When sorrow arrives, it's important to focus on what yet remains; loss can consume you if you let it. I always find strength in the Lord, and He is gracious to give me His Word. In Psalm 16: 6, David makes a statement that has been on my heart today:
“The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.”
Today I give God glory for causing my boundary lines to have fallen in pleasant places. I'm grateful for the place Tammy and I have raised our family for the last thirteen years. It's a place called Saraland. Honestly, when I first heard the name of this small suburb of Mobile, I thought it a bit corny. After coming here, I didn't see a lot of impressive buildings or memorable structures.
I have a strange habit, rooted deep in my DNA. When I visit a place, especially when I move to a new place, I want to learn as much as possible about it--how it came to be, how it got its name. I quickly discover that most people don't have the same compulsion. I see a lot of wrinkled foreheads and shrugged shoulders, and I hear, “I have no clue” or even “Who cares?”
I do. I want a sense of history, especially about the place I live.
Well, Saraland has a history. It seems that a long time ago there was a Methodist circuit-riding preacher who had a preaching point in the country just north of Mobile, near Chunchula, Alabama. In those days travel was limited to the speed of a good horse. So this preacher would faithfully travel--one week to one place, the next to another, following the great tradition of Methodism's founder John Wesley.
When he would arrive at each point in the circuit, there would be the preaching of God's word, baptizing of converts, and memorial services for those who died. That was the life of a circuit-riding Methodist preacher. On one of this preacher's trips to north Mobile, his wife came with him. I don't know if it was her regular custom to do this, or if this was a rare occasion. But on this trip she fell ill. They stayed in this area hoping and praying for her recovery. She died in the home of a stranger.
The community was moved by the plight of this preacher. People poured out love toward him. He experienced so much love, so much gratitude for his faithful preaching of the gospel, that when a town arose in the region north of Mobile, they called this little place Saraland after the wife of the circuit riding Methodist preacher.
I find a sense of irony in this story. Here I am--a preacher, not from Alabama, but willing to come here at God's command. Married to a woman who made my life and ministry possible. Grateful for a good community in which to raise our family, and even glad at times that it is small, quiet, and not worthy of much attention in this world. It's a good place to hide beneath the shadow of the Almighty. We've found this people to be kind, grateful for our ministry, in the same way they were for that Methodist pastor and his wife. I also know the great loss of my precious wife. I know the powerful love and compassion of people who feel my grief and wish to do everything they can to come to my aid. I believe they would name this place Tammyland if they could. Tammy would never stand for that, I assure you.
What marks this community is compassion, love, and a generous spirit. It always has and still does. Our community will not stay small for long. Change is already under way. What I hope and pray is that in the process of time and transformation, one thing will never be lost in my little city: love.
Thank you Lord, for allowing my boundary lines to fall in pleasant places!