Click on this link to find the first part of My Faithfully Sure Calling published in April 2018.
After over a dozen years of being in the same church, I’ve come to know the ins-and-outs of our building and a lot of the congregants. As plenty of you are in similar rural and small-town ministries, you can nod along with me.
I know who makes the best funeral potatoes. I know who to call when one of our pipes has burst in our home. I know who will monopolize my time greeting everyone on their way out the doors after service.
We live in an old town, in an old house, and I know the level of relationship with my people by which door they come to get my attention. Good friends come to the back door by the kitchen which they also know is probably unlocked in case they just needed to drop something off.
But a long, long time ago, we were unsure as to whether God was calling us to this “Mayberry of a town”. I remember being heavily pregnant with our first child, my husband being heavily weighed down by his last semester of seminary, and feeling pretty concerned where we would be putting down roots come graduation and the baby (they happened 3 days apart).
You see, it wasn’t that we didn’t have any prospects, in fact, we had two prospects and God was pretty silent on which He preferred for us. We, along with those closest to us, had spent weeks in prayer. We’d made a number of pro and con lists. We’d waited but felt we were running out of time.
I remember being in the car with Adam, in Dallas traffic, lamenting the fact that we still had this decision weighing on us. We had not received any words of advice or revelation from anyone, let alone God. My husband (who is known for his great reasoning abilities) said, “What if there is no right or wrong answer?” And with a look of disbelief at my concrete thinking, engineer husband, I burst out in a fit of laughter and tears altogether (please keep in mind I was pregnant at the time).
The weight of the decision was lifted immediately and the lesson was clear. It didn’t matter which we chose, as long as we were willing to follow the Lord, He would make our paths straight. That night, we chose to move to Illinois.
And now a dozen years later we have relationships that are the kind that run deep and have been hard won over time. In many ways, to the older congregants we are still new in town, but we’ve proven our stuff over the years. We’ve forged relationships with people our age to see them wander from our church to “cooler” ones in town and then back again with complaints that the message was fluff and not bound to the gospel of Jesus. There’s the hurt we’ve had at the hands of well-meaning people giving us “advice” on parenting and we’ve seen the regret in their eyes when their children have walked away from the Lord in their adolescence.
God knows how easily my heart would and could be angry, jealous, bitter, and condescending. He knows how I could brush away the bedside confessions and young adult baptisms that seem a little trite. But His mercy and grace have called me back to so many verses from His Word that allow me to keep my own rebellious nature in check before I break a precious relationship.
I have one of those popular wood signs in my home from Hobby Lobby. It doesn’t match my decor necessarily but the verse matches my heart. It has been one of my favorites ever since leading house churches in college and then in our student housing years in seminary which we were forced into and loved every minute of our close knit community. Acts 2:46b is written on it, “They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.” (NIV) Sometimes when I walk into the room and read it, I’m hit with the stories of grief and prayers of thankfulness we’ve shared over the last dozen years with the people in our community. In the simple act of sharing bread (or my favorite to make for visitors, scones) and how a cup of coffee or tea and some really honest conversation can be just about the best thing here on earth.
God was faithful to His promise, He’s guided our hands and feet these years. I’ve rarely if ever thought we made the wrong choice. He’s given us every earthly need and more even when the means didn’t make sense. He’s allowed my old favorite verses to be blended in with new favorite ones. But thinking over this story has allowed me to also view my ministry with fresh eyes. He’s not done calling me to love my neighbor and those in my community. He’s not done challenging me to live His Word more and more. He’s not done giving me high school girls to mentor and elderly women to come alongside.
In this time of global pandemic, take the opportunity to think back over your ministry. What did God call you to? Have you strayed from that? What ministries have you possibly taken over because nobody else would fill them? Are they necessary? How are you doing? What a great opportunity for us to take a look at where the Lord has brought us from and where we are now. How much we’ve loved Him and His people and to also look ahead and prepare our hearts for what He might have in store for us from here on out.
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