Christian Church were miraculous in many ways. There is no doubt God has overseen this process.
So we are heading back to Denver–something we thought we’d never do. Something that didn’t even cross our minds four months ago. We are only doing it because Michelle and I stand together in the deeply-rooted conviction that God has asked us to. We’ve always said we’d follow him no matter what he asked of us, and this is the next step in our lives in that pursuit.
My next post will hit some of the highlights of the move, the church we’re going to, and what happens to Infuse.