I am so honored to have Shar Walker share her story here today! Shar and I met a few months back at a Gospel Coalition women’s event here in Denver, and I knew she would be a fantastic person to interview about the geographical cost of discipleship. Her experiences with the stay-or-go decision, like my own, have forced her to weigh a lot of complicated pros and cons. I love her assessment: “I stayed because I sensed that the LORD had not finished his work in and through me where I was.” A friend of Michael’s presented him with a very similar question when we were at a crossroads a few years ago. Has God done in you what He wanted to do during this season, and has God done through you all that He wanted to accomplish? We realized as we prayed about it that He wasn’t finished yet, and so we stayed.
By the way, did you miss the first installment of this series? Check out the Gospel Coalition article here.
Friends, meet Shar.
June 20, 2018. Describe a time in your life when you have had to wrestle with competing values in determining whether to stay put or move on. What swung you towards staying or going?
One time was when I came to a crossroads about whether to stay on staff with Campus Outreach or transition off and move to a new city. Several things made me want to leave: 1) I was an African-American woman in a predominately white church that seemed uninterested in the issues that plague communities of people that look like me. This stung deeply at times when the microaggressions felt like they were building up and wearing away at my dignity. 2) I was single at the time, and I wanted to get married. There were no prospects at all and I was in a relatively small town at a church filled with older saints and young families. I stayed because I sensed that the LORD had not finished his work in and through me where I was. It really was a matter of obedience. Had it been up to me, I would have left for a big city and a multi-ethnic church that was more on board with seeing races in America unified. A verse that stuck out to me during that time was Hebrews 11:8-9. In verse 8, Abraham obeyed in faith by going. In verse 9, he obeyed in faith by staying in a land as a foreigner. I had never thought of staying as an act of faith, but I felt the LORD was speaking to me at that moment to stay in Lynchburg. Interestingly enough, I began dating my husband about four months later! J
If a younger Christian asked your advice about where, geographically, to begin a career, what factors would you encourage them to consider?
I usually encourage my students to go where there is a community. I truly believe that if you move to a location where there is a body of believers that are walking with the LORD and living on mission, he will provide the other needs (job. housing, etc.).
Do you think twenty-somethings find it harder to stay or go these days? Do you think this changes over the decades?
I think millennials definitely find it harder to stay, right now. They bring with them a bold fearlessness, even pertaining to the things of God and sacrificially serving others for his sake. There is a desire to make a big impact on the world and to help change it for the better. This is such a beautiful thing, and I LOVE it about the younger people I work with and even my generation as well! With that though, I think there is a devaluing of long, steady, plodding and faithfulness in the same direction. Getting married, having kids, working a job and honoring God as a parent, lawyer, teacher or whatever profession or vocation can sometimes appear “lesser” compared to going to a foreign country. I definitely think this changes with the varying generations. Again, millennials tend to value a “save the world” mentality.
Let’s say you’ve followed God’s directives to the best of your abilities and landed in a specific place or vocational context, but some time later find yourself feeling good and properly stuck. Ever been there? What are some helpful questions in deciding when and where to move on?
My husband and I have recently been there. We are moving to Atlanta in two weeks and we really wrestled and prayed through if we should move or not. We have wanted to move since we were married and have felt a restlessness of sorts, but we have loved our community here, which makes the decision hard.
Timing. For us, it has always been a matter of when we would move, not if we would move. So for us, timing is important. I have been approaching the end of my commitment with CO this summer and Paul would have been at his new job for about a year. I was also getting wrestles in my role of staff and have desired to grow in others areas that I’m not sure I would get with CO.
Desire. We have known for a while that we would really love to live in a city area one day. Additionally, we have long desired for the health and fit for our family that it is important for us to be a part of a multi-ethnic church. Lynchburg’s options of such churches are slim to non-existent.
Opportunity. We traveled to Atlanta several times in the last year to visit churches. We knew that we would want to at least have some idea of where we may worship before we start looking for housing, jobs, etc. We found two multi-ethnic local churches that we loved and are excited about continuing to attend and discern where God would have us.
Also, a job opportunity arose for me to stay on staff with CO and work from Atlanta in a new role that is a better fit for me.
Counsel. We talked to a lot of different types of people about our move. They were super helpful in giving us feedback, things to think through, etc. Ultimately though, we had no pushback about our move.
Prayer and Fasting. Throughout the entire moving process, and even now still, we were praying and fasting at different points to seek the LORD’s guidance and petition prayer requests.
Do you think it’s possible to lay out a one-size-fits-all prescription for sorting out the geographical piece of calling?
I think it’s hard to do that since every situation is a little bit different. I think wrestling through by evaluating: timing, the season of life, desire, opportunity, seeking counseling, and praying and fasting.
How have the decision-making moments in your life affected your view of God or your relationship with Him? What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned in the stay-or-go seasons?
I have learned that God is intimately present in the “in between” seasons of life. I really don’t like feeling unsettled, and it can be hard for me to be in the middle of big life decisions. Also, I’ve learned that you can learn contentment in any season, and I’ve seen that each season and location is an assignment from the LORD. He has good works for us to walk in no matter where we are. When I remember this, the purpose often fuels contentment.
Shar Walker lives in Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband, Paul, and works on staff with Campus Outreach Lynchburg as the regional women’s director. She is a contributing author in Joyfully Spreading the Word: Sharing the Good News of Jesus (Crossway/TGC, 2018).