When it comes to writing, I often procrastinate until the last possible moment. Whenever I get an email from Cathy reminding me that my next article for PoopedPastors.com is due, I usually decide it’s time to rearrange the books in my office, cut my toenails, and catch up on my television watching…there always seems to be an episode of Law and Order: SVU on some channel that cannot be missed.
This time when I received the email, I decided I had been negligent about my Facebook correspondence and needed to spend some time “catching up.” While feverishly “liking” people’s statuses, I came across a status my wife had posted on December 26, 2009 at 11:47pm.
Kelly Van Dyke sitting in the front row of an empty sanctuary listening to Zach preach!!!
After spending a few moments thanking God for giving me a wife that would listen to me practice my first sermon into the wee hours of the night, a thought crossed my mind that could lengthen my procrastination.
I know Kelly journals. Maybe she would allow me to post her thoughts about that first sermon for this week’s article.
God loves me. Like many times before, Kelly shocked me by saying “yes.”
As I was listening to Zach practice his first sermon in an empty sanctuary at midnight, I was filled with pride. It wasn’t perfect. And despite working on it and practicing it all day, it was still fifty minutes long. (Zach told me the first time he practiced it, the sermon was an hour and forty minutes long). He still needed to cut twenty. It was late and this was crunch time. He preached his sermon again. We discussed, cut, re-worked and then he preached some more. Still fifty minutes.
I had to come to terms with the possibility of sleeping at the church and wearing my sweatpants and Uggs to the service.
Laying across the front row listening to Zach pray and plead for the Holy Spirit to come and speak to His people, my thoughts began to drift. It was late, nearing one in the morning, it was the day after Christmas and we have 3 young children, I was exhausted. I entered a kind of dream-like state. Not really sure how to describe it but I kind of journeyed through my past, our past.
As a child, I went through communicants class in this church. My dad had been a pastor here for 14 years. I met Zach here in fifth grade. This church, this body, had loved me and hurt me. They took part in shaping and shaking my view of God. They had ministered to me, walked by me, and deserted me. Many times I have had to forgive and others have unexplainably forgiven me. Chills began to fill my entire body and I was overwhelmed by the thought that I just need to rest in the arms of the One who is writing my story, Zach’s story, our story and the Church’s story.
We headed home a little after one, and we both got very little sleep. Zach was up with stomach cramps at four, throwing up at five, and left for the church around six. He left saying, “Never let me do this again! I know God gave me this message specifically for these people, but I don’t want to do it! Next time I am preaching on something that doesn’t expose me. Transparency sucks!” I rolled over and went back to sleep for another hour or so annoyed at my husband’s flair for the dramatic.
Around 7am, I was awakened by my own stomach cramps and an unbearable fear and panic set in. I had to stop Zach! I had to keep him from standing before these people! I had vivid visions of an angry mob. I had to protect him! Now this may sound ridiculous, but for me, in this moment, it was so real. Fear gripped me. I laid prostrate on my living room floor crying and asking God to take this burden, this responsibility, this calling away from us. I grew up as a pastor’s kid and had experienced so much pain from this very church. I have seen too much! It hurts.
I told God, “I don’t want this!”
He then gently reminded me of the prayers He had given me since Zach took the job as a youth pastor. “Lord, less of me. More of you. Use me, please. Use Zach. Let us see Your church and ourselves as You do – beautiful, spotless, forgiven. Give us adventures and let us always say ‘yes’ to the places you are leading.”
I knew I needed to say ‘yes’ despite the pain. ‘Yes’s’ are costly.
Eventually, I placed Zach, myself, my family, and God’s people into His hands…where I know they already were; yet I am so grateful he allowed me the chance to lay them down myself.
I went to the church, prayed with Zach, and then waited restlessly in the front row.
I was too nervous to visit with anyone, sometimes praying, sometimes wondering how Zach was feeling and wishing that I could be filled with peace and joy knowing that my husband was ministering God’s Word.
I began to wonder how all of the other pastors’ wives do this. They always sit poised and smiling. I’ve never seen a pastor’s wife that looked like me- red eyes, biting fingernails, bouncing her knees. Oh well. The moment was here.
As my husband stood up to preach his first sermon ever, I made eye contact with him and gave him the biggest smile I could muster. I prayed, “Ok God, do Your thing. I am ready for the ride. Come Holy Spirit, come.” And He did.
For the next thirty-seven minutes (far from one hour and forty – Praise Jesus!), I sat in awe of the real presence of the Holy Spirit and the impeccable way that He was speaking through the mouth of my husband. I had heard this sermon a few times, but this was different. God had a message for His people and He spoke it clearly, with smooth transitions, poignant illustrations, clutter free and straight to the heart.
After a breathtakingly beautiful sermon, Zach closed, “So glad it’s all about grace. Amen.” I burst into tears.
Zach had said “yes.” And God showed up for him…and me…and our church body. What an unbelievably unique blessing to hear the voice of my Heavenly Father, through my terrified, diarrhea ridden, sinful, and willing husband.