I don’t know exactly when it started, but a family survey estimates somewhere around 2011 or so, after the 4 Warrens had spread out into different places. Our daughter was working in Texas for BNSF, our son had remained in Oakdale, working in construction and we were freshly relocated to Hanford to pastor the church we were “launched” into ministry from 20+ years earlier.
Ours wasn’t the stereotypical ministry family – at least that’s what we’ve determined for ourselves. Though it was common to hear stories of “rebellious PKs” and the pressured life of ministry in a fishbowl, that really wasn’t our experience. We genuinely loved being with one another, and being in church with one another. Freedom to choose when, where and how we served God through serving others was always an open conversation, and much to our pride and sometimes surprise, our kids seemed to genuinely want to be with us! We watched as they found their own voices and stepped into leadership in their own ways, and most importantly, came to know God themselves and express their own faith. It wasn’t perfect, but it was us, and it was pretty great. =)
So when the time finally came that we were no longer living together and not even in the same town or state, someone (no one knows for sure…) sent the first group text that would come to be repeated hundreds of times over.
It simply said…
It was just two words and the all-important exclamation point, but it meant SO much more….
It said, “I’m here…I’m thinking of you on a day that’s always been a family day, and I love you.“
The next couple of years someone would send the group text, others would respond, and it became an important point of connection. This simple gesture is just one of the things I think about now with deep gratitude as I think of how it has come to mean something even greater and more precious in recent years.
In 2014, when the Warren 4 became 3, it was a very difficult and soul-shaking time. Everything stopped and all we could do was turn toward one another and honestly just hold on for dear life. I don’t remember who started it again first….but someone sent out a “Happy Sunday!” text to the other two and a whole volume of words were spoken in those two little words followed by the improbable exclamation point….
It still said, “I’m here…I’m thinking of you on a day that’s always been a family day, and I love you”, but now it also said, “We’re still here…we’re still a family today and every day, and we are loved.” It became our holy rebellion against the pain and darkness that consumes too much of our world, and brought our son and brother back into the safe circle of family. It said, “No matter how dark the days can feel, and how much we hate this earthly fracture, there are some things that cannot be taken away.” With each Sunday text, we proclaim that death doesn’t have the final word, and that love lives on, not just in memory, but in tangible, powerful ways that continue to connect us.
As we round the bend on the season of Lent and begin to turn our attention to the difficult days ahead for Jesus and those who loved him, I think it’s a good time to think about our own “holy rebellion” in the face of all the brokenness we see in the world. Jesus died to hand us our freedom, not from all the hardships, pain and broken places (and people) we experience all around us, but so that we can say, “No matter what it looks or feels like….I’m still here…I’m connected to the family of God, and I am loved.“
You don’t have to wait until all the questions are answered or all the problems are solved or all of the pain is gone….if we make that our standard of faith, we’ll never choose to believe, and we’ll never know the power of the resurrection. And no matter what else I know, I know that I need the resurrecting power of grace, forgiveness and new life that is born of faith in Jesus and his faithfulness to me.
So, even though it’s Monday….I leave Day 29 with a gift of “holy rebellion” from my heart to yours, when I say with love and gratitude….