When I was a freshman in college, my resident assistant Marissa knew that I was one of the few kids not going home for Easter and invited me to church with her. Glad to have someone to spend the day with, I happily obliged and off we went in our Sunday best to go celebrate the resurrection. During the service, however, I was extremely uncomfortable. There were no hymnals, but a band with drums and an electric guitar instead. The words were not in a book but on a large screen in the front of the auditorium. But the strangest part to me was that as I looked around, people were singing and holding their arms up in the air as if they were trying to actually grab a hold of heaven. I was so distracted that I could hardly even concentrate on the message and instead just looked around the room. I wondered who all of these weird people were and why they thought that this was an acceptable form of church.
It took me until I was 27 to walk back through the doors of another one of “those” churches. And I must admit that my motives were not holy in the least as I was only there to see my boyfriend (now husband) preach a message. This time I at least embraced the music a little more as some of the songs were the same ones that we listened to while riding around in his jeep and were at least somewhat familiar. Just like seven years prior, however, I still looked around and tried to figure out why these people felt compelled to raise their arms in the air. The church I knew was one where you stood and sang off-key to hymns that were written hundreds of years ago. Granted, I do love many of them, but the majority were just songs that I muddled through in order to get a few minutes closer to getting my obligatory hour of church over with. In the weeks that followed, I continued to go to the contemporary worship service, but only to hear Josh preach the message. After a few weeks, I began to learn the songs by heart and even found myself humming them to myself at work or on my long runs. I felt less and less uncomfortable when others lifted their arms toward the heavens, but my hands stayed firmly gripped on the pew in front of me. I wasn’t going to turn into one of them. That would be weird. That was not how church was supposed to be.
Fast forward a mere two years later and here we sit, celebrating the first anniversary of our campus of
Even after the move I did not necessarily jump in with both feet. Ministry was Josh’s job and his responsibility. According to me, my main role was to stay home and be his doting and supportive wife. Many difficult conversations transpired in those first months about this, and I always felt that Josh was being too hard on me. Wasn’t it enough that I moved across the country for his job? Wasn’t it enough that I left my friends and family behind? Wasn’t it enough that he worked like a maniac while I sat home all alone many nights pregnant with our first (and unexpected) child? It just wasn’t fair. It seemed that during those first few months I forgot that it wasn’t Josh, but God Himself, that called me here. And He called me to do more than just sit at home and support my husband. He called me, as He calls all of us, to serve.
I’m not sure what made me finally “get it” or when it happened. I think a lot of it came about when I finally got to stop filling in gaps that Josh needed to be filled and actually found the place that fills up my heart. During those first few months I worked with the tech team running slides, lights, and video. It wasn’t bad, but it was just a task that I had to get done each week. Then when we launched our youth program, I told Josh that I would run it since nobody else was stepping up to the plate. My heart ached for our high school kids, especially our high school girls, but I soon realized that the ache did not translate into a passion for leading the entire group. I did a mediocre job at best and it wasn’t long before Josh had it back on his plate. Sure I felt guilty, but why would he want me to lead it anyway? It’s not like I was good at that kind of thing! Looking back on that decision, I know that it was not a good fit from the start, but I at least could have made a better effort in order to serve those kids. The program survived many turnovers in leadership, but I certainly did not help in making it better. It’s something that I learned from and will always feel a little bit disappointed in myself about.
When Jake was born I took a little bit of time off just to be a church attendee. I worked in the nursery occasionally so that I could spend more time with my little munchkin and found that I loved being with all of those babies! They just brought so much joy to my day. I had always had a bit of an interest in helping out with the pre-school program and it was really through my time at the nursery that I spring-boarded into our pre-school ministry. I started leading their little worship songs and teaching their Bible lessons and would come out on Sunday mornings feeling so happy and fulfilled. Seeing those kids reach their hands to the Lord (yes, we start making them “weird” young here!), praying out loud, and reciting Bible verses still amazes me every day. They get it. They get it long before I ever got it. I sat for years in a church. I have known who Jesus was for as long as I can remember and even knew that He died on the cross to redeem me for my sins. I fully thought that I was, without a doubt, going to heaven regardless of how I spent my time Monday through Saturday. I would repeat the same sinful behavior over and over and over again, beg for forgiveness, carry around a burden of guilt, do my one hour of obligatory church (occasionally) on Sunday morning, and repeat the pattern.
So after this first year of being a pastor’s wife and serving in ministry, I guess you could say I’ve come a long way and learned a lot. I have actually paid attention to what the pastor is saying in his messages, taken notes, and really tried to apply the principles to my life. I have been so moved by a testimony or even a song that I have literally wept in service. I have prayed so deeply and so fervently that it was almost frightening to me as to how the words just flowed so quickly out of my mouth, as if I had no control over them at all. I have actually cracked open my Bible several times each week and dug into the word. I have found moments of pride when I finally come to a place of understanding over Scripture that I have read many times and just couldn’t really figure out. I have begun to understand salvation and the magnitude of the sacrifice that God made for us. I have a son now and cannot fathom watching him be beaten to a point where he would be unrecognizable and then killed in the most brutal way possible even if it meant that he would be saving the world from their sins. The thought of Jesus on that cross while his mama wept down at his feet brings tears to my eyes even now. And to think that Jesus knew me when he was hanging up there. He knew me. He knew my name and with His final words which meant, “The debt has been paid in full” He was essentially saying that He did this for me. Yes, little old me who thought that people who raised their arms up in church were weird and who spent Monday through Saturday living a sinful existence for years and years. How incredible is that? In this past year I have learned that heaven is a real place, but hell absolutely is, too. With that, I have learned that my previous beliefs were wrong that that heaven is not the default, which means that unfortunately hell is, and that scares me more than I can even tell you. I have prayed to the North, South, East, and the West for people in those regions to truly meet Christ and with that meeting, learn the things that I’ve learned and find the things that I’ve found. I have ached for family and friends that have made me question as to where exactly they stand. I have learned that the longer I serve beside my husband, the more I hurt for those who still do not “get it.” I have learned that the hurt grows bigger and bigger with each passing day. I have driven past houses that are poorly kept and see filthy children playing unsupervised outside and I have a strong desire to gather them all up and just take them home and show them some love. I have attempted to comfort a widow and her family, while feeling completely unequipped to have any words of encouragement or understanding as to what they were going through. I have learned that sometimes a person just needs a hug, and that’s the easiest thing to offer. I have learned that the ache that I mentioned earlier for those high school girls grows bigger everyday because I do not want them to have to go through the bad decisions that I went to in order to arrive where I am today. I would much rather have them realize that God has already picked out the perfect person for them and he will come in God’s time, not theirs. I have learned that waiting 27 years to meet my perfect match was well worth it, and that I underestimated what God had in store for me. I have learned that I have way more than I could ever deserve. I have learned that the more I give, through time and money, the more blessings I receive. I have had things happen that I would have once called a “coincidence” but now understand that it is simply God pouring out His blessing in return for our service and love. I have learned that I have a heart and passion for the mission field and will not be surprised at all if one day He calls my family to Africa,
I could go on and on and on (obviously) with the things that have transpired within me over this past year. This list could easily be ten pages plus if I let it, but that still would not even cover a fraction. I know that I don’t owe the credit to Crossroads, to my husband, or to the people who have disciple and encouraged me over this past year, but I do thank them for being facilitators in this journey. Clearly it is nobody but God. And oh how I am grateful and overwhelmed!
Happy Birthday, Crossroads, but for me it’s an even happier anniversary for my start in this life of ministry. I will never understand why God chose me to take part in this role, but maybe it’s because He knows that sometimes imperfect people (who fully admit and understand that they are imperfect) can make a bigger impact on other imperfect people who need Him. I am honored and humbled at the opportunities that lie ahead and look forward to making that list above even longer in the years to come.
And oh yeah… there is one more thing that I forgot to add. Over this past year, I have learned that sometimes the words of a song can move me to a place that I can’t help but feel my arms reach up toward the heavens, reaching for God to pour out His love onto me. And with that, I have learned that I am one hundred percent okay with doing so, even if that means that someone out there thinks I’m a weirdo. Maybe one day they’ll surprise themselves, too. I certainly hope so.
I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.