My Beautiful Struggle + story

The people in the pew

I became a blubbering fool at my birth-church family this morning. Advent tends to do that to me. (Other people get weepy around Easter. Not me. I'm a sucker for the incarnational story.) However, I decided to take the leap and share my heart because I'm trying to live honestly and it was a story and a point that I wanted others to hear.

It was Christmas Program day for the children. All the shepherds draped in burlap and angles with tinsel halos waited patiently to sing their songs and forget their lines. It happens every year, the kiddos with their pagentry. But every year, it matters.

Back in the day, circa-1990, I participated in the pagents, too. You probably did, too, if you were a church kid of any level. They tend to pull out all the grandkids of regulars for these events. One particular year - I wish I was a journaler and had written the date - we did a pagent that was a modern day narrator (me) "reporting" on the events of Bethleham. I had a significant speaking part and if you know me, my penchant for thespianism is pretty evident. The world is my stage.

Following the pagent one of the women of my church, Barbara, told my mother that I was called into the ministry. She believed after my reciting of lines of a play, that God had things for me to do.

The Patron St. Barbara

She was right. (Truthfully, if she had said it about any of the kids in the pagent, she would still be right. God has work for all of us to do - I'm just very aware of mine.) Now, years later, I've been asked to recall my "testamony" and calling. Usually, after "I was raised in a nominally Christian but church-going home..." I move to this particular incident. If my walk with God were a path of stepping stones, those words from Barbara serve as a cornerstone event.

I shared with my birth-church family encouragement - to the volunteer of the children's ministry that this work matters. And to parents who work so hard to simply get the kids there and dressed and a part of the church - it matters. We are building into young disciples simply by giving them time, attention, love and, every once in a while, a microphone.

This church is experiencing a phase of transition as their pastor of 10 years has decided to step away from the pulpit and they look to fill big shoes. They love their pastor, he has brought a new life and energy to the church(es - it's a 2 point charge).

But the first person to ever tell me of God's work in my life wasn't a pastor. It was a little ol' lady in the pew. She was a woman who did the work of the people, serving on committees, sharing with the congregations about the goings-on of the conference and the UMW. She loved God, her family and her church.

Every once in a while I have to question what in the world am I doing here? As in, on earth. Most of the time, I don't really know. I make it up as I go or feel led. I once told my pastor that I've just been stupidly following God and ending up in the right places. But when I question everything, I remember that God has told more than just me that He has something for my future.

When you sit and look around and wonder who the most important people of the church really are, it's not the pastor. It's the faithful ones sitting in the pew. The ones who endure pastor changes, leadership shifts, and music wars. The ones who write checks and pray fervant prayers. The ones who hang the greens and press the clicker for the powerpoint presentation. The mom who creates a "time machine" out of tinfoil for the VBS and the old guy with the matches to make sure the acolytes can light the candles.

These people matter. They've mattered to my story in countless ways and I can still list them for you to prove it. The work they do matters because it's how I've come to understand that God does want to partner with me in my life, that Emmanuel - God With US - is true, true, true. His presence in my life and the light that I attempt to shine is the result of the prayers, presence, gifts and service of the saints in the pews.

God can use anything to reach and speak to someone. Most often, he uses His people. Not just bigwig famous speakers and writers and preachers and pastors (though I do love those folk as well) but more so, the kind spirits sitting in the row behind you who offer to hold the baby as you take off your coat.

If you're sitting in a pew, please know that you're not just taking up space. You matter. Your presence matters. You are speaking the truth of God into young souls without knowing it.

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The people in the pew + story