Something crazy beautiful and more than a little awesome happened today and I need to tell you about it. Christians like to talk about seeing God work in the world. My opinion is that 95% of the time it’s a lot of good people living out their beliefs. A logical trail can be found in all of God’s Will that is being done through his people. But then 5% of the time, things come together in such an astoundingly unplanned way that only God could have been the one in charge. Today was one of those days.
But of course, everything started on Sunday. And, like most things in life, I had no idea the part I was paying in anything. On Sunday, I did not feel like anyone God would want to use in any of his plans. I was emotional, angry, and unforgiving—all before noon. I’d gotten up to go to early service, like usual. The only thing different than usual, other than the fact that I’d worn a dress, was that my ringer was on, not loud but still on.
My boss had told me to go halfsies with Chelsea for the two Sundays her and her husband would be gone. They usually stand in as MODs so that Chelsea and I can go to church. I told my boss, confidently, that I’d be willing to take both Sundays. Chelsea goes to two services and I’m not entirely convinced they don’t last three hours each. That’s not the main reason I’m not Baptist, but it’s the top non doctrine related one. I go to early service and can usually be walking out of church around 9:30 am. The concierge get to the spa at 9 am. The practitioners arrive at 9:40 am. Guests don’t arrive until 10 am. I figured that I’d be done with church by the time anything really bad could work itself into happening.
FAMOUS. LAST. WORDS. Amirite?
I got a text probably five minutes into service. A practitioner was trying to come in late, but had a guest. And it was someone who hasn’t had the best track record with weekend shifts, so my heart hardened at the mention of her tomfoolery. I kept getting more texts, to the point that I stepped out. I sat in the library, trying to listen to the sermon while problem solving with my boss.
Now, during this time, a random person walked into the church and sat down in the library. He struck up a conversation that I did not want to have. Couldn’t he SEE that I was upset? Wasn’t it obvious that if given the choice that I’d be in the sanctuary, listening to the sermon. But, also, I had listened to the first part. It was a really awesome message of serving others especially if they couldn’t repay you. I tried to think to myself, “Marissa. What if you are the only interaction this person gets at St. Luke? What if he leaves and his opinion is based off how you treat him in this moment?” So I tried to be welcoming, the sort of welcoming that people had been to me that caused me to continue to come to St. Luke for close to two years. I think I did something wrong because he awkward started hinting that he wanted to hang out with me in the more than friends sort of way. I’m honing my people sills, okay? I’m not perfect yet. Everything’s a bit scattered.
I ended up returning to the sanctuary, my first niggling feeling of being a failure in my heart. I’d walked away from the situation because of my own discomfort rather than—I’m not sure what I should have done in that situation, but there was probably a better Christian solution. I couldn’t dwell long on that because my boss asked me how quickly I could get to work. I frantically looked at the pastor, still preaching. I looked at the bulletin. There was a hymn and responsive reading before communion would even begin. Ugh. I left church.
I hated myself for doing it. I was genuinely enraged. I’m the person you hear about in sermons. I chose work over church, and I was angry at just about everyone because of it. I made it to work. I made things work. I stayed all the way until one o’clock before I could fix the clusternut that was the day. I even managed to salvage the party that was coming in for services without them even having to know anything was amiss. But at what cost? I was noticeably angry. I couldn’t fully bite back my words to a few people I worked with, even though I knew I shouldn’t. I was not a radiant beam of Christ filled light in my workplace, which upset me more because I’m one of the few believers in that place. Part of why I think God put me in Ann Arbor is to be a Christian example in a workplace that otherwise wouldn’t have a person of strong Christian faith. But, I’d failed because of my own anger.
My solution to this was to have communion. I needed God in with and under my soul. I felt with a weird sort of obsession that I needed the communion. I needed to have it done. I needed another round of confession and absolution, obviously. So, I did what any person of my generation would do. I got on Facebook and FB messaged my pastor to see if he’d be willing to give me communion on Tuesday. I worked Monday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. My parents were coming to celebrate their 42nd wedding anniversary with me on Wednesday. I only had Tuesday, but I had all day, so I thought there might be some hope.
My pastor messaged me back, saying he’d give me a time when he had a chance to look at his schedule. Like a real tool, I managed to message him when he was out with his family. Great, not only am I an awful Christian, but I’m also THAT parishioner that butts in on the pastor’s family life. Awesome. Let’s just add to my pity party. He didn’t respond to me that night. He also didn’t respond to me on Monday. I figured that he was subtly telling me, “No.” Message received. I could handle that. I’d say no to me too. Obviously I was on the path to hellfire and damnation.
When I went to bed on Monday night, I was pretty certain that I was going to sleep until noon on Tuesday, without shame. I’d had an exhausting work week that was only compounded by the stress and anxiety I’d placed on myself since Sunday. I was going to sleep it out. Naturally, I was shocked to find myself groggily waking up not at noon, but a little after 8:30 am. Don’t get me wrong. I was a half turn away from rolling over and going back to sleep, but when I’d checked my phone for the time, I saw that my pastor had finally responded. He offered me 11 am. Oof.
Eleven? I mean, I had stuff I was going to do that involved being in public. I’d probably want to do that while I was already out going to church. If I got up right then and took a shower, I’d have enough time to make it from Dexter to Ypsilanti to get communion. So, I did. I woke up and showered. Mostly I needed to wash my hair because it was seven shades of nasty. I got dressed, and was enjoying the last half of my coffee when I got another message from my pastor. He said eleven was great, but if I wanted, a group of them were going to help out at a local elementary school’s library. I could go at 12:30 pm, get the communion, and then help out. Looking back, I think group was sort of a deceptive term. I may or may not have inserted myself into a staff meeting/devotion/event. Considering that I may or may not insert myself into a lot of weird situations, I’m not surprised this happened to me.
I agreed. It sounded right. I’m great with books. I don’t get a chance to do many things at church either. People want to do things on Monday or Thursday nights, or Saturdays during the day. Events are always while I’m working and never during my time off. So, I was pleased to have the opportunity. I’m not going to say excited because let’s not lie. I’d rate myself as definitely happy, though.
And it was scary. I definitely was the only non-St. Luke worker there. This was genuinely a staff meeting event. I could feel myself sitting in on their devotions and communion time. (I learned later that the communion was all because of me, but I did know that in the moment.) I had serious anxiety the whole time. I wondered if at any moment I could just make a run for it without getting in trouble. I stayed with it, even when we got on a short bus and went to school.
Basically, the library had been remodeled and the books needed to go back onto the shelf. I had already proclaimed myself the nerd of the herd by telling one of the pastors that I had worked in a library for almost five years, created the library’s periodical binding system, and written a manual for them before I graduated. I chose a spot where I knew sort of what was happening, and I went for it. I gave directions. I told people what I needed to be done so that I could accomplish what I was doing. People were asking me what to do and for my opinion on what they were doing and how they could help me. I think this is less of a testament of my awesomeness and more of a universal truth that people will follow the person who is confident with a plan. Regardless, we did good work for two hours. I tried to escape once we got back. I figured they’d all go back to their jobs. Silly, Marissa. I forgot about the Lutheran servant event debrief and closing prayer.
I’m so glad I stayed though because here’s what I learned. The school we were at had consistently turned down the church’s attempts of outreach. They didn’t want anything to do with us. Both pastors had tried in the past and failed. Until Sunday. See, an hour after I stormed out of church to go to work, a woman talked with one of the pastors saying she wanted to get involved with the school. The pastor was hesitant but gave a few ideas of how to approach them. On Monday, when I was regretting not staying at church and letting myself get emotional, the woman managed to set up this service opportunity that allowed St. Luke to begin building a relationship. We didn’t go in looking to convert everyone, but we made our faces known. We showed we cared. We made that first step towards something possibly. And by Tuesday, instead of coming in the morning, my pastor by chance decided to invite me along to help. I didn’t save the day. The men and women were more than capable of alphabetizing books by author’s last name without me, but I was helpful. My knowledge and passion helped them, was an aid to their success in their outreach.
It never would have happened like this if I hadn’t of stormed out of church or that lady (whom my pastor hadn’t seen all summer) hadn’t approached him. They were living in a situation that consisted of closed doors, but today, by God’s grace alone, I was able to volunteer at a church thing , St. Luke was able to reach out in the community, and God’s Will was being done through his people. Everything came together and fit perfectly together like we’d spent years planning every minute detail of the event when really it took a day and a half, and A LOT of God intervening.
I thought I’d just been trying to vainly make up for missing part of church. In actuality, God was turning a negative into and amazing positive that I never could have imagined let lone done myself. He was pulling His people together in ways that hours prior none of us knew would happen. It was crazy and insane and beautiful and certain sign that grace is real and God exists.
I wanted to share this because I’m not always in on these miraculous events. In fact, I’m usually certain that these “God obviously was the only one in charge because I had nothing to do with it in the slightest” events never happened to me. So, to be there a realize the intricacies of how the day came together was both overwhelming and humbling.
God is Good.
Soli Deo Gloria.