Eventually, I graduated college with my degree in education. I looked forward to teaching – I had the degree – ‘proof’ that I knew what I was doing – but I felt unsure and wary of the responsibility that comes with shepherding young lives. Instinctively, I felt teaching was a commitment to them; to be faithful and steady and kind. I was a bit afraid of commitment, not wanting to fail either my students or myself, by not living up to what would be required.
Around this time, one of the pastors at my church approached me about sharing my testimony with the Friday night group. When the request came, I immediately knew two things:
– I did not want to do it, and even the thought of doing it made me feel physically sick
– I knew I would do it, because I felt it would be disobedient to my calling not to do it
I heard my own voice on the phone asking about details and agreeing to share my story. OH, MY GOD. Are you saying you want me to stand in front of all these people, many who are now my dear friends, and tell my story? In response to this thought, a passage I’d read several months earlier flashed across my mind, I had it nearly memorized with the reading and re-reading of it:
“Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. I care very little if I am judged by you or by any human court; indeed, I do not even judge myself. My conscience is clear, but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore, judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God.” 1 Corinthians 4:2-5
These same verses that gave me courage to show up to church in those early painful days each Sunday and sit alone, were the life-giving light that helped me stay on my path to college graduation, and was now reminding me not to fear what others might think about my story, but to live out my faithfulness to the God who has been unendingly faithful to me.
And so, I wrote it out. I paced back and forth in my Mama’s living room reading it out loud, then again, and again, and again. Eventually, I knew the main points I wanted to make, and could share it without rambling or going off topic. I felt sick. I didn’t know what to wear. I wondered if I should eat something. I had no appetite. I had to go to the bathroom. I thought briefly about leaving the state. Finally, it was time to leave for the church. Nearly in tears as I drove to the church, I reminded God that I was divorced, and inexperienced, and young, and anything else I could think of, and therefore not a person who could be trusted with these kinds of things. He reminded me, maddeningly, that I was not the judge of these things. There was absolutely nothing in my life experiences up to this point that would indicate I would be able to stand, let alone speak, before a large group of adults. I knew God. I trusted Him. I did not trust me, and I was terrified.
This seems like a good spot to mention – there was this guy. He had started coming to our Friday night group pretty regularly. I noticed him because he stood out. For one thing, he wore suits. He came right from work most evenings and did not change into jeans or shorts as most of us wore. Also, he seemed serious and quiet. It looked, to me anyway, like a weird juxtaposition sometimes, to see others playing volleyball, lunging for volleys or serving overhead and then seeing him just standing on the sidelines, quietly talking to one person. As with all groups of this kind, there are outliers. You know, the folks who are there because they want to be, but who might not have found like-minded friends just yet. I noticed that this new guy, let’s call him Doug, would talk to these people. I watched and I wondered if he did this because he was sincere, or because you just can’t really play volleyball in a suit. I also noticed that a lot of other ladies appeared to be watching and wondering about him, too.
(To be continued)