“Remember that I stood before You to speak in their behalf, to turn away Your wrath from them.” Jeremiah 18:20(b)
Working for God is no easy task. It begins with small errands and missions, little pain, and lots of love. The beginning of anything it seems is easy, as we make our way into something entirely new. A new exercise routine, dedicating ourselves to morning meditation. A million New Year’s resolutions are made and not followed, why? Because the beginning, the thought, is easy, but the road is hard. Continuity, discipline and perseverance are the key to longevity, and also the key to the spiritual life.
The beginning of my walk with Christ was beautiful and mind blowing, but with my St. Paul conversion came a St. Paul story- my walk soon turned into a sprint…for my life.
The church I had been attending was the same church where my husband had represented someone who was part of the church. Normally, this may not be a bad thing, but my husband is a criminal defense attorney. Being a new Christian, the Holy Spirit was loud, and I came to church leadership to let them know who I was, about my conversion, and to pray for my husband’s conversion to Christ as well. Shortly after that, I found myself in the church office with my husband, surrounded by two associate pastors who said we weren’t welcome in their church. I asked them to point me to the biblical basis for that. Of course, they couldn’t. The victim’s family in the case had not sued them yet, and the statute of limitations had not run. Only several months into upending my entire life, and with my husband’s salvation at stake, I was out on the street looking for God- again.
It was shortly after that when one of my husband’s clients was shot and killed. A young teenager involved in gang life, the pain of his death was still a shock to my system. I decided to attend the funeral with my husband even though it was dangerous because God called me to do so, and I was looking for Him everywhere.
Maybe he would be at a funeral
As we walked past the streams of police with large rifles, I took my seat next to my husband several rows back from the casket. It was a white casket draped in gang paraphernalia and colors.
Jacob was only 15 years old
In the front rows sat all of his friends, gang members, all young teenagers draped in the same colors. They were staring at his casket, but I knew they were not seeing. My first thought was, How will God open their eyes?
Shortly after that, a pastor appeared. Young and full of tattoos, he was pacing and anxious. He took a deep breath and stepped up to the podium. He preceded to give a sermon not about Jacob’s life, but about his death, and what could have been; and then he did something that will never leave my memory.
He started to speak straight to those boys
He called them out. Asked them if they even realized their friend was dead, gone forever. Talked to them about senseless violence and killing and about what their future looked like. He had tears in his eyes, the scene was heavy and emotional. And the crowd of people watched while this young pastor let the rest of the room disappear so he could do what God had called him to do- invite these boys to a life with Christ.
The pastor’s words were condemning, and real and loving and everything that God was, everything that those boys needed to hear. He turned a funeral into a call for repentance, and He risked His own life to do it.
That day, in the middle of nursing my own pain from having no church home, I saw something greater. I asked the Pastor what church he was from and I told Him that this was the church I wanted to be in. By that Sunday, I had found a home.
God calls us to greater things. To speak the truth when it is hard. He calls us many times to intervene, to say things loudly, and with that to expect hatred.
“If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. No slave is greater than his master.” John 15:18, 20
I am again in the midst of searching for a new church home, praying and asking God where that would be. This has been my Lenten ask from our Lord. Being without a home has been painful, but not being true to the person that God has called me to be is not an option for me. And maybe for now, as it was before, I will not find him in the brick and mortar of a building, but rather in the unexpected. If God can be at a gang funeral, he can be anywhere.