I always find it interesting how we like to focus on the big, life-defining moments that are all fireworks and flash bangs resulting in hearts soaring or hearts breaking…when in reality, its often the smallest things that make the biggest differences. I’ve focused on the fireworks and flash bangs in my life, so far, in this series.
The celebration of my baptism.
The explosion of emotions and negative experiences in my teen years.
The emotional brokenness of a single physical choice.
Today, though, I want to focus on the little things. Or, really, the littlest thing. The smallest spark that lit one of my two most significant passions afire.
I am passionate about many things; I am a lover of life, creativity, social justice, children, dance, writing, people, recycling & repurposing, caring for people, words, teaching, young people…so much more. But there are two things that really get me excited. One is a story for another day; missions and humanitarian work. The other, and most important, is God.
The very fact that I can, in good conscious and total honesty, even type that last sentence is pretty remarkable to me. Its been a long journey of trying to figure out who God is, what I believe, if I believe, when I believe. I said at the beginning of this series that, in many ways, I was embarrassed by my faith and by the God I claimed to love and worship. I stepped back from many things because I was unable to share my faith and my story with others and would rather admit to that than live as a hypocrite and a liar. While sharing the gospel is difficult for many, perhaps all Christ-followers depending on the situations we find ourselves in, I feel it is important to allow Him to stretch us in this and this is what these blogs are about for me. I don’t think you will find me on a street corner sharing the Word or on a prophetic treasure hunt in Wal-Mart anytime soon (or perhaps ever), but the very act of typing these words is an act of obedience, sacrifice and worship in my life that I might have been incapable of years, months, or even days ago.
When I returned to the church, it was not particularly a choice to start attending church again. I was still pretty overwhelmed with negative opinions towards the church, God and myself. When I came home, after spending a year at Live Different Academy, I decided to take the Applied Business Technology program at the local college. I enrolled for no other reason than the fact that I had no better ideas and I was bored. This was a nine-month program that results in an Administrative Assistant Certificate and a practicum at an office in the community. We were asked to name our top three off of a list of participating offices, and I named the local counseling office, the District of Mackenzie office and Living Joy.
A lesser known fact is that I attended preschool at Living Joy, as well as spent at least one week a summer at their Vacation Bible School while growing up. I loved this church as a kid, and it was exciting to think I might be able to gain some work experience there. A number of circumstances resulted in my being turned away at the counseling office and district office, and being accepted at Living Joy.
How this all came to be is a story of God placed circumstances. A selection of moments, opinions and choices that resulted in my being placed in the most beautiful church family that I appreciate more each day.
The majority of my job at Living Joy during this time was to reorganize Freedom Session and Children’s Church files, answer phones and create documents as requested. One of the documents I created was a diagram of how to set up the various tables used during our Alpha program, a 10 week course designed to introduce curious or seeking people to the basics of the Christian faith. I completed this diagram a week or so into the program, and was helping Adele (my supervisor and the pastor’s wife) set up for Alpha one Sunday afternoon, following my diagrams to ensure they were accurate. At the time, while I knew that I loved this church and felt very at home here, I viewed my time there as a job. Even after my practicum ended, and I became a Sunday morning volunteer, I wasn’t certain where I stood or how I felt about this so-called relationship with Jesus that I had obviously walked away from.
I’ve mentioned that some of these posts overlap each other, and the journey in my last post started with a small sentence that was spoken to me at that coffee table, amidst set up diagrams and thoughts of practicum grades.
Six simple words. A gentle invitation.
The smallest spark.
From the mouth of one of the most incredible, overwhelming, compassionate, loud, honest women I have ever met came the smallest, most genuine invitation to reacquaint myself with Jesus.
“You know God. You should come…”
She could not have known the impact of the first three words.
Speaking as the woman who had lead me through songs and games at Vacation Bible School, who had helped to teach me how to step away from my mom and learn in a peer environment, who had helped to raise me in a lot of ways…she naturally spoke to the young woman who had once sung Bible songs with her and had returned from building houses in Mexico to apply for a work practicum at a church. She did not speak to the girl who had drunken herself stupid at 15, or the girl who had handed a part of herself away at 17, without a second thought. She did not speak to the girl who had convinced herself she was broken, worthless, and out of place. She spoke to the young woman who was obviously determined to do a good job, who was eager to serve wherever she was needed, and who felt drawn to a small church full of genuine people.
Those first three words rocked me. As if someone had just pulled the blindfold off after leading me through a confusing maze, to reveal I was back sitting at my Father’s feet. Perhaps scraped and stained from tripping and falling in the grass, queasy from walking blind through so many twists and turns, but home safe. I may not have known Him well, but once upon a time I had known Him and at my core, I still did.
The last three, I think, were simply an act of obedience. A simple way of sharing a faith she was certain I’d walked in, but perhaps not certain I’d experienced fully. She did not preach at me, hand me a copy of the New Testament, or question me on my walk with a God she knew I’d met. She spoke a simple invitation, gave me a simple choice, and it made all the difference.
My attendance at Alpha morphed from that of a participant to that of a participant who runs the computer related media, and helps to set up and take down, but I still sat during the videos and discussions and listened to words that were so similar to that of my catechism class. I sat thoughtful as we learned about the basis of our faith, allowed myself to re-learn bits of the Bible, ask questions I’d forgotten the answers to. It was an interesting experience to study things you thought you knew, and realize the things you’d tried your hardest to forget. I went from participant, to volunteer, to bible study attendee, to home group member. My positions at the church increased in number and in responsibility. The blessings in my life began to multiply, as did the healing, as did the lessons. My prayer life, while not always consistent, became lively and my personal Bible study, while also inconsistent, became common. What started as three words of confidence and three words of invitation became the starting point for an incredible journey of seeking, learning, and starting to understand who this Savior God is in my life.
I share all of this with you, in part, to share the story and to show my gratitude for the path and the people that God has placed in my life over the past 4 years, but also to make a point. We focus too much on the large and extravagant moments. We want to change the world, to be part of something big. We turn sharing the Gospel into something so big that we either chicken out or convince ourselves that it is better left to the street corner evangelists and Sunday morning pastors. Don’t get me wrong. Big can be good, and some of us are meant to be pastors at the pulpit and evangelists on the streets. There is nothing wrong with being loud, excited and confident for your beliefs. But there is value in the small moments, in the humble encounters, in the simple sentences. You do not know the effect your simplest action can have in this world.
There are times to be bold, open up the Bible, and start the conversation and there are times when a simple invitation is all you are called to say.
I am thankful for the plans that God set in motion; for the choices that were placed before me and others, for the decisions that placed me in the right positions, and for the obedience of one amazing, animated woman who very gently spoke six words that God used to move mountains in my life.
Sometimes, we are called to the be the flashbang, and thankfully, sometimes we are called to be simply a spark.