My husband is super cool. He's one of those invisible backstage guys that makes everything work for the talent. Sometimes he sneaks me a backstage pass and I get to watch him do his thing with the technology. My favorite time to do this is each January when he comes up to help facilitate Resurrection.
See, I grew up a Methodist kid in Knoxville, TN, and we always came up for this. Of course, back in the day we went all the way up to Gatlinburg. Coming to this event, even though it's being held in a new location, is a little like coming home. There are familiar faces in the lobby. Two of my awesome college chaplains were there today. My youth minister from high school and several of my Camp Wesley Woods buddies were floating around. And the youth group from the church in Ooltewah where I've worked and worshiped for the last several years braved the storm to be up here!
It's a place where the past and future meet. And for me it's one of those "thin places" where the holiness of God seeps through. It catches me unprepared. Every. Time.
Today I watched our students as they worshiped, prayed, heard the word . . . and goofed around a bit! It brought a strong memory back for me. I had one of those out of body moments you get when you allow a memory to be close to you like this.
Resurrection . . . about 13 years ago. And the speaker has just done that awkward thing where they're saying, "Has anybody here felt a call on their life? Is anybody here going to go into the ministry? Into missions?" We heard it every year. From every speaker. It was almost habitual. But when I was 15 (hey - now you know how old I am) I heard it differently. I heard it personally. I stood up from my seat. I went out into the aisle. My knees hit the concrete floor. My forehead bent down almost as low as my sneakers. And I was never the same after that. I couldn't undo it. I couldn't go back on it. The words were out of my mouth, "Here I am. Send me."
I haven't told that story to anybody in a long time. Not to any of the kids I work with. Not to any of the grownups I've worked with. Because I'm a school teacher. And a marginal songwriter. Let's be real - I play coffeehouse shows for free, y'all. I enjoy where I am, but it's not what we think of as a "successful enterprise." Here's the truth - when we think we're called by God, we often put ourselves AND God in a teeny tiny box. Only certain things can be a calling, right? And our kids walk around with the same weight on their shoulders that we want to say we don't have as grownups. Oh. But we do have it as grownups.
They only want to step out if they're sure they'll be successful. Can we blame them? When we do it, too? Can we?
They only want to acknowledge something like a calling if they're sure they can do what's expected. We act like it's easy to get over that worry, but most of us still feel it.
The speaker was really interested in the word "again" today. He said it over and over . . . again! It's been a long time since I've heard a message so appropriate. So timely.
God has created. God is creating. God will create . . . AGAIN!!!!
God will create within you . . . AGAIN.
God can create through you . . . AGAIN.
I want our kids to know this. I want our kids to understand from the adults in their lives that AGAIN is a real thing with God. I want them to know that WE DON'T HAVE IT ALL FIGURED OUT. I want them to see that GOD IS WITH US IN THE MESS.
I want them to see the imperfect. The unfinished. The uncreated.
If they see these things, then they will recognize the reconciled. The completed. The recreated.
And if they recognize all of that, then they will surely know the process.
If they know the process, then they will become trusting within the process.
This is for you, Ooltewah UMC kiddos. This morning before you came to worship, there were people running around like crazy to get stuff ready. The energy was all over the place. I walked out into the auditorium and stood there looking at the empty chairs - I was actually standing right about where you guys ended up sitting. And I thought, "God, what happened to that kid You called into ministry 13 years ago? Where did she go? Am I in the right place? God, you know I'm a mess. God, you know my heart isn't always in the right place. Can You even still work with me the way you wanted to then?"
And I kid you not - standing there in front of the section where our OUMC kids had worship today, I felt (more than heard) a very clear: "I Am. And because I Am, so are you."
This morning that speaker asked us to stand up for various things. I stood up for some stuff, right next to you awesome kiddos. I stood up for some stuff I wish I didn't have to. But it's the truth. The kids all around you and the grownups you meet will all stand for things that are both great and not so great. You will experience things that are great and not so great. They will experience things that are great and not so great. Sometimes you will think that God can't work with you anymore. Sometimes you will think that you've lost your way because a calling won't look like you expected it to. Because of all this you will not ever be alone. Not really. We're human. All of us. And recently a friend reminded me that our humanity is the one thing we'll always have in common. Get this - YOUR HUMANITY COMES FROM GOD.
God created you step by step. God sat back and rested and said that you were part of the Great Good that is Creation. You. Wonderful You.
Listen, it won't always look like you want it to. I know. Believe me. I really do know. But God will create the Great Good . . . again. And again. And again. And again. God is relentless like that.
When I was 15 I thought ordination in the United Methodist Church was the only way to serve God. Then when I was about 17 I thought that a job out in the mission field was the only way to serve God. Now I know a bigger truth than either of those halves.
God can ordain you to be a teacher. God can ordain you to be a custodian (I work with one of the coolest custodians EVER at the school - he is 100% a messenger of God). God can ordain you to be a singer (and if you're like me, you might be a weird singer, and that's cool - God likes weirdos). God can ordain you to be a preacher or not a preacher. God can do whatever God wants to do.
And God is not ever done with you. God IS. And so . . . you ARE.
God loves you. So much. As yourself. And a lot of us love you, too. We've been there. We've experienced the middle school/high school thing. We remember that challenge and that fear. I guess I can't really speak for every grownup you'll ever meet, but I know a bunch of the ones you've already met . . . and I know this: they pray for you. They speak to God about you. They stick close to you in spirit. They are overwhelmed and overjoyed because of what and who you are becoming. Hah - and they haven't seen it all yet! None of us have. Because God is all about "again," as we learned today . . . and God will be involved in your continued living again, and again, and again, and again . . . and again.