The day was August 26, 2007. It was the Sunday before the beginning of my Junior year of college. I was walking into that year having changed my major… again, and not really knowing what I was going to do with my life. Back in May of that year, I remember telling everyone that was on the choir tour that I was going into ministry, but to be quite honest, that terrified me. I went home for the summer and came back to school convinced that God was not calling me into ministry, that I had simply misheard. I wanted to help people. I didn’t know what it meant, but that was what I wanted to do. So I majored in sociology.
As per usual on the Sunday before classes, I went to Wesley. My home. As I sat in that room, that sacred space, the space that even now when I walk into it, I feel the presence of God. That space that when I sit down on one of the couches (they are different couches now thankfully), I can see the room lit only by the candle in the middle of the room as each person would go to take communion and prayer at the alter on any given Wednesday evening. That space that when I walk through the door I still expect to see those people who loved me and whom I loved, and who to this day I know if I needed something they would be there. That space that I can still hear “We are one in the Spirit” being sung a capella as we close worship each Wednesday night. That space, that sacred space. On that particular evening, I sat in the back of the room on the couch, I can/t remember who was sitting next to me, but it could have been Amanda Dennis (Harrell), but don’t quote me on that. We sang a few songs and then we sat down and we awaited a sermon from Bud. I love a good Bud sermon. Bud has this gift where he can take anything, even the most obscure object or film and bring light and God out of it. I had missed his preaching over the summer so I waited anxiously to hear what he had to say. He began to preach and I honestly don’t remember what he said, but he wouldn’t stop looking at me as he spoke. At first, it didn’t bother me because I figured he would look somewhere else soon, but I realized that he just kept talking and looking directly at me,. Later in the evening, I asked Bud why he kept looking at me, he said, “it felt right so I kept doing it.” Bud didn’t know that I had decided to walk away from whatever call I had. And Bud didn’t know what those words were doing, whatever he was saying was changing my heart and opening my heart to where God had called me to be. It was a Sunday that would begin to unravel even more where I would end up.
I have told this story many times, but for the life of me, I couldn’t remember what he preached on that evening that began turning my plans upside down until tonight…
I have been going through my guest room closet, you know the closet. The one where you hide everything and there are things all the way up to the ceiling with no organization in sight. Well, I was tired of it so I rearranged my guest room and cleaned out my closet. I went through every picture that was present, some bringing back some great memories, some causing a great amount of pain, some that made me laugh out loud and some that simply made me reminiscence about “the good ole days.” But then, I also emptied 4 boxes of books that needed to be put on the shelves, and several of them were journals from the past. I opened the green one first and as I read through I was surprised to come across an entry from August 26, 2007, it read:
“It’s the night before classes begin again. I am not really nervous but I am. I am nervous about the online classes. Lord, tonight Bud talked about being the presence of Christ. What does that mean? I mean to me personally? What am I supposed to be? I really feel like I am going where I do feel led to go, but while he was talking tonight it was like he was speaking directly to me. I don’t know what to do! I am at a dead end, I don’t know if I should turn right or left. I feel lost. I need your help.”
What I didn’t know is that God had answered that prayer. God had already shown me the way, I just hadn’t found it yet. I would spend that semester trying to figure out what to do with my life and trying to figure out why adults think that a college student should make a decision that would determine the rest of her life while she is in college. I mean, seriously! It was during this semester that I would join the UMC, taking all that I had learned growing up and spreading my wings. It was that semester that I would find a new church home in a retirement community 40 minutes away from Cookeville because they felt like home. It was that semester that I would wrestle with this idea of being a pastor and I would go back and forth and spend numerous hours talking to Bud, Lanita, Max, and so many others and trying to convince myself that I was wrong or that I misheard.
God began something in me a long time ago, something that I didn’t even know existed inside of me. A love for God and a love for people and God showed me that the best way to combine those two loves was to be a pastor. I would never have been prepared to listen to God if God hadn't begun calling me through other people who allowed God to move through them.
This morning in worship, I had the honor of baptizing a beautiful little girl. As I read questions to her parents and baptized her and prayed over her “The Holy Spirit work within you, that having been born through water and the Spirit, you may live as a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ,” I couldn’t help but wonder how will God use her over all of the years of her life. And how now I can't help but wonder how many people would God use to speak to her and how many times would God use her to speak to other people.
I don't tell this story so that you can tell me if I made the right choice or even as any praise to me. I tell this story because we need to be reminded that God uses people every day to change the trajectory of our lives by speaking through a person. I tell this story also to remind us that one day, there will be another little girl or boy who will grow up and God will speak to them through you, just as there will be people in the congregation this morning that God will use to speak to that little girl. Please don’t be afraid to allow God to use you to speak to another. God will use you, be open to it.