A new love affair

She had bathed in the familiar and the loved. Change seemed impossible to accept. But in time her new surroundings grew familiar, and changing affections provided a new place for her heart to reside.

Sally Streib spent the early years of her life in California, and now makes her home in Guthrie, Oklahoma.

I sat quietly on the sand watching the sun set behind the cliffs just offshore. Sea birds flew busily about snatching supper from the sea, then settling down for the night in hollows and nesting places chosen among the granite giants. Streaks of red and amber crossed the darkening sky; a peaceful calm settled all around me. The noises of the sea endless, enduring sounds of waves meeting shore sounded comforting and friendly. Could I ever be happier? I didn't think so. Could any place be more beautiful? Not this side of heaven.

I thought of many things in the closing moments of light. Could I ever love any place more or even as much? I doubted that. This was my home. It had befriended me, thrilled me with its beauty, excited me with its extravagant variety, and fed me from its bountiful larder. I belonged to this place. Here I had grown up; here my ideas of life had formed—my attitudes, my curiosity for learning, my sense of adventure, and the need to love and be loved. Here my family and friends laughed, cried, played, and worked. Its mountains, deserts, hills, and shores had given generously and freely to my ever-deepening awareness of their Creator.

I had thought of all the special spots—the quiet cove reached only by a few climbers and mostly to be had in privacy, the first wildflowers of the springtime desert, mountain lakes scattered like pebbles tossed away by a child, and meadows full of music and wonder. I laughed remembering seagulls snatching fish from the nets of the fishermen as they worked by the ocean. I saw in my mind the acres of flowers grown for their seeds, and felt the almost overwhelming beauty that always took my breath away. And I thought of the miles and miles of orchards, farms, and growing things framed by great mountain ranges full of wonderful things the Lord designed. I thought of how much I loved the varied cultures, races, and languages of this familiar and beloved land.

During the years of my life I had loved, learned, and investigated my world. I had marveled at a heaven full of stars, a sea full of wonders, and mountains full of surprises. I had given and received in all types of human relationships.

Now I was leaving! My earthly things lay packed and sealed in boxes. My husband had just marched down the aisle with cap and gown to receive his coveted diploma. We were about to march down a new road. Half of my heart, it seemed, beat happily at the prospects of unknown adventure as a brand-new minister's wife. The other half, stricken, said, "How can you leave this place and still be whole? How can you ever love any other place as you do this? You have to love; you can't just be. You are not put together that way."

Days passed, days of moving, learning new names, seeing new places, and making a home of a house. Those were days of trying new things and learning, days of working and praying with people. Days turned into months, and months turned into years. Three years. A new little church sprang up, watered by our tears, prayers, and work. There was the thrill of catching glimpses of what God wanted to do and how He could use imperfect people to win others to Himself. During these three years the challenges of "ministerial life" did not disappoint me. They were great! Life was filled with inspiring workers' meetings, camp meetings, retreats, evangelistic meetings, and day-to-day problem solving. I loved being part of a very wonderful family of workers. What a privilege!

Yet, deep inside, all the longings for the "old places and faces" remained alive and strong, sometimes crying out to be heard. I looked forward to visits home, when I could bathe in the ecstasy of the familiar and loved. These interludes became islands in the sea of days that surrounded me. I was always happy to return to my place of service, but that is what it continued to be—"a place of service for God," not a place for the heart to reside.

Then, somewhere along the way, God began to nudge my heart and mind with new thoughts. "Was not the reason I loved home so much because of all the things it had given me? Wasn't I loved there? Wasn't it a place where people had helped me grow and learn to meet life with joy? Was I not in love with the places that had given me pleasure and made laughter a part of my day? It was a love affair, for sure.

Then God patiently suggested, "You will be surprised to realize how much of yourself you have invested in this 'new place.'" And I was! When we received our first call to move from one church to another in the conference, I began to understand that God had prepared a new kind of love affair for me. In fact, I had been experiencing it for some time without fully realizing it. I saw that during all the months I had been fellowshiping, laughing, and praying with God's people, I had been investing myself in this new life, and now the dividends were coming back in a wealth of happiness and contentment. There had been failures and good times; always there were the people to love. I realized what an unspeakable joy it had been to serve God's people.

I remembered, too, how God had sent Jesus from loved and familiar surroundings to this inhospitable place so that He could become one with us, serve us, live and die for us. He put everything He had into His "home away from home." He became part of us. Jesus literally gave Himself to us. His joy was to be anywhere He could bring happiness, healing, or spiritual growth to anyone who would respond.

Jesus has called us, His ministers' wives, to a similar experience. We move from "home" base and go from new adventure to new adventure. We actually share, in a small way, Jesus's own experience. He may separate us from our treasures so that, standing yielded and empty before Him, we may then be filled and prepared for this wonderful experience. He may lead us away from a life of receiving to a new one laden with giving. He leads us into a new kind of love affair.

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Sally Streib spent the early years of her life in California, and now makes her home in Guthrie, Oklahoma.

May 1981

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