I’ve never really been a crier. It takes a lot to evoke tears in me.
But today I was overwhelmed and the tears started flowing.
I was driving to a staff meeting we were having at an old church property that our church will be taking over soon, and the tears started flowing.
As the old church came into view, I couldn’t hold back the tears.
You see a few years back, I had driven to this church many times to help plan and direct a Vacation Bible School.
This church is like many city churches. Over the past few decades, the neighborhood surrounding the church building changed. Houses and businesses started getting run down and a new type of people began moving into the neighborhood.
To help this church try to reach its neighborhood, I agreed to help plan an outreach VBS.
At one of the first planning meetings, I met in a small parlor on a Sunday afternoon with a handful of eager volunteers.
Halfway through the meeting I looked up at the wall in front of me where there were large pictures of each of the church’s former pastors (and there were a lot of them).
I scanned each picture and then I did a double take.
There hanging on the wall was a picture of a man who had caused a lot of pain in my life. I teared up and couldn’t believe my eyes.
I wanted to go draw devil horns and a pitch fork on his picture. I know. I know. That’s not very Christian of me. But that was my gut instinct.
I refocused because I was leading the meeting and needed to wrap it up because there was a precious group of 80 something year old women who used the parlor for their Sunday night Training Union class (you have to be at least 35 and have a Southern Baptist background for that to make you smile).
On the way home that night, I couldn’t hold back the tears.
My mind strayed back to some of the words the man in that picture had spoken over me and Joe.
In one breath he had said that Joe was more like Jesus than anyone he had ever met and in the next breath he claimed that there is no place for someone like Joe on a church staff (hmmmm…..isn’t that a little weird)
During the time that these things were spoken to Joe, I was pregnant with my second child and finishing up my last 10 hours of my Master of Divinity in seminary.
My heart should have been bursting with excitement.
Instead I was discouraged and had taken words spoken to me to heart. I began to feel that there was not a place for me in ministry at a church.
I didn’t make a very good children’s pastor’s wife…I never really liked kids much and try as I did I had a hard time faking it.
I tried my hand in women’s ministry. But I don’t really fit in in that arena of ministry either. I don’t like shopping. My sense of fashion is nonexistent. Since I’m not a mercy person, I had a difficult time sitting and listening to women complaining about their husbands not unloading the dishwasher correctly (I often zoned out when women would talk to me about their ‘problems’ such as these)
I thought there wasn’t much left for me when it comes to working at a church. I don’t like kids and I don’t like women …(I’m joking…sort of)
All I knew was I longed for the days of ministry from my college years. Leading a Bible study with my basketball team…a group of girls who the Christians on my Christian college campus pretty much ignored or kept an arms distance from because let’s face it…college women basketball players are intimidating…at least our biceps were.
I longed for the days I spent in a cabin at a camp for inner city kids where I spent nights praying over the darkness surrounding the lives of the preteen girls I grew to love that summer.
I loved church. But it was during my time as children’s pastor’s wife that I began feeling like church just wasn’t for me.
I didn’t fit in. I longed to use my passions and giftedness for the kingdom, but I began to believe that my love for the church and passion for ministering to the forgotten ones would never collide.
But there I sat in that parlor. As the beautiful gray haired women filed into the room and we scurried out, I glanced one more time at that picture hanging on the wall.
God had used hurtful words to put a fire in our hearts. . .to give us a new vision, a new passion.
Three years ago as I greeted moms dropping of their dirty, hungry kids at the door of that old church to attend the VBS….
I knew that what the devil meant for harm, God intended for good.
As I listened to the children sing that night and as I hugged their moms when they picked them up, I felt God’s arms wrap around me and say . . .
“You were made for this.”
Today as I entered that church building again for the first time since I helped with that VBS, I was overcome with a feeling of redemption.
Three years ago, I began praying that God would redeem this church, this community, the children and moms I loved on that week in VBS and God has been so good to let me see it happen before my eyes.
I walked down that old hallway to the parlor. The pictures were still hanging there.
This time I was able to look at that picture from a heart that has been healed…a heart that has been redeemed.
I couldn’t help myself though…I may or may not have drawn a mustache on the face in that picture…It was all in good fun this time…I promise.