It's taken me over a month to finally write this post. That's not entirely true. I wrote this post months ago as it was happening, it's taken me months to share it.
I'm a long way from that day in 1986. I'm also a long distance from the place I grew up and as far as the East is to the West from the beliefs of my Childhood. The God I surrendered to in my teenaged years became in my mind a god sitting on his throne waiting to condemn me for all my mistakes. I became afraid of Him. I could hide in Jesus, so I did. I related to Jesus and called him friend, but he was separate and distinct from God. I needed him to be in order to hold on to any faith at all.
The Middle part of my story spans decades. It started even before Part 1 and it continues. The Middle part of my story is ignoring God. And not ignoring God. Some days are better than others. Some days are easier than others.
I’m there again, I’m in a different pew, in a different part of the country, some 25 years later, but I hear the calling again. There is no ambiguity in His request. I’m being called to once again “Come, Follow Me.”. And yet I sit. I sit in this pew as the other women are leaving filing out one by one after their own silent meditation, after they have brought their burdens to the cross I continue to sit……
The Women and I are on a Walk to Emmaus. I’ve come to the end of a long exhausting day. It began quite unexpectedly.....
I stood there waiting to be called. The Elizabeth table had been called and filled. Then the Martha table was also called and filled. And I stand there, “Hmmmmm God, whatcha doin here?” I think. “My name is Martha Elisabeth. You do remember that, right? Okay so you’re sticking with the Ruth theme, alright.” But then the Ruth table is called and filled and there I stand.
“Mary or Esther? Really? I’m reduced to Mary or Esther?” My name is finally called, I’m at the Mary table. Mary, perhaps my least favorite woman mentioned in the Bible. I sit there all day thinking, I don’t feel like a Mary.
When I got back to my room that night I pulled out my Bible and read my Mary bible stories. All the Marys. And for the ones mentioned in the New testament, there’s a common thread. The common thread weaving them altogether is that they all submitted to God’s will. They all gave to God what was God’s – Themselves. They all said to God, “Not my will but thine.”
Ouch. Really God? You’re going to go there, just right off the bat, huh? Now? And that began the active conflict. Me and my will on one side, God and His on the other.
But that moment, and for the next 18 hours I was in active combat. I don’t lay down my will easily. I will do what I want to do damn the consequences. I began fighting with God in every thought, deed and action actively passively and constantly for the next 18 hours I refused God. I had every excuse in the book. Every thing you can think of I thought of. And I told God again and again, “Nope not me, pick someone else.”
But I’d already been fighting God for the past 18 months I had been passively fighting God’s will for my life. I wasn’t actively confronting Him, I just was telling Him, I can’t hear you right now, I’m too busy. I’ve got kids that need to go to their activities, I’ve got a husband who really can’t deal with this right now, I’ve got responsibilities and expectations that I must fulfill. I couldn’t even say the question he was asking out loud.
God was calling, had been calling and would keep calling me to ministry. Full on Ordained Ministry. And I was scared lifeless. I was afraid of failing. I was afraid I was too old. I was afraid I was too broken. I was afraid I was too wrong. But God kept calling me and I steadfastly refused. And now I sat at the table of Mary and God was asking for my own submission. Could I?
…. I continued to sit there in that pew and I was transported back to my childhood. The whole weekend had transported me to another place in time.
One of my first encounters on my Walk was the room I was assigned. Before even entering the room, I noticed the woman in the room next to mine had my maiden name that gave me pause. But when I went in my room, I saw it. The lampshade I had on my lamp when I was a little girl. Who but God could do this?
That’s the moment I knew God wanted me there. I needed to have my Walk. I needed a new encounter with God. God was calling me to the faith I had as a child. But he wasn’t calling me backward he was calling me forward.
But still I sat. I had the sweaty palms and freezing hands. My heart was racing, I’m shivering again, I know it’s time. This time however it’s a walk to the back I need to make. A walk to speak with the Spiritual Advisers. Not a walk to the front, but before I can make that walk I have to surrender. I have to submit my will again. I have to give up everything again. So I’m playing “Let’s make a deal” again. But again God doesn’t want deals He wants me. All of me. He wants my heart, my soul and my mind. So I start to throw out my excuses. I’m not minister material. Surely he was aiming for the pious lady on either side of me and hit me by mistake. I’m no pastor. I use four letter words. Regularly. In front of my children. I mean really who’s going to look to me for guidance? Come on God, Pastors don’t say those words.
I’ve got my best friend’s words bouncing around in my head “You’ll love Seminary” and “God doesn’t care what you’re undergrad is in, just finish it already.” (My best friend IS a Pastor she might know a thing or two about these things) Meanwhile, I’m thinking “Brian is going to kill me.” And I’m working through the conversation in my head.
Him: “So let me get this straight, you left a six-figure salary job. And now you’re telling me you want to be a Pastor? Are you trying to kill me? You want to spend 80K to never make that again? Really, no, Elisabeth, seriously?” (He only calls me Elisabeth at certain times -- this conversation would definitely be one of those times)
And all of that is bouncing around in my head and I’m continuing to throw out excuses. “But God, I can’t sing. Pastors have to be able to sing. Oh and God, I can’t move my family. They love their home. And we need to be where Brian can get to work easily. I can’t just uproot us.” And for now that’s enough.
I continue to sit there. I continue to think about getting up and walking to the back and talking to one of the Pastors in the back many of whom have children and are Moms. I can hear Jesus calling me again. I stand up, and my heart is in my throat and my knees are wobbly and I look back but I just can’t. I walk out of the chapel. I pause on the stairs up to my room and I can still hear Jesus calling and I think I could still go back in and speak to one of them. But I know once I say it out loud, there’s no going back. Once I say it, once I talk to someone about it, I’m committed.
And I’m back in my room and I’m ignoring God just like when I was a child.