I had a moment this past Sunday. Just a small one, but one big enough to linger throughout the rest of the day.
It happened while I was teaching a new song to the kids in my Sunday school class, Victory Chant.
Per usual, I had written the words on newsprint and pinned them to the bulletin board. We talked through the song before hearing it for the first time, going over the pronunciation of unfamiliar words and the meaning behind the song. Satisfied that enough background had been covered, I cued the music and listened for their participation—those students who came with their parents to church that morning.
My students. The only kids under the age of eighteen in attendance. My kids… the only two sitting as audience to my instruction, well three if you count Preacher Billy. And I thought to myself,
Why in the world am I doing this, Lord? What’s the point? They get all of this at home. Besides, they’re not really listening. Why am I working so hard during the week to prepare a lesson when the only kids that come are mine and, sometimes, an occasional few others? Where are the crowds of yesterday, the audiences of many… my Tuesday night girls, my Sunday morning “ancients”? Why so few? Remind me again why this is important because right now, it feels more like obligation rather than adulation.
Like I said, a moment or two. A thought or two. A question or five… all cradled up within a single pause, and it was all I could do to finish the lesson. A lesson (oddly enough) about a doubting disciple requiring the proof of nail-scarred hands and a few words about “seeing as believing but blessed are those people who’ve never seen yet still believe.” People like us, living 2000 years beyond Christ’s resurrection moment—a people who’ve never “seen” the physical flesh of Jesus but who are devoutly tied to the truth of that moment in history.
The class ended. The earth didn’t shake beneath anyone’s feet, and my family moved downstairs for corporate worship where slightly more gathered in the pews for the 11:00 AM service. And there was a big hurt in my heart… an ample ache for previous ministry seasons now seemingly hidden, buried beneath the burden of hopes dreamed but not yet realized.
Did I miss it, Lord, what you seemed to be saying to me a few years ago? Did we miss it, Lord, what you seemed to be saying to us a season back? Where am I, where are we headed with this? This is hard faith, Father. This has been a hard year for us. How can I keep hope alive when all around me seems to be giving way to despair?
I wish I could say that God’s peace entered immediately into my soul, but it didn’t. Questions of faith usually initiate a wrestling out of thoughts before the Father prior to a peaceful conclusion being reached. This was the reality for most of my remaining Sunday. Wrestling. Struggling. Being mad and being sad. Feeling down and giving up. Wishing for more; expecting less. Thinking about yesterday; living in today. Wondering what’s the point of service if no one comes to be served?
And then I heard it… the point of my seemingly small, morning commitment.
Quiet at first, muffled behind wooden walls and closed doors. A strum of a pink guitar, and the voice of a pure angel named Amelia… trying her best make the out-of-tune strings fit the melody of a recently learned song.
“Hail Jesus you’re my King.
Your life frees me to sing.
I will praise you all my days.
You’re perfect in all your ways.
Hail, hail Lion of Judah.
How powerful you are.
Hail, hail Lion of Judah.
How wonderful you are.”
Her words weren’t perfectly matched with the correct ones, but her heart was… perfectly matched with the correct Word. She wanted to put some feet to her morning learnin’; in doing so, she put some feet to mine. She reminded me, again, of something Alicia Chole said a few seasons ago regarding all levels of Christian leadership:
“Focus on what is small not big; near not far.”
Small and near. My Sunday school class, my two kids, qualify. If they are the only ones who show up on Sunday mornings (per strong persuasion from their parents), then their hearts are ample, fertile soil to seed kingdom increase. When seen through those lenses, my teaching becomes less about mass production and more about investment into detail that will, eventually, harvest in larger proportion. I’ve got to believe this is what is at work here. Something I can’t see, but something that God sees. Something that is far beyond my current perception; something that roots at a higher level and that says,
No investment made on behalf of the kingdom is ever wasted. Every seed planted is a choice made for sacred increase.
I do believe this; I do fervently hold to the idea that our every interaction with another human being is an occasion for depositing the kindness, love, and truth of Jesus Christ. I try and adhere to this understanding, but there are times when reasoning gets cloudy. When God’s leading in the past—his thoughts regarding my “next”—seems slow in coming to fruition in my present.
So I step back today, again. I take a look around, breathe in the landscape of my life, and lean into the learnin’ of my Sunday. I hear the voice of a little girl in my mind; her name is Miss Amelia, but it might as well be Faith Elaine. Sometimes it’s hard to differentiate between the two of us.
A girl and her pink guitar and a God who is willing to be “sung” despite strings that are out of tune and words that sometimes get mixed up.
The melody is still the same. The heart is just as pure. And the Lion of Judah? Just as powerful and wonderful as he’s always been. Indeed, a moment this past Sunday. Just a small one, but one big enough to linger throughout the rest of the day.
I pray for the rest of my life.
Some of life’s most important ministry moments aren’t meant for the stage, friends. Sometimes, they’re best taught and lived in the smallness of a Sunday morning song. Perhaps you understand. Keep to it… keep seeding and living your difficult obedience, and I will do the same. God is faithful to grow the holy rest of it. As always…
Peace for the journey,