I was leading a circle of pastors and spouses.  It was their annual retreat and we’d had a great few days of laughter, learning, eating, resting and relaxing.  It was the final morning together and for our discussion time I asked them to tell me about “their dreams when they first entered into ministry”.  For some it was only 5 years ago, for others it was close to 50 years since they first took the steps of Christian work.

I heard them all talk about wanting to “help people”…”honour God’s call on their life”…”just take a natural step forward”.  For a couple it was a mid career decision that provoked some disquiet even ridicule from family and friends.

One brother was in his 70’s.  He talked about wanting to be a preacher from 8 years of age.  When he finally graduated from Bible school and began to preach in his early 20’s he thought he’d died and gone to heaven.  Today, after 43 years of ministry in his church he’s nearing the end of the journey.  His heart still beats like an 8 year old’s.  He just wants people to find the joy in Jesus that he’s known for close to 70 years.

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I then asked about a time when God had been “exceptionally kind to them”.  My preface was that God was kind to all, but especially kind to some, sometimes.  Had they ever experienced God’s kindness in a specific way?

My dear old friend jumped in quickly.  He talked about a time in the 1960’s when he was a young man trying hard to be a good minister.  He was working too hard and running too fast without paying attention to the little details of life.  Winter came early that year.  He knew enough about cars to know that he needed to have the antifreeze checked before freeze up but he wasn’t really mechanical and hadn’t got around to doing it.  Wouldn’t you know it, but one morning as he drove to visit a parishioner his car heated up because the rad had frozen.  He drove to the repair shop and was told by the mechanic that it would be $100 to fix the rad—but he had no money, not even enough for the simple car repair.  He left the car and navigated his way home on the city bus–he had the 15 cents necessary for transit fare but all along he was berating himself for being so stupid as to not even look after his car.

When he arrived home that morning there in the daily mail was a cheque for $100 from a friend who had simply wanted to be generous and had mailed him the envelope some 10 days earlier.

As my friend related this story, he began to sob…realizing afresh that God could be kind to a stupid stumbling preacher who can’t even maintain his own car.

I cried too.

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