Throughout all of their journeys, whenever the cloud was taken up from over the tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out. But if the cloud was not taken up, then they did not set out until the day that it was taken up (Exodus 40:36-37).
I think it’s fair to say that hearing from God is not often easy. Not because God isn’t speaking, but because His voice is most often quiet, subtle, barely more than a hushed thought that drifts through our mind, or a strange flutter in our belly when we read a certain passage of scripture, or hear a certain word spoken in such a way that without prompting or effort it embeds itself into our heart.
Hearing from God isn’t a science. There’s no formula or prescription we can follow, no rubric by which to gauge our effort. Hearing from God requires a measure of faith. It requires active listening. It requires paying attention.
I’ve often read this passage from Exodus with a bit of wonder. At face value, it appears that for the Israelites, God made following Him simple: Follow the cloud. Stay when it stays, move when it moves. I’m often envious of this kind of clear guidance. The cloud never vanished from their sight. The chapter closes by stating that whether day or night, the glory of the Lord was visible to all of the house of Israel throughout all of their journeys (Exodus 40:38).
This particular space, GraceTable, is one over which I have had innumerable conversations with God. From its inception, I have prayed a particular prayer, month after month, committing to carry it only as long as God asked of me, while remaining willing to set it aside, when and if that day came. The dream of GraceTable didn’t come with much instruction. Mostly, God’s presence has been felt in His provision. In the community. In the breaking of bread through stories and the occasional recipe. As much as I’ve wished for such a clear hand of guidance from God, the steps of my own journey have been a practice in listening, and then stepping in faith that I’ve heard correctly.
A couple of weeks ago, as I prayed the same prayer I have prayed for years about this space, something was different. The cloud- God- moved. I would have been tempted to doubt my own sensing of it except for the near-immediate confirmation that settled into my heart.
When I reached out to GraceTable’s managing editor, Grace, to share my thoughts with her, she confirmed what I’d heard in prayer.
God was clear.
After nearly 4 years of running this community, the GraceTable “kitchen” is closing indefinitely.
I can’t fully express the strangeness of being told to set something so good down, when there is no obvious reason to step away. But as I lean into this with an effort towards obedience, I have total peace about this decision. For now, I am sure, it’s time for this space to rest.
There are so many dreams I still carry for this space. So many good ideas. But I know that to remain, when God has clearly said to move, would be a mistake. It doesn’t matter how good the thing in your hands looks if God is telling you to put it down. This is what it means to say, “Thy will be done.” This is what it means to surrender.
From the moment the first story was published here, you have come around again and again to encourage us and share your own beautiful stories of hospitality. You have made every effort here worthwhile, and it has been a humbling joy and honor to sit with you at this table. I close this space for now with the deepest gratitude for you, dear readers and friends.
For now, GraceTable will remain “live,” but we will not be publishing new posts. Feel free to re-read your favorite articles or search the recipes. Our email list will close as well. We will not be accepting any new subscribers at this time.
I hope you’ll take the time to follow the writers here at GraceTable on their own blogs, buy their books, and hear them speak whenever the opportunities arise. We are all still active in our various other writing endeavors, ministries and activities. Our hearts are still so much for this important conversation about what it looks like to welcome others and extend hospitality even when it’s hard.
As I close, I want to encourage you to watch and listen for God’s movement in your own life, and when it’s time to go forward into the next thing, or into some territory yet revealed, go with faith, trusting that God leads us on for His glory and our own good, whether we know it or not.
I also want to encourage you that even when it’s hard, even when there is a cost (because there always is), to keep inviting others into your life and around your table. Keep engaging in conversations that stretch and grow you. Keep your arms open.
Thank you for the ways you have always welcomed GraceTable into your hearts, into your inboxes, and into your daily feeds. You have been so kind to us. I am grateful beyond words.