God converges our past for His purposes in the present.
Just as the winds of hurricane Irene began to blow, knocking pinecones off their towering branches like ammunition, my husband and I drove away from our coastal community to Charlotte, NC. We weren’t evacuating, just fulfilling a commitment to perform a wedding between a Navy chaplain and his bride, the daughter of a Church of God minister.
We drove four hours along cracked country roads in the Carolinas. Arrived to perform an Anglican wedding in a Church of God worship space, where our past converged with the present.
Just a few months after our own wedding ceremony twenty-one years ago, H and I moved to Cleveland, TN, Church of God international headquarters. He would earn a Masters of Divinity at the Church of God School of Theology. Learn about Pentecostalism. We had no prior experience with the denomination, just a referral from our senior pastor.
Surviving on ground turkey and Taco Bell – if we had extra cash – those tough foundational years provided a glimpse of God’s plan for our future. A branch in the tree of our ministry journey that now grows in the soil of the Anglican Mission.
Over the years, it seemed like we were Phoenician travelers taking a short cut through Tennessee to get to England. It didn’t make sense, until later.
He redeems what we often despise.
A bridesmaid, young enough to be my daughter, asked me if I liked living in Cleveland all those years ago. To which I responded honestly, “No, I didn’t.” She wasn’t expecting that answer. The twinkle in her eye disappeared. Probably couldn’t imagine someone not liking the town where she grew up with a rich heritage. After an uncomfortable pause in the conversation, she gathered her long black dress in her fist and quickly sat down next to another bridesmaid.
Back then, barefaced women in beehive hairdos casting critical glances toward my non-conformity to their religious beliefs overshadowed what God was trying to accomplish in me. The Grand Canyon disparity between my church background and their faith expression created a boulder blocking His voice. I couldn’t move past it.
I felt like a constant visitor at everyone’s dinner party that would never became part of their family. I wasn’t born into it, didn’t understand their language, didn’t want to.
Embracing differences create opportunities for grace.
Looking through that lens of our previous Church of God experience created uncertainty. How would Church of God folks sitting in the pews respond to an Anglican ceremony? How do the parents of the bride feel about sharing the ceremony with Anglican clergy? The clergy robes, the liturgy, communion wafers dipped into a cup: would they be boulders in the way?
Without judgment, criticism or entitlement, the suited Church of God minister stood next to my robed Anglican priest. Together they shared in the ceremony celebrating two lives joining in matrimony. The differences visible, the spirit unrestricted.
In the words of a Hispanic Church of God pastor, “the service was fantastico!”
That day I witnessed a living illustration reminding me of these things:
- Judging the present based on the past hinders perspective.
- When we embrace our differences with grace and love, it opens hearts.
- God can use the very things we despise and redeem them for His purposes.
- Even when it seems we are on an unplanned detour, God is our mapmaker and knows where we are going.
- Nothing in our lives is inconsequential.
Even when we don’t understand the tributaries of our own life journey, God so graciously reveals how they flow into places that reveal His purposes when we trust in Him. The revelation is worth the wait.
It is God who saved us and chose us to live a holy life. He did this not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan long before the world began – to show his love and kindness to us through Christ Jesus. – 2 Timothy 1:9
Shelly, thank you for sharring your heart. Your message is so encourraging with our walk with God! I have lived in the same neighborhood (blocks from Valley Catherdral) my entire life so when I read your expierences in your travels reminds me about the journey and the lessons he teaches us to make us more than we could ever imagin!! Ly..t
Thank you for your comment Terri. I am encouraged by your words. You ( and that great smile) are a light wherever you go!
Wow! This blog speaks to me because a mere few months ago, I thought I had my life figured out. I was a late sleeper, part time office worker, and becoming more involved in church activities. Most importantly, or so I thought, practicing the gift of prophecy – at least setting aside time to practice. Currently, due to economic circumstances, I am pulled back into full time (or lets say as close as I can get to full time) office work. It doesn’t feel right and I don’t like it. I have hope for redemption now! One day. Some day.
oh and btw, “Grand Canyon disparity” , nice phrase.