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The last couple of years have seen a lot of change for myself and my friends. Some of us have moved, whether thirty minutes down the road or to a different country. We’ve experienced betrayal and the fracturing of relationships within our friend group. Marriages have ended, and new relationships have formed. I think we would all say that it’s been a season of disorientation, of grief, and of trying to reorient, to reconfigure what life looks like now.

In the fall I was watching a video message from one of these friends. There was much that was new and good in her life. A new relationship, a new home. And yet she was grappling with the hurt of betrayal, the grief of a lost friendship, the enormity of the change she had experienced. She spoke of the tension she felt, wanting to live into what was exciting and fun and fulfilling, but knowing she needed to honestly confront and deal with the pain that was still present.

So she shared with me words that another of our friends had shared with her, words that that friend had in turn received from her own therapist.

“Be where your two feet are.”

In other words, live where you are right now. Don’t focus on the “what ifs,” on the fantasies of the future. Don’t try to rush through things or get ahead of yourself. Pay attention to what’s good right now. And pay attention to what’s hard right now. And then let yourself feel those feels. Do the work. So that, when the future comes, when your two feet are in a different place, you can be there in a healthy, more authentic way, with both feet underneath you, instead of one foot stuck in the past.

I’ve thought about those words a lot since watching that video. It’s so tempting to get ahead of ourselves, so tempting to want to be somewhere else, so tempting to rush through the hard stuff to get to something we perceive will be better.

And in the last little while, I’ve thought about those words particularly in the context of the church.

Last week I attended a conference titled “Beyond Culture Wars: Fostering Solidary in an Age of Polarization.” On the whole it wasn’t the most uplifting of conferences. Kristin Kobes Du Mez kicked things off with a frank analysis of evangelical Christianity within the American context. Various workshops identified worrying trends within the Canadian religious scene. In one workshop the participants spoke of our shared sense of wilderness. We came from evangelical and mainline denominations, but we all shared some sense that the church is in a hard spot. We’re experiencing division, declining membership, weariness, and a sense of fragility.

This workshop was titled “What Comes Next?” and I was kind of hoping someone would give us 3-step plan for getting out of the wilderness. No such luck. Obviously. But then a gentleman raised a question, and his words felt remarkably familiar.

“Why is it that in the church we can never be where we are?”

“Why do we keep trying to get to the next thing?” he wondered. “If we’re in the wilderness…maybe that’s where we’re supposed to be for a while.”

Maybe the church should be where her two feet are.

My local church has been in the wilderness of heavy conversations around human sexuality for a while now. It does feel like a wilderness. It’s hard. It creates anxiety. People don’t want to be in this place. I get that.

But I also feel like this is where our two feet are. We can’t ignore the conversation (or at least I don’t think we should). We have to name the reality that there isn’t consensus in our church. We have to grapple with what unity looks like. We have to wrestle with the big questions of “what will our church do?” We’re in a wilderness…and I’m not sure there’s a quick way out of it.

And as much as we don’t love the wilderness, as people of the Book, we also know that the wilderness is often where God shows up in profound and surprising ways. It’s where people are shaped and formed. It’s where something new is revealed. It’s where some things may die, so that other things might grow.

So my biggest frustration over the last few years has been hearing people say, “We need to get past this so we can get back to the mission of the church.” As if this is all some distraction, an inconvenient detour that needs to be gotten through in order to get back to what the church should really be doing. I’m not entirely sure what those people mean when they say “mission.” I imagine it means some kind of outreach and evangelism and growing the church. And I would never tell someone that’s a bad impulse to have.

But it seems to me that here, right here where our two feet are, the opportunity for mission is ripe. In this age of polarization, the church can bear witness to a different way of being. In this time when young people are leaving the church, the church needs to reach out to that demographic and show that they’re willing to engage with the things that are important to them. And certainly – certainly – just asking questions about what belonging looks like for a community that has been ostracized and hurt by the church over and over again – is one small way in which the church can show love to the LGBTQ community.

Bearing witness to unity, reaching out to the unchurched and deconstructing in genuine curiosity and welcome, and loving our queer brothers and sisters enough to engage in the conversation…I have to believe that this is the church living out its mission in the world.

So I think we need to stay where our two feet are. Engaging in this mission, these opportunities that God has placed in front of us. With the hope that, yes, one day we might find the wilderness looks a little less scraggly and we can see some greener spaces on the horizon. But able to say, when we reach that place, that we did the work, that we went there together, that we paid attention to what the Spirit was doing among us. And never doubting that even here, even in the wilderness, God is at work in us and among us, doing something new and surprising and profound in our midst.

Laura de Jong

Laura de Jong is the Pastor of Preaching and Worship at Community Christian Reformed Church in Kitchener, Ontario


  • Daniel Meeter says:

    Very wise. And it reminds me of what God says in Ezekiel 43:7, “This is the place of the soles of my feet.”

  • RZ says:

    “…..opportunity for mission is ripe. In this age of polarization, the church can bear witness to a new way of being.” Yes, very wise. Polarization has risen to the point of becoming THE issue, the internal cancer that supercedes all other threats.

  • David Warners says:

    Thank you. Wilderness experiences are usually times of important growth too, when fresh insights arise that we take with us. Really enjoyed this essay.

  • Pete says:

    This reflects my experience and hope, personally and for the church. Thanks Laura.

  • Manette deJonge says:

    Thank you Laura!

  • Thank you, Laura. Wise on so many levels. Thanks for your work and sharing your heart.

  • CB says:

    Wise words, hopefully people and churches will take them to heart.

  • Mary Swier Bolhuis says:

    I am in one of those places of great transition and all I do is fret about next year. Meanwhile, I am physically in a beautiful setting, mountains, water, birds, silence; all the things I need right now to face the shift coming up. Meanwhile, my church meets in General Conference in Charlotte, NC for the first time with only a part of us gathering after a great split. Your words were exactly what I needed to read.
    Thank you.

  • Thanks you. Wisdom worth considering, reconsidering, waiting, being where we are, and then acting appropriately.

  • Henry Baron says:

    Thank you, Laura. Worthy of thoughtful reflection and discussion among us wandering and wondering.

  • Ron Rienstra says:

    You know this song, right, Laura?

  • Deb Mechler says:

    So well said. The wilderness is where we can learn to trust God’s ways if we are open to what we are experiencing and don’t push away the discomfort and confusion (despair?). Those feelings are telling us something about ourselves.

  • Sara says:

    Thank you for reminding us to be present in the here and now, to accept what we are experiencing, and look for the blessings–the growth and the opportunities we have in this time to be the light in the darkness.

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