Thursday, June 18, 2015

For Sarah, on her wedding week

Summer 2004.  I went to church and sat in my usual, near-the-front row with my sister.  There was a family sitting in front of us—a dad on one end, a mom on the other, and five precious kids between them.  There was a redhead with freckles cuddled up with the dad.  The youngest was a cute boy with a cowlick cuddled up with the mom.  The oldest looked like she might be student ministry age, so at the end of the service, I introduced myself to the family.

And the rest is history.

summer mission trip--where hair and makeup don't exist
That week I took those oldest two girls to ice cream at Friendly’s.  They talked nonstop, interrupting each other, fighting for the floor...and it reminded me of my sister and me...and I may have grown to love them that first day. 

They were in Powhatan, because their family was facing all sorts of changes and challenges.  And I will forever be grateful, not for the challenges they went through, but for the fact that God worked through those challenges and brought them here, to Powhatan, and to my life.

I was in seminary at the time.  There was one course I was most worried about—Basic Pastoral Care.  I just knew I would be awful at that.  But it turns out, God had created me for that kind of ministry, and those two girls would become two of my first victims of pastoral care.  They needed a pastor, and even though those were plentiful in their family, they needed a safe person outside the family.  I needed to learn what it meant to be a pastor—not just a leader or teacher or event planner—but a real pastor.

In the last eleven years (11?!  Really?!  I’m getting old...), a lot has changed.  I’ve gotten married, moved back to Powhatan, and had two kids.  That redhead with freckles has gotten married.  That boy with the cowlick is 16.  And that oldest girl gets married on Saturday.

babies
Sarah.  The oldest.  The one who sometimes knew too much, too soon, because that’s what happens with the oldest.  The one who sometimes took on too much responsibility, too soon, because that’s what happens with the oldest.

Sarah.  The artist.  The one whose voice stills my body and catalyzes my tears.  When I watch her worship God, I am reminded of that broken little girl who sat across the booth from me at Friendly’s, and I am overwhelmed at His goodness and grace in her life.  He has gifted her with an abundance of voice, passion, and creativity that overflows out of a tiny person.

Sarah used to take lots of photographs.  She once told me that when she takes photos of other people, she tries to help them see the beauty within, the beauty she sees that they don’t.  I wish I could give Sarah that gift.  I wish I could help her see the beauty I see when I look at her.  But I think, I trust, that God has sent someone else to do that for her—the love of her life, the man who becomes her husband in a few days—Max.

I am so grateful for this man I barely know who loves Sarah, who’s seen her at her best and worst, who shares her artistic zeal, who points her to God, and who grounds her.  And I trust that he sees just as much, maybe even more, beauty when he looks at Sarah as I do.

Sarah and I have been through lots of seasons in eleven years.  We’ve seen each other excel, and we’ve seen each other fail.  We’ve shopped, traveled, ministered, eaten ice cream, drunk lots of coffee, cried lots of tears, shared lots of hugs, and talked on the phone at all hours of the night.  At times I’ve disappointed her, and at times we’ve had hard conversations—some of the most heart-wrenching I’ve ever had. 

But a few things have never changed—my love for her, my pride in her, and my hope for her.

Sarah, you are a beautiful woman of God who deserves the full richness of his blessings.  He has uniquely created you to be who you are.  I am better for having known you, loved you, and served God with you.  Thank you for entrusting me with your secrets, your fears, your hopes, and your story.  Being your pastor and friend has been an honor, and I'm grateful for the blessing of knowing you.

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