I recently started working as a student assistant at a small country church about 30 minutes north of Pittsburgh. It was a wonderful congregation filled with down to earth people that took hospitality and neighborly love very seriously. They warmly enfolded Ali and I into the community showering us, and Samuel, with affection and encouragement. Every Sunday Ali was invited to sit with different people in the pews, and there was a constant parade of ladies oohing and aahing over Samuel and his oversized baby cheeks. In our short two months with them we were recipients of hand made pot holders, Christmas stockings, a cross stitched birth announcement and some of the most delicious vegetable soup I have ever had.
The elderly pastor in his 70’s still oozed with life and passion, and I was looking forward to learning all that I could from his 50+ years of doing ministry, but the unexpected happened. I received a job opportunity in our hometown of Lancaster that I could not pass up. Feeling sick to my stomach with dread, I advised the pastor that I would be leaving prematurely. He received the news with graciousness and support in the midst of his disappointment.
Ali, Sam and I left the following weekend to be introduced at my new church and do a house-hunting blitz, and the pastor was left to explain our absence to the congregation. After our return I spent the whole week wrestling with whether or not to return to the church to say goodbye. I was afraid that folks would be upset. I didn’t want to face all the sad farewells and see the sadness in people’s eyes, but it was more than that. By not going I didn’t have to face my own guilt over letting these people down. I really just wanted to disappear. It would be easier. Breakups are always messy.
It was 10:05 on Sunday morning and we were just getting breakfast going. In the back of my mind I was still wrestling with whether or not we should attend the church service that started at 11:00. We were running out of time. I was torn.
It was Ali’s idea really. I probably wouldn’t have gone without her. We scrambled around like mad for the next 20 minutes getting ready. I ate and changed while she took care of Samuel. Then I had him on my hip preparing her a bowl of rice crispies and in a Tupperware container along with a cup of coffee to go. We were all strapped in and on the road by 10:35. Pretty impressive.
I felt butterflies in my stomach. What if they asked me to get up and share? What should I say? We walked in just as the pastor was giving the announcements. Perfect timing. Everybody saw us. There would be no slipping into the back isle.
Before I could even warm my seat the pastor called me up front. “You don’t just think I’m going to let you sit there and not help do you?” I knew where this was going.
I smiled at the all the folks crammed into the choir as I made my way up towards them. There were nothing but smiles beaming back at me. Nobody was mad. The pastor handed me an order of worship with stars by a couple of the readings and prayers. Those were now my responsibility. It was just one more week worshiping together.
I shook a lot of hands, gave a lot of hugs and said a lot of thank you’s as people dribbled out the front doors after the benediction. Sure folks were sad to see us go, but there was no hostility. They all wished us well and made sure we knew that we were welcome anytime if we every found ourselves in the area on a Sunday morning. We were only together for two months, but I guess we were now family forever.
There are too many times in my life that I have taken the easy route. There are too many awkward phone calls, the difficult personal confrontations and lingering questions that I have managed to dodge. I am thankful that Sunday was not added to the tally. The longer I live, and I know it’s not that long yet, the more I am learning not to be ruled by fear and insecurity. I am learning to step into the uncomfortable, and so often it is right there in the place that I least want to be that God does His best work.