It was a romantic summer, after you renew your vows on the beach, how could it be anything but romantic? We hugged a lot…held hands a lot…went on little adventures together and enjoyed the most peaceful and beautiful summer in five years. It was also a summer of incredible healing for my husband but that is his story to tell.
A very small quiet wisp of restlessness began to set in and a tiny budding desire for more than what is currently our life… so many journey’s we have walked with people were coming to fruitful and meaningful endings. Satisfying? Absolutely but also disconcerting wondering what is next and if there is more than this simple life we now lead.
A few Sunday’s later my husband said I think we are supposed to be here, he was talking about a specific place, not a pastoral role or specific task just our presence needed and although I had been praying for something not sure of what that should be or even what I wanted that to be, he was now suggesting a specific thing.To think of reengaging in a committed way to places you have been guarded about and moving forward from the safe middle is always a dicey deal.
I of course asked him if he was sure because that is what I do. And he said “Yes I think so” And that started all of the questions in my head, the what-would-that-look-like, how-will-that–feel, Umm am I really ready for that? All the worse case scenario’s waking in me in the night and awaking questions that I know will never be answered this side of Heaven rolling around in my head and when you are up in the middle of the night and can’t sleep why not heap more stuff onto top of the trepidation you are already pondering, right?!
Labor Day Weekend and I was sitting on my new little favorite beach by myself, the kids had taken the grand dog on the hiking trails and my husband had hiked back to the car to change into shorts because it was hotter than he had anticipated. I was lost in my thoughts when two college age young men made their way towards me and stopped right in front of me. Now normally I would have ignored them and wished them on their way. The beach is my holy place and I do not want to bothered there but that “nudge” that only comes from the Holy Spirit impressed on me the need to hear and pay attention. So I did.
The bolder of the 2 although both were quite shy asked me if I was alone I told him “No, my oldest Son and DIL are walking the grand dog and my husband will be back soon.” Then he asked me if I would receive a word of encouragement and I said ‘Yes” and he started to speak, haltingly at first but then a little easier and with razor sharp clarity. I was wearing sun glasses so he couldn’t see the tears in my eyes. When he finished he asked if that meant anything to me and I told him he was spot on. There was a concern about a relational aspect of our moving forward that had been rolling around in my spirit and his word of encouragement had spoken directly to it. I asked them if they were Christians and if they were practicing listening to the Holy Spirit. They laughed and said “Yes and what a great way to put it!”
They were Berkley College Students (newly Pentecostal Christians) and they were out on a Sunday seeing if God would use them to minister to people on the beach. My husband returned and we talked about the Lord and shared a moment together before they moved on. I turned to my husband and said “The hound of heaven is after me…he tracked me down at the beach!”
A couple of weeks later my husband was preaching at the place where he felt we needed to be. The Lord visited that place in the most profound of ways that morning. My husband’s sermon was emotionally intimate and he wept his way through most of it and God took this sacrifice of vulnerability and met us in a great way. I was praying, weeping and experiencing God deep in the farthest reaches of my soul it was so refreshing. After a great deal of lingering in His presence and people experiencing God very intimately the service finally concluded.
I knew people would want to talk to my husband and that would take awhile and I knew the Pastor and his wife wouldn’t be ready to leave for lunch for a bit and I was feeling a little vulnerable so I did what any woman of depth, maturity and spiritual wisdom would do I hid in the Women’s restroom. I found a stall and scrolled Face book. Thank God for Face book…it can be such a great escape.
I waited until the restroom grew quiet and it felt safe and I walked out to wash my hands and there were several women all standing there, I have no idea how I did not hear them. But they began to talk to me all at once…
Now I need to leave this narrative to fill you in on something…I am going to break a writing rule and chase a rabbit because it is part of the bigger picture. And because it Pastor Appreciation Month I am going to break another rule and tell a truth that every Pastor’s wife knows and experiences but can never talk about…When it comes to scary things in the world there is the Big Bad Wolf and next on the list are “church ladies.” There are 2 kinds of females in the church, there are Wonderful Women of God and there are church ladies.
WWG (Wonderful Women of God) bless and are a joy to the Pastor’s wife. I had one of these women in my church in AZ, her name was Linda Adams she was my safe place at church. She loved me, accepted me (warts and all) she always made me feel like I could trust her with my heart. She loved my Sons gave them opportunity and served my husband as a faithful board member, both wise and fair. She always remembered my birthday and always treated me with joyful kindness. I often said to my husband “What could we do if we had church of Linda Adams’s! She was one of those older women who give a church depth and beauty.
WWG often work full time, care for their husband and families with passion and grace and forgive other women their short comings because they are self reflective and understand their own. And know how to have really deep and significant relationships with other WWG.
Then there are church ladies, and there is a reason SNL made fun of them. They are women who are often broken and completely unaware of it, jealousy and longing often play a role in the choices they make. They do not take the Pastor’s wife to lunch they have her for lunch. She is often the topic of their ‘prayer meetings” the ones they have at lunch, at coffee or on the phone. This type of woman gossips slanders and then speaks with all the sweet Christianese you can imagine. Often applauded by other women as wise but her counsel is not godly, it is carnal. It was this kind of woman that was the catalyst to the treachery we experienced in our last pastorate.
So you can imagine the panic I was feeling in the moment, inwardly guarding my heart and clenching my insides but what they expressed was genuine authentic appreciation of the sermon that morning and then one of them said “Why don’t you guys just come here all the time?” it was a genuine invitation, kind and warm. And for reasons I cannot articulate I told them we were praying about that and they asked me what we needed for that to happen? I responded “Not a lot just some simple things.” And they said they would pray. God used the very thing I sometimes try to protect myself from to invite me to what He might be doing in our lives.
And for several weeks I followed the nudges that came to move forward…it is not a big step… our jobs will stay the same and life will not change radically but it is a step…a small step forward. And then comes the waiting. We have done all we can and now God must move on our behalf to take even this tiny step. And waiting is hard and confusing and you wonder if you have heard correctly or are you just imagining it.
If it were just about waiting that would be one thing but I have begun to notice a clear pattern in these times of waiting, there seems to always be one last big storm of hurricane proportions before the road straightens out and the answers appears. A piling on of difficult circumstances that can fill you with fear because they seem insurmountable, they come from out of nowhere and if it were only one thing you could manage it but it isn’t one thing it’s everything all at once. And usually one of your kids gets kicked in the process and that is often the whole last-straw-camel’s back thing.
I often think of the disciples in the boat with Jesus when the storm comes upon them, it is easy to discredit their fear and wonder how they could be afraid when he is right there with them even if he was asleep.
But the truth is
When the waves are bigger than you can manage,
The boat is rolling from side to side
It is cold and dark
And you are just a human after all and he is in fact asleep.
You are just not sure if you are going to come out on the other side.
At least until he wakes up and stills the waters.
In this last round of the raging storm and the piling on of difficult things, I did a very simple thing. I wrote in my journal, “I am scared! Really scared, I know you have rescued me many, many times but right now I am scared.” And then listed the things, all of the things and all the possible outcomes and then I said “I give my fear and all the possible outcomes to you.” And I went to sleep and slept all night.
That is where the development of being brutally honest with God and just holding on is so important, our emotions come and go. The obstacles overwhelm and press and the desire to nullify the significant moments is incredibly tempting. It is hard to continue to feel optimistic when the wave of hard things takes its toll.
In due time life straightens out and we return to waiting and in my life there is a lot of waiting and then all of a sudden it all comes together. And the next thing I know I am looking back asking “What just happened? And how did that all work out?”
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine.