My heart is full today thinking about the past year and the friendships I have enjoyed and those I just met, hoping these new ones will become lasting relationships as well. This has been a season of change and I sense strongly that more change is coming. We don’t need to fear change, but learn to embrace it as part of life, knowing it will give us opportunity to grow and become, opportunity to embrace others who are with us on the journey as our paths intersect. This blog is about those whose lives intersected with my own.
I “finished” a job recently and left when I felt the Lord’s leading to go. In thinking back on the friendships I made there in that place, I am truly astounded. I had been in ministry positions for over 12 years. This job that blessed me was a family owned business and what I would have described before as being “a secular job” because it had nothing to do with Church. In the two years I was there, the Lord showed me that I had not learned how to love people if I didn’t know if they were fellow believers. I didn’t know how to relate. Because of my belief in Jesus Christ, I am a “carrier” of the love of God and yet didn’t know how to share it. I had been so focused on Christian ministry that it took me nearly a year to lay that down and embrace where I was. I know that sounds condescending and very missionary-like, but I don’t mean it that way.
I kept thinking of how Jesus was sent here to restore relationship between people and God. He came as a man to let the world know how important all people are and how much God loves them. He ate with them, talked with them, played with children, honored women, and walked more in the marketplace than He did in the synagogue. He seemed to find a way into people’s hearts in the every day tasks of life. Could He teach me how to do the same? Long ago, He found a place in my heart and poured His love into me. Could I learn how to love others like He did? It felt embarrassing because I’d been a Christian for 38 years, in ministry for 12 years, and had to admit that I didn’t know how to show His love to others.
I was surprised that as I opened myself up to my new friends and coworkers, that they taught me how to play and enjoy life more. I had been so busy being “religious” around people, trying to be “an example” of what was right, that I had closed myself off. Here I could open up, just be me, warts and all. I could let my imperfections show and talk about my struggles. I could encourage and love others by letting them know they were truly important to me. I could dance through the office when I felt like it. I could be glad to take a call from employees at the hubs, especially the ones that others had said were “difficult” or had issues. Difficult or not, they were valuable and loved, by me and especially by God. These little acts of kindness and vulnerability started to affect others, but they affected me more. To recognize value in people is a huge thing. I don’t know any other way to say it. Not everyone receives it, but everyone needs it.
When I left the job, I was totally blessed to hear their words, my heart touched that they were my friends. The Lord showed me by the things they said or wrote that I had made a difference in their lives, and that was a very humbling experience. But even more, His love and their acceptance of me had an amazing impact on my life too.
I keep thinking of the story of Zacchaeas in the Bible in Luke 19. Jesus pushed through the crowd and walked up under the tree that Zacchaeas had climbed up into in the hope of catching a glimpse of the One he had heard about. As Jesus looked up at him and said “Can I go eat with you at your house?”, I believe both their hearts were equally thrilled and excited about knowing each other. The text says that Zacchaeus “received Him joyfully.” As he felt the love and acceptance of Jesus, that day changed Zacchaeas’ life forever.
I want to thank some of my friends for receiving me joyfully and changing my life in the last 2 years. Misty, Kathy, and Kay, Ben, Andy, Lee, Marie, Christine, Shawn and Anna, the Wilmington boys, Melissa and the Greenville family, Teresa, Todd, Mike, Mitch, Grady, Frankie, Misti 2, Jennifer, Kristen, “Gator”, Dawn, Rhonda, Angela, Jeanette and Patricia, and Carol and Lisa V, everyone – thank you for being part of my life and along with God, showing me how to love and let others love me. You all have been a gift from God and have made a true impact on my life that I will never forget. I thank God for each of you.
And by the way, there is no division between a ministry job and a secular job except in the job description. I have found it’s all about people and learning to love. Relationship is the reason we are here. Relationship with each other and the One who made us. And I am glad and my heart is full.