As many people do, a few years ago I relocated across the country. I moved to a place where I knew no one, to a city I had never even visited. I started a new job, and with that came the necessity of building a whole new life. Scary stuff.
I vividly remember the last Sunday morning I worshipped at my home church. It was at that church I had first encountered the transformative power of the Holy Spirit, that my walk with God had turned more into a bounding leap, and that I had really grown to love worshipping Jesus. I was afraid to leave it – and the rest of my life – behind.
On that last Sunday, we sang the song My Guardian by Ben Cantelon. The lyric You go before me, you’re there beside me was agonisingly relevant. It was a reassurance from God that He’d be at the other end of my move, but it was also a struggle for me to sing because deep down there was a part of me that wasn’t sure what that meant.
The following week I picked out a local church in my new city and went along to the Sunday morning service. It was very different to what I’d become used to; a much quieter, more traditional service, and my heart was sinking when I thought of what I had lost. After a bit of liturgy, the worship band stood up. I say ‘band’, but it was a child on a guitar, a drummer with half a drum kit, and a woman on a saxophone. I’ll admit I rolled my eyes (see my post on worship snobbery) and missed my home even more. But then the guitarist struck a chord and they started the first song – you guessed it – My Guardian.
The situation felt that it couldn’t have been more different; here I was in a strange church in a strange city with strange people, where I didn’t fit and the service was odd to me. And yet here I was singing the same worship song to the same God, who was present, just the same. He really had gone before me.
On that day, I had a sudden and strong understanding of the beauty and truth in Psalm 139:7-10:
“Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.”
I didn’t end up settling at that church, but it was there God taught me a lesson that I’ve carried with me through all the changes life has thrown me since. It doesn’t matter where I go, or who I’m with, or what I’m doing. The same God is there. He’s there beside me. He goes before me. I could move to the other side of the world and in one sense nothing would have changed. I’m always home with Him.
It’s nearly summer, and it’s a time when a lot of people move on. Students graduate and tumble out into the real world, kids leave home and stand on their own feet for the first time, couples get married and strike out on a whole new kind of life together.
But there’s always a constant; God. It sounds theologically obvious, but it’s something that’s helpful to realise all over again when your feet are on shifting sands.
If you’re going through – or approaching – a time of transition or moving on, I pray that you will have a strong sense of the continued nearness of God. It may be a lonely time, or a frightening time, or it might be a time of excitement and joy. Perhaps it is a mixture. But whatever, you are like the Israelites and whether you are in Egypt, in Canaan or somewhere in between, you are at home with God.
You go before me
You’re there beside me
And if I wander
Love will find me
Goodness and mercy
Will always follow
You go before me
– My Guardian, Ben Cantelon