This picture above represents so much uncertainty at a new stage of my life, yet so much certainty around the amount of love I already had in those first few hours of being a mother. With Christmas looming, I’ve been sharing with my now-six-year-old the story of Jesus’s birth, and how Mary bore a son who came from God. While skipping the birds and bees talk, we’ve talked about Mary’s journey, and the fear she had. We talked about how hard the journey to Bethlehem was for her, and how she probably wasn’t dying to get on a donkey at 9 months pregnant and take that trip. I’ve told him how sometimes we’re asked to do things we’re not thrilled to do, but somehow feel called to do.
But now, thinking to myself, what an incredibly overwhelming feeling that must have been to know you’re carrying the Lord’s son. I’ll admit, at times I’ve been a little skeptical about the virgin birth, and Immaculate Conception. It seems improbable at times, but Jesus wasn’t exactly like anyone else I know. So why couldn’t he have been conceived unlike anyone else I know? That’s the beauty of faith.
This coming Sunday I’m taking a new step in my faith. I’m doing something, that, initially I wasn’t jumping up and down to do. Like the above picture, I don’t really know what I’m doing and what is to come in the next three years. Just as I’ve done with much of motherhood, I’m going to have to figure it out as I go. I’m being installed as an elder at church, along with four other people who will, I’m sure, grow to be friends. The congregation has asked me to serve in this position for the last three years, and each year I’ve said no. Instead I’ve taught Sunday school, coached basketball, kept the nursery, taught Vacation Bible School, served meals, and many other roles that make the church go ‘round. But I’ve never said yes to being an elder.
I didn’t say no because I wasn’t interested, or was afraid to do the hard work. Each time they asked there was something tugging at me to say yes, but part of me was scared. I’m not the savviest biblical scholar, or donate the most money each month, or pride myself on being the No. 1 Christian in my church. Although I don’t think God keeps score of who is a bigger Christian than the other. But mainly, for the last three years I’ve either lived 30 minutes away from church, or had a newborn, or young toddlers who demanded my attention. My husband thrives on routine and for me to be gone a few nights a week or Sundays a month means his routines are off. I think it took more for me to convince him than it did myself.
This year, however, they asked again. I now live 4 miles from church. I get home from work no later than 6. My sons are three and six, and are fairly self-sufficient, especially if an iPad or TV is around. Not to say we throw them in front of screens all the time, but for the 1.5 hours I’m gone to church session meetings, my husband will still be able to do his Sunday chore of laundry and emptying the trash around the house. (Yes, I realize how great this is, and I’m happy to encourage it by occupying the kids during this time). So, I don’t really have a real reason to say no. Sunday meetings will still mean i can come home after church and go back out without feeling like I’m in the car all day. Committee meetings and events are doable because I get home on week nights at a decent time. My husband is capable of bathing our kids and putting them to bed should I be out late. No one is depending on me for every minute of their day. (sad but true).
My time teaching Sunday school, assisting as the liturgist, tithing each month, leading children’s worship, serving in the nursery, teaching Vacation Bible School, serving on ad hoc committees, etc., has prepared me to step into this role with more wisdom and experience. In some ways, I was saying no each year to get more experience so that when it WAS time to say yes, I felt more confident.
My pastor told me that God does not call the equipped, but rather equips the called. I love this saying and have been thinking about it a lot. When first asked, I felt a little intimidated, as though I’m not the right servant for the position. It’s easy to say no to such a big role, like being on the session. It’s really easy to wonder if I made the right decision when former members act shocked that I said yes, or tell me good luck, rather than congratulations. It makes me wonder what I’ve gotten myself into. But like Mary on that donkey, I’m going into this journey not necessarily because I’m thrilled to, but because I know it’s my turn to serve and it’s my turn to watch my faith grow in new ways.
At 40, I’m perhaps one of the youngest people on the session and many have been leaders in the church for a REALLY long time. But as someone who has been a member since 1981, I’ve got something most don’t have. And that’s the knowledge of being a lifelong member through every sitting pastor, growing up in the youth programs, attending as a young adult, and finally as a parent of young kids. Most people don’t return and go to their childhood church. But as we visited several in the area before settling down back at St. Giles, we chose it for ourselves this time and not just because my parents went there or I grew up there. By choice, we were married there, and had both children baptized all by the same pastor—who just announced last week he’s leaving us after 14 years.
So now, as I am prepared to share my faith journey this weekend in front of the other installed leaders, I will probably have some of that same doubt and uncertainty I’ve had before. But since I’ve felt called to serve in this position for the next three years, I have to believe God will equip me. He’ll give me the ability to take on a heavier load of meetings, activities, tough decisions, and serving others. He’ll equip Sean, as I’m gone from home a little more often, and grant him patience and strength in my absence. He will give me the knowledge to lead, and empower others, and hopefully, make our church an even better place as we transition with a new pastor.
As we roll into this holiday season, I hope everyone will remember the reason for the season, and think about serving others in any capacity. It can mean a dollar at the Salvation Army, a coat for a cold child, or adopting an Angel tree kid. It can mean attending church or smiling at someone or helping someone carry a package to their car. A little kindness goes a long way. Remember, God doesn’t call the equipped, he equips the called. Listen to that inner voice and when you don’t want to do something, think twice, and maybe do it even if it’s outside of your comfort zone. Think about Mary on that donkey, bumping up and down, probably having to pee, and yelling at Joseph to slow down. After all, shouldn’t we all slow down on life’s biggest journey?