Tuesday, February 8, 2011
Home seems to be always two places- where I grew up and where I am growing up now. This Texas town rolls off my tongue as “home” just as easily as that little town in South Georgia. Both are home. Both are, because of the people, part of who I am now. There are plenty of things to look forward to when I head home to Soperton, but the visit only seems complete when I able to go to church. This December allowed for that and I’ve been thinking about that Sunday after Christmas ever since.
Being raised in the church on 3rd Street was significant for me. It wasn’t a model church and I knew of more problems than I should have, probably, but there were the few I knew had a genuine love for the Savior. My parents made it a priority to attend as a family. They saw great value in Sunday school and so my brother and I still reap the benefits of faithful teachers. When I was 11, my pastor’s wife shared God’s plan of salvation with me after a piano lesson one afternoon. I was saved on the piano bench in the living room of the pastorium. Eternity sealed. Significant.
Not long after that, the kind lady who played the piano handed me a square piece of aqua paper graced with the words of Psalm 19:14. "May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer." She encouraged me to memorize it and mentioned the value of hiding His Word in my heart. She challenged me to a lifetime habit. As I entered the youth group, ladies who became lifelong mentors and dearest friends poured their rich spiritual lives into my wanting one. After hours and hours, days and days, road trips and camps, years and years, because of them, I am absolutely a different person. Significant.
Sadly, my home church has suffered. Living a thousand miles away, I have missed the times that caused aches that made you wonder if you'd ever recover. Years have passed and they’ve recovered, mostly. Within the last three months, a new pastor has been called and while I was home, Jeff and I got to meet his beautiful young family. We were able to hear him open God’s Word from the pulpit I’ve stared at a few hundred Sundays. From where I sat on my pew, I heard it. I felt it. I saw it. The familiar Hope. A month or so later, I don’t remember what his sermon was about (sorry, Mike) but I do remember sensing the Spirit among us. A familiar feeling in that place, but, for me, it was like the long lost snow that was falling outside. It had been many years since I had seen snow on and around all those pine trees.
At the end of the service, Pastor Mike asked for people to come to the front and pray for the church and for God’s work in the community. I didn’t go down, but I watched and what I saw has had me thinking. I felt like I was fifteen again, watching the same ladies bow on the same Wedgwood blue steps faithfully asking God for His blessing, His wisdom, and His salvation for others just as they had for so many of my friends and for me. They hadn’t forgotten either. They hadn’t lost Hope. Their Hope was bigger than their hurt. Their Hope was bigger than what they could see.
Their years of perseverance made my head spin while I stood in my place. I looked at them thinking, HOW many times have they done that? My eyes stung and the blue carpet went blurry, wondering had I hung around for twenty some odd years after high school, would I still have hope perched in my soul? Would I trust Hope when change seemed always just beyond reach? Would I have persevered like these on their knees now? Asking God for the same things, Sunday after Sunday, year after year?
“Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Romans 5:3-5
Hope does not disappoint us! After all that, it cannot disappoint. I didn’t get a chance to ask them, but I bet if I asked them if after all these years, are they disappointed in, I speak carefully here, God? You know what I think they’d do? They’d laugh-- throw back their silver hair and laugh at my question. One would embrace me, pat me on the back, then hold me at arm’s distance so she could see my eyes through her bifocals and say, “Never, sweet Krista. Never.”
She knows. I know she knows. Hope does not disappoint. He cannot.