When my stepmother passed away in March of 2011, I recall calling my older sister and talking to her about her death. I was, quite understandably, very upset and very emotional. I was crying and I remember my sister asked me, “Do you believe in Jesus”? I was gulping for air and I said I did; but, frankly, I was later mad at her for bringing Jesus up at a time like this. Why? Because I thought that she was doing so not because she really wanted me to know and love Jesus, but because she wanted to convert me. Later, she did a few more things that totally pissed me off so that I found myself thinking “Ha, some Christian she is!” The thing is; her questions? They were another seed.
So, back to the message series at the local church (which turned out to be Harvest United Methodist). I showed the paper with the advertisement from the church to my husband. I told him this church was literally five minutes away from us and what did he think? Didn’t it look interesting? He took it, read it, and without hesitation said, “Sure, we can go if you want”. I don’t remember what day that was; it may have been a Friday, because we began discussing if we should go that coming Sunday. We initially decided to go, but by Saturday night, I was already having second thoughts about the whole thing. I mean, SUNDAY? That’s tomorrow! I don’t know, maybe I don’t want to do this?
One of the great things about my husband is, he’s not a pusher. Ok, maybe he wasn’t sure, either; come to find out he had his own very personal reasons for avoiding church, but, when I got cold feet, he didn’t argue with me. So, we did not go that Sunday but I just couldn’t get that message series out of my head. I WANTED to know what they were going to say. I wanted to believe that there were people who believed in God who were not judgmental. And, there was also the whole “getting to know people” thing that we’d promised each other we’d do. And, in all honesty, I was beginning to wonder what exactly I was going to do with the second part of my life, now that I’d seemingly “done it all”. So, I next told him I thought we should go to their Thursday night service. An hour, was all. Maybe it wouldn’t be very crowded, either; we wouldn’t have to deal with a lot of people and if we didn’t go back, not that many folks would have seen us there. I’m serious; this is what was running through my mind when we decided to try to go that coming Thursday!
This time, we went. Thursday September 29th 2011. A bright, sunny afternoon and the parking lot at the church was relatively empty (whew, I thought). We walked up to the doors of the church and before we reached them, they were thrown open by a man and a woman with big smiles on their faces. “Welcome to Harvest!”, they said. We were both a bit taken aback by their cheerfulness but (when we reflected on it later), it was genuine. It was pretty quiet inside the gathering area of the church; only a handful of other people there. The lady, Nancy, asked us if this was our first time at Harvest because I’m sure all first time people have the same look in on their faces that we did; a mixture of uncertainty, shock, deer in the headlights, and resolve. Yes, yes, we said and we spent a few moments with them telling them about us and why we were there (the draw of the message series). They themselves were not attending that evening’s service but were helping out with one of the children’s ministries. They introduced us to the youth minister/music coordinator and off we went with him. From there, we happened to meet Steve, one of the Pastor, and chatted with him a bit before heading in for the service.
One of the things I remember the most about that evening, other than who we met, was my doggedness in refusing to take communion. I told my husband that I wasn’t ready to do that and I felt it would be fake to get up there and take communion when I’d not set foot in a church for 30 years. Not that I felt my husband was being fake by deciding to do so; it was a very personal feeling. That evening’s message centered on when Christians say the wrong thing. Oh, boy. Catherine, the other Pastor led the service and I remember being extremely nervous and uncomfortable, but at the same time, totally interested in what she had to say. Lastly, one of the songs sung that night was one I’ve come to love called “Cry Out to Jesus” by Third Day and the line that stuck with me all the entire night was “He’ll meet you wherever you are”.
To Be Continued!