For the first twenty-one years of my life, I listened to my dad preach to a small crowd of believers gathered in stackable metal chairs in a store-front basement every Sunday. He’s a natural, born to teach the gospel from a pulpit or a street corner or sitting at the head of the dining room table. When my dad traveled out of town on a Sunday, my mom often filled in for him. She stood in the pulpit: poised, gentle, firmly grounded in God’s word. A streak of nerves never coursed through either one of them.
The two times I’ve been asked to speak in front of a group, I nearly vomited from anxiety. My first experience with a pulpit fell on Teen Sunday, when the youth group (made up of exactly five people) was asked to run the service–from leading worship to special music to preaching. As the resident pastor’s kid, I was chosen to speak that morning. Also, everyone else refused to do it.
The details remain fuzzy, but the trembling eventually shook some words out of me and into the silver microphone on the black stand. I encouraged the parents in the room to never give up on their kids because eventually their influence would bear fruit. It came from a place of child-like faith and complete naiveté. I straddle the line between cold hard reality and sunny optimism since I’ve had children of my own. I have no idea what inspired this line of thinking as a fourteen year old because I was the goodest of good girls. My parents and I had exactly zero experience with rebellion or rejection of the family faith.
I tripped my way back to my seat and sat shivering with nerves until the end of service. I heard a few reluctant “good job’s” from the congregants, who clearly pitied me and wondered how my preaching parents could give birth to someone so completely inept at public speaking. I let Teen Sunday sink deep into my muscle memory–accompanied by knot-like fear and trembling. In my mind, it bore no fruit.
A few weeks later, our church pianist pulled my mom aside and said how deeply moved she’d been by the service. She’d considered leaving when she heard the youth group was running the show, and she sat for most of the morning with a sour look across her face from the front row. And yet, something of the seeds we had sown that morning took root in her heart.
She was a new mother, locked up with fear as a companion in parenting. She worried about mothering her girls, and something about a small group of teenagers stumbling and stammering their way through worship and preaching, offered her the key to release fear and unlock hope in her parenting. She reached out and grabbed it.
A few disappointments have come my way lately. Personally, professionally, and specifically in my parenting. I’ve asked myself, how much longer will I throw seeds to the wind and never see them take root, grow, and blossom? I ask myself this when I already know the answer.
At best, it may be months, years, even decades later. At worst, I may never see the results of the seeds I’ve sown in my lifetime.
But, I believe down to my very bones that I will live to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
His goodness is not dependent on our children bearing good fruit. His goodness is not dependent on our definition of success. His goodness is not dependent on our abilities or lack-thereof. God’s goodness is dependent on nothing but his own character, and his character is rooted in love, not our labor.
I am preaching this to my heart today, and I’m preaching it to you without a pesky pulpit standing in my way. He who began a good work in us will carry it on to the day of completion. He is ever faithful. Do you believe this? Do I believe this? If we do, then it changes everything. God’s faithfulness comes first, and my fear, my scattering of seed, my striving come in second.
Hope is not lost. Keep sowing, friends. In time, we will reap a harvest.