When my kids were younger I didn’t know how to say ‘no’. As a result I became busy doing things at church and school. I also took classes at the college and worked a late shift at a restaurant arriving home about 2am, then getting up to leave the house at 8am to get the kids to school on time. I’m sure many of you are equally busy as well. I have since learned to use the word ‘no’ when asked to do something and I think I may have over used it for a number of years now. But, back to the busy times. By the end of the week I was exhausted and then the weekend would arrive and I would go to church and either teach the kids or play the piano for church or both. When the service was finished I expected to go home and crash for the rest of the day but God truly stood by his word in the following text from Isaiah 40:31, “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength…” I would leave church with new energy to begin the next week. I wasn’t sure then and still couldn’t say now why God chose to do that. I didn’t ask Him to but God renewed my energy and I certainly appreciated it!
I hate being called out…especially by God. Having your own deficiencies and downfalls paraded before your very eyes is not fun, but sometimes necessary if God is going to get our attention.
Yesterday the beautiful and amazing woman God gave to be my wife told you one of her many answer to prayer stories. An amazing divine real estate gift God provided us with. Now, here, as Paul Harvey used to say, is the rest of the story.
I had just finished conducting a Friday evening program at the church that was well attended and went really, really well. Our numbers had been growing over the weeks and this night we had a real turn out so there was lots of energy in the room. We had great music, good food, and an awesome program, or so I and most everyone there felt. I had shown a movie that was a little edgy but had a terrific message and launched a fabulous discussion time. I was feeling pretty darn good about things and gave myself a few pats on the back for my brilliance…which of course was a gift from God to be sure!
Just about everyone had left and a little old lady made her way up to talk to me as I was putting some things away. I wanted to hurry and get home as it was late but I thought it would be good to allow this good-hearted woman of the church to express her gratitude for a program well done. I looked up and smiled, prepared to warmly accept her kudos, and instead was hit with, “I would like to know Pastor how what you did tonight had anything at all to do with honoring the Sabbath.” I wasn’t quite sure I had heard her right. Still smiling I reflexively said, “Thank you so much, I’m glad you were here.” before her words registered with me. Now we both were looking at each other a bit confused till finally she repeated her accusatory question. She went on to explain how she had not felt at any point in the program a sacredness or reverence for the Sabbath.
I now realized I had a complainer on my hands. I tried to explain that the target audience for the program was for young adult and, though she may believe she has the heart of a young adult, she was, in fact, quite a bit older than who I was programming for. For some reason that explanation only made things worse. We went back and forth for a good 20 minutes with her telling me how disappointing my program had been and I trying to defend it.
I had been feeling rather good about myself before she came over and tore down my ivory tower, and now I was just irritated and wanted to get away from her. So I did. I made a short and dismissive apology that the program was such a dismal experience for her and that I had failed her as a pastor. Before she could reply I pretended my cell phone had vibrated, picked it up and began a very one-sided, make-believe conversation with no one.
For some reason I had a very hard time letting the resentment of that experience go. After that any time I saw this woman in church, which was very often, I did all I could to avoid her. If we had any interaction at all, I kept it short and usually talked while I walked…away. Once she tried to give me a hug. I kept walking. She kept hugging. It was pretty awkward and ended with both of us almost falling to the floor. For whatever reason, I would not confront my feelings and make things right. I simply tried to avoid the whole thing. Many months past by after our near fatal hugging in which I was successful in my efforts to avoid her. I was not forced to face this obvious ‘love thy neighbor” issue until God and my praying wife got involved.
You see, she had been praying about a house for us to move into. Read yesterday’s post for that story. After many weeks of searching Craigslist and online, and many trips to possible domiciles that turned out to be disappointments, Miranda thought she had found the one. The owner was waiting for us if we could come look at it right then. It was very close to the church I worked at and was in the price range she had prayed about. I jumped in the car with and we took off. Following the directions we soon turned onto the street and found the right address. As I slowly pulled up to the house I recognized sitting in a chair on the front lawn none other than my ninja-hugging church lady. Now, I may be slow sometimes, but I’m not stupid. I instantly got it. I closed my eyes, smiled, shook my head and said, “OK God, I get it, I’m really sorry it’s taken this to get my attention.” I then got out of the car and began making amends for the wrongs I had done.
So let me just assure you, the whole, “love thy neighbor” thing, He really means.