On the Side: July 2021
Past and Future Hope
by Laura McLean Thomas
I love genealogies. Thanks to my beloved Grandpa Sam, I have a detailed genealogy going back to 1690 on my father’s side. It traces our family’s journey from the Isle of Mull in Scotland to the East Coast of the U.S., and eventually to Colorado. Looking at its 300-plus years of history, I wonder who these ancestors were and what they were like. If each one could tell their story, what would it include? I do know one fought in the Revolutionary War, and one had 18 children!!! I also know that none of them had any clue that their great-great-great…granddaughter would be writing this from a laptop computer in Palm Desert, California.
Christ’s genealogy in Matthew is even more intriguing. For one thing, it covers more than 2,000 years from Abraham to Jesus. Reading through the names we come across well-known heroes (and a few villains) of the Old Testament. With each passing generation God brought creation ever closer to the birth of His Son. God’s promise in Genesis 3:15 was slowly unfolding through each of Jesus’ ancestors’ lives: from Abraham to Isaac, Boaz and Ruth, David and the other kings of Judah, then through the exile and finally to the humble carpenter Joseph. Each life had purpose, and each person was planned ahead of time to be exactly where they were both in time and geography.
Genealogies display how God’s plans are both detailed and enormous. Each life is like an intricately detailed block in a quilt, all stitched together in a grand design.
You are part of that design.
Whether or not you know your ancestry, your existence was specifically planned by an almighty, all-knowing, all-loving God. You are alive at this time and place for a reason. He knows exactly where you came from and where you are going. He knows every detail of what makes you you.
He knows that this month many of you are moving for your husband’s residency, fellowship, newly-done-with-training first job or maybe even the next job. He knows you may be moving away from family, leaving a job you love or saying goodbye to dear friends who have walked this hard road with you—or maybe even leaving all three.
I get it. I have been there.
At times I have been frustrated because my life after marriage has revolved so much around my husband’s career. We got married in college, so I have been on this rollercoaster ride a long time (medical school, residency, fellowship #1, fellowship #2 and now working). We have lived in every time zone in the U.S., and each of our three kids were born in a different state. Some of it has been amazing, and some of it has been very hard.
When we first got word at the end of my husband’s residency in Minnesota that he had matched in Pennsylvania for fellowship I was thrown. Really thrown. We had hoped to stay in Minnesota. I had made so many wonderful friends during our three years in the frozen north, most of them through Side By Side. How could I leave? I remember rocking my infant daughter to sleep with tears in my eyes, trying to absorb the news.
During that difficult time the phrase “I have prepared a place” kept rolling around in my head. I finally sat down with my Bible concordance and discovered what God was trying to tell me in Exodus 23:20: “See, I am sending an angel ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared” (NIV).
That beautiful verse became my lifeline through not only that move but the following two: back to Colorado, and finally to California. Through it I learned that God has a plan for ME in the places we move, not just my husband. He had prepared everything in advance, even far in advance-generations ago. As it says in Ephesians 2:10, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (NIV).
Sometimes God’s plan is easy to see. Other times it is hidden. But the God who designed you is not going to leave you stranded. Like the beloved stories from Jesus’ genealogy, we too are living pieces in the tapestry of God’s story. He orchestrated the past to bring us to this place and this time. He designed us, His handiwork, to be who we are. He is bringing us to a place He has prepared, with good works waiting for us to do.
Through genealogies we can see how one person’s life can change the future. If Abraham had never stepped out in faith, following God’s leading to leave the land of his fathers and head out for Canaan, the whole world might look different. But instead, he believed God’s promise of future blessings and moved his whole household into the unknown.
We don’t know how our acts of faith today may bring blessings in the future. But we can start by also stepping out in faith, trusting that our Father has a plan. He promises us this in Jeremiah 29:11, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (NIV). And not only you, but future generations as well.
The romantic in me loves to picture my ancestors on the ship to America, forced to leave everything behind and head for a land they had never seen before. They had no idea what lay ahead of them. But God did. God knew, even when they were just a tiny dot on a the Atlantic Ocean, that one day they would have a great-great-great… granddaughter in California.
Laura has been married to her physician husband for 23 years this month. They have three children ages 18, 13 and 9. She has had the privilege of being part of three different Side By Side chapters over the years. If you are starting over in a new location this summer, please know you are not alone. Side By Side has chapters all over the country ready and eagerly waiting to welcome you. Please contact us and let us connect you with a chapter in your area.