I haven’t told you this story before.
Tonight seems a good fit for the telling. Why? Because tonight I need to remember. Remembering is one of the major mandates that God laid at the feet of his people throughout Scripture, thus becoming a lasting mandate for us as well.
To remember. To recall where we’ve been… where we’ve come from and the faithfulness of God therein. Remembrance is particularly helpful in a season where chaos abounds and our faith proffers more like a molecule rather than a mustard seed. As we become intentional with our remembrance—especially as it pertains to God’s everlasting faithfulness in seasons past when troubles assailed us and we couldn’t determine the workings of his hand only to be surprised in the end by a miraculous return to peace—when we recall those moments of grace and deliverance, then we’re better able to take hold of the doubts that overwhelm us in our current seasons of travail.
God knew back then, even as he knows now, the power that comes with our sacred remembering. Thus, tonight I remember… a day in recent history. A day dated April 14, 2010. But before we get there, let me set the stage.
In early February of this year, my husband received a call from our District Superintendent informing us that we were on the “move list.” No other details were offered, only that we were to begin making preparations for a move, both emotionally and physically. Over the next couple of months we did just that… not only preparing our hearts for a move, but also preparing the hearts of the congregation we’d served for six years. It was a difficult preparation from many different angles. That being said, we’re accustomed to moving. We’re a Methodist clergy family, wholly… holy committed to the itinerant lifestyle.
Fast forward to April 12, 2010. We received a call from our DS informing us of where our next pastorate would be. On paper, all made good sense. Great location; big enough parsonage; thriving congregation; a salary in keeping with expectation. We spent the day contemplating our “next,” but as the day wore on, so did our concerns. Before nightfall, we were a complete mess. We couldn’t put our finger on the pulse behind our concerns, but we knew something was amiss. The next morning, we received an answer.
A phone call arrived informing my husband of a situation surrounding our new appointment. In good conscience and after heavy deliberation with me and with God in prayer, my husband respectfully requested he be re-assigned to a new church. There’s always a risk that comes with making such a request of the Bishop, especially at the eleventh hour when appointments were being set in stone. To say that we were crushed in spirit with the recent revelation is to say too little. We had long felt this would be our moving year. Even prior to us knowing about our moving status, God had prompted our hearts along those lines. We were, however, content to let the process run its course, believing that God would move the hearts of the Bishop and his cabinet if he so desired to move us to a new place of ministry.
The day was fraught with anxiety. Hours went by before hearing anything. And then he called. Not God… the Bishop. He was sympathetic to our concerns and assured us that we could return to our previous appointment without any problem. And then, he offered a postscript.
“By the way, I have another appointment you might be interested in…”—something about a dying congregation, about our coming in as a first, test-case for a revitalization effort going on within the UM church and how our support would be generated in partnership between this new church and the conference. I wasn’t thrilled; I was confused.
Thus began an all night deliberation regarding a “move” not in keeping with our personal expectations. However, by morning, we’d decided to “go” with a few conditions attached to our “going.” Apparently, conditions don’t always mesh well with a Bishop’s offer, thereby creating another five tenuous hours of back and forth between my husband and the Bishop’s cabinet. Not handling the pressure very well, I did what all smart women do when confused.
I went shopping.
I told my husband that my phone would be on and that he should call me should something change. He did… a couple of times. His voice was tearful, his pain palpable. It didn’t look like a move was going to “press through” for us this year. During his final call to me, he said, “Elaine, the DS just called again and wanted to know if he should remove us from the ‘move’ list.” I hesitantly replied with my “yes.” We closed our conversation, and I headed to the dressing room.
And then it happened… a moment I couldn’t have planned… a moment I didn’t anticipate. As I live and breathe, I was standing before the mirror in the Belk’s dressing room, arms extended into the air in preparation for trying on a blouse. As the blouse enveloped my frame, so did a warmth I’ve never experienced before (even typing this now, I feel the witness of the Holy Spirit running throughout my body). From head to toe, I was wrapped and energized in the marvelous light and life of God’s Spirit within. I immediately retrieved my cell phone from my pant’s pocket and speed-dialed my husband.
“Honey, text message the cabinet and tell them we’ll come… no strings attached.”
He thanked me and immediately sent this message to the cabinet:
“We’ll go and we’ll go with God. No strings attached.”
We were later told that with the receiving of that text, the climate in the conference room immediately shifted and every one of our “attachments” were not only met, they were exceeded. Now here we are, almost eight weeks down the road, and I’m telling the story again. Not only for your sake, but mostly for mine. Why? Because I need to remember tonight; need to be reminded that for all the unknowns that currently torment me, there was a day in recent history when God firmly and beautifully gave me his “go” to be in this place.
I’d be lying if I told you I haven’t wondered a least a thousand times “why?” over the past eight weeks. It’s been a difficult “fit” with my heart. That being said, I’d also be lying if I tried to deny that dressing room moment. I can ask “why” all I want, but the truth is, I cannot deny the Spirit’s presence on April 14, 2010, in Belk’s. It’s almost as real to me this day as it was then, and friends…
Who of us doesn’t want some of that?
Remembrance is a good thing. It keeps us moving in a right and holy direction, even when we cannot see our next step. Remembering the presence and faithfulness of God in our past better enables us to move forward with our future. It’s one of the strongest tools we have in our spiritual arsenal to fight the enemy’s schemes for personal disaster. Tonight, I’m wielding that sword. Tonight, I’m writing my faith, out loud and on display for all the world to read. I don’t know if you needed it, but I certainly did, and I happen to believe that there might be a few of you who need to remember as well.
Remember God. Remember him well. Remember where you’ve come from, where you’ve been, and where you’re headed. Remember how he’s been there each and every time. He’s in it all—past, present, and future, and his faithfulness never ends.
Remember God and find your thanks, sing your praise, and tell of all his wonderful acts of kindness toward you. Your deliberate remembrance this day will be the spontaneous hallelujah of your tomorrow! As always…
Peace for the journey,
PS: Thanks to Sandi Patty’s wonderful marketing crew, I have three copies of her newest book to give-away. The winners are… Cheryl B., Teresa, and Joan. Send me your snail-mail girls, and I’ll get your book to you this week! Enjoy.
Copyright © August 2010 – Elaine Olsen