After two weeks of topsy turvy days where normal routines were as illusive as grasping a handful of mist, today I have a blissful day to stay home. While a list of things that needs to be done awaits my attention, I knew that what I most needed wasn't to accomplish things, but was to connect with Jesus. I've had my devotions in spite of the interruptions to what is my normal routine, but there's a difference between doing devotions and meeting with the Author of the Book heart to heart. Today I craved heart connection.
One of the scriptures I read today was 1 Corinthians 13:12. In the Amplified Bible that verse ends with the sentence, "I am fully and clearly known and understood by God". What a comfort that was to me today on a day when I felt frustrated with my own need for what I consider to be a "more than normal" amount of peace and quiet and alone time to think, pray, read, write and just be. While I do believe that I tend to grasp my needed introvert time selfishly, while He's spoken to me clearly that I need to not make this an idol in my life, while He's dealing with my heart and asking me to relinquish my time to Him daily as my part in being a living sacrifice, I don't feel condemned by Him for this part of me. I feel understood. I AM fully known and understood by the God Who made me.
There are moments in time when God uses people to get that truth across to us, the truth that we are seen, known and loved by Him. I hope I've been used to be that person to others. I certainly remember those who have been used by God to be that voice of encouragement in my own life. I'd like to share one such memory with you today.
As a pastor's wife for over 37 years, I've attended more than my share of gatherings for ministers. These can be wonderful times of bonding, strengthening, instruction and encouragement. In my opinion, it all depends on how real and relational those in attendance are willing to be. I suppose, in that way, it's not that different from a retreat or conference for any group of Jesus followers. In the case of ministers, if the focus and spirit of the event is size and effectiveness of ministry it then begins to feel to me like the popularity contests of high school. You're in the in crowd or you're not. I don't tolerate that very well because I'm of the opinion that the least of these are in Jesus' in crowd. In fact, I tend to think that our unknown, unseen, unheard of brothers and sisters that are serving Jesus in Africa, China, the Middle East and even the rural villages and seedy inner cities here in the U.S. are the greatest in His Kingdom.
It was at a casual gathering of pastors and pastors' wives, that I had a five minute life-changing encounter, an encounter where Jesus used someone else to show me that He saw me there, that He knows me. It was a casual summer barbecue and a group of ladies were gathered on the backyard deck of the host's home. Conversation was surface-y as it is when many of us didn't know one another well. Suddenly, one beautiful woman stepped up and took control of the situation, not in the negative sense of that word control, but in the sense of guiding this group past the surface into the heart depths. She was a beautiful, older black women. Her husband and she have been the lead pastors of one of the oldest multi-racial churches in our city for years. Like a mother hen, she gathered us like her little chicks. One by one she asked us our names and some questions about ourselves. She looked each one of us in the eye when she talked to us. She made us feel like she was fully invested and interested in us. As each woman spoke their name she would pause, look that person in the eye and say a word over them that started with the same letter as their name. As I write this, it sounds like a contrived and insincere exercise, but when I looked into her eyes and she looked into mine I knew she spoke from not only her heart, but from the heart of God. She said, "Elizabeth, you're an encourager." Then she proceeded to say how important and necessary the gift of encouragement is to the body of Christ. I've never forgotten that encounter, the look on her face, the words she spoke over me. God used her to speak to me and every other women gathered around her. In essence, she said, "God sees you, loves you, and He knows you. You are a vital part of His body no matter how well or little you are known, no matter the size or influence of your ministry." She not only told me I was and encourager, she made me want to be one in a greater way. She made me want to be what she was to me that day.
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