Thursday, March 28, 2013

Your Reach

This post is dedicated to my beautiful friend, Elayne C.  who changed the course of my destiny forever. I love you Elayne and I will never forget your extraordinary gift to reach. To God be the glory.

I love to sit in the back row in a church service.

Anytime I have a choice in the matter, I will always choose the back row and the very last seat in that row.

The front row is just too presumptuous. I mean, who on earth goes anywhere and just plops right down on the front row? 

I tried it - once. 

And I told the ladies sitting around me how excited I was because this was just so not me and I just couldn't believe that I had the courage to walk all the way up to the very front and pick that end seat and just sit right there on THE front row. Gracious alive. Wouldn't you know it though, the guest speaker came in and after introducing herself she announced that everyone needed to get up and choose a different seat!

I just died laughing and hurried my happy self back to the back row where I belong. Hello.

The middle rows make me a nervous wreck. There are folks everywhere. And I love folks. But they are just all down the front and then folks all behind you and beside you. 

It makes me sweat.

And I don't have very good skin. Seriously. And all of those folks sitting around that middle row make me worry that they can see my adult acne. And they may notice that my hair is about three shades too blonde but I like it and it's a train I don't know how to stop. I just keep going back for more. Well that and the Pro -Active vending machine down at the mall. 

So now you know my beauty secrets.

But I've just never been a middle row kind of person.

But the back row. Oh it's just you and Jesus. It is all kinds of wonderful.

I love it.

I want to share with you today my favorite "back row" story of all time.

And it isn't so much a story as it was and still is, a life changing event that absolutely wrecked me.

It was a special Sunday morning service for Father's Day a good nine and half years ago.  I didn't want to go to church on Father's Day other than to honor my sweet Husband.

There wasn't anything in me that wanted to hear about how wonderful Father's are.

If you've heard my story ~ you know why.

But God has a way of getting to the bottom of things and that is exactly what He did some nine years ago that special Sunday morning.

I was seated on the back row inside our church and our sweet baby was asleep in her car seat carrier at my feet.

Our Pastor was sharing all about how important fathers are ~ especially to little girls. He went on to break down the identity factor as it relates to fathers and daughters.

And with each word the Pastor spoke, the tears started to fall, as I listened to things I had never heard before and so much of my life began to make sense.

I literally felt sick.

I sat down on the floor in that back row and just hovered over our sweet baby girl and wiped away the tears and tried to get through the service.

And then I felt someone reach down for me.

It was our Pastor's wife, Elayne.

She hugged me and said these words...

"Sibi, God wants you to know that He went out of His way to pursue you this morning."

My brain couldn't keep up with my heart. All I could think was, what? Why? He did? Me?

It broke me.

And it broke that thing in me that wouldn't allow me to get close to the Father's heart.

What was so life changing for me in that moment was this....

She reached for me. 

She left her title and her position and her family and her duties and anything and everything all right there on the front row right in the middle of a church service as she heard the Father whisper something special to her for someone else and she went searching the back rows to deliver.

And because she was willing and obedient and because she had a heart of humility, a heart of servitude and wasn't really concerned with keeping with what is usual and customary for a Pastor's wife in the middle of a church service...she demonstrated to me in action and in word this very truth....

God reached for me.

He reached for me right there in the middle of my mess. He knew exactly what was going on with my heart and with my hangups and with my issues and with everything. All of it.

He reached for me through another person.

And it changed my life.

It was one of the very important pieces that changed everything for me. Forever.

But she didn't stop with just reaching once. And this wasn't the first time God had reached out to me through her. And I know that we can't always do this in life, but I wanted to share how overwhelmed I was by God's love for me through this precious woman.

We had a lot of trouble trying to grow our family. We lost a baby just five months after our wedding day in October of 2000.  And then it took a year and a half to get those two gorgeous pink lines again. Only to lose that sweet life again. And it wouldn't be our last time to lose a pregnancy either. But during that season we were just devastated. And the first Sunday we could attend church again after our loss just so happened to be baby dedication Sunday and we had no idea.

 I have no words for the pain that I felt that day.

But Monday morning there was a delivery at my front door. A beautiful flower arrangement and the sweetest card that I still have and will keep forever.

It was from Elayne.

And she didn't stop reaching then.

She invited us to a bible study group in their home where we surrounded by other ministry leaders.

We so did not belong in that group. We barely knew anything.

But God knew.

And Elayne and that incredible group of people just loved on us week after week.

And she didn't stop reaching then.

Later on in the summer of 2004, Elayne invited me to speak and share my testimony on a women's retreat.

I almost fainted.

I had no experience. I had zero credentials. I had never even spoken in public before. Ever.

But she and the Father were up to something and I accepted the request with fear and trembling and did my best to honor God.

During the weekend before my turn to speak, Elayne asked me if it would be okay if she sat in and listened to the session.

I almost fainted.

And I replied with something along the lines of this...there is no way that you can be in there.

She was, to put it lightly, a powerhouse. I had never met a woman so full of God's love and truth and revelation and power.  And the thought of her listening to me stumble through my little testimony that could was enough to make me want to run and hide in my hotel room.

And so that weekend I shared my testimony for the first time ever and at the end of my session, I felt someone reach for me and turn me around to hug me.

It was Elayne.

She had honored my request by simply hiding behind a table and sitting on the floor of the ballroom so that I wouldn't see her. Everyone knew she was in there except me.

And she took the microphone and honored me in front of a room full of women with beautiful words and a life-giving prayer.

And the rest, as they say, is history. I owe much of my walk with the Lord to this precious woman who used her ability to reach, to change a life forever.

You have no idea how powerful your ability to reach others really is. God just needs a willing vessel.

And I'm not talking about just handing out bible tracts, or quoting a scripture or forwarding an email with a nice story. As wonderful as all of that may be at the right time and such.

I'm talking about your reach. 

Your ability to connect with another person- heart to heart. Spirit to spirit. 

What I'm really talking about is reaching for the lady ringing up your Tide and Charmin at Target.

Or the family walking through sorrow right now.

Or the family who may be walking through the pain of separation or divorce this week.

Or the bus driver. Or the school teacher.

Or the couple seated next to you this upcoming Sunday morning~ Easter Sunday.

And it isn't that we need to quote a hundred scriptures. Because honestly if Elayne had done that to me, it would have fallen on deaf ears. I didn't want to hear any scriptures at that time in my life. I was just too broken to be able to receive them.

I needed to feel His love for me. I needed to experience Him reaching for me. 

I needed to experience the God of the universe pursuing me. In all of my brokenness and shortcomings and flaws and desperate need of healing and I needed to know that He could pursue me and find me and reach for me- all the way to the very back row.

I needed to experience the same God who loves all of the people on the front row who had titles and positions and degrees and years of experience and influence- was and is the same God who would prompt a pastor's wife to get up out of her seat in the middle of a service and send her searching the back rows for a very broken and hurting girl without any titles or degrees or influence and who was convinced that God loved everyone else more.

He uses people to do this very thing.

And I love the word of God.  I love the word. But I think, when people are really broken we also want to connect. We don't want to leave that part out. We want to meet a need. We want to demonstrate who God is before they will listen to anything He has to say. We want to be willing to reach out and demonstrate His heart for them, before they will listen to a sermon on the mount- so to speak.

We want to show a vested interest. 

Otherwise we may come off sounding like a clanging symbol. Words without any love- so to speak.

For years people told me this. "Sibi, you need Jesus."  The problem was, for a very long time, no one really showed me who He was- and I really didn't need any more disappointment in my life.

Each and every one of us have what I love to call "a reach."

If God has placed you on the front row in life then I believe and feel that your reach is most likely, the many rows behind you, like Elayne.

If God has placed you in a position of authority or title or stature- then your reach is everyone who looks to you as their employer or their boss. It is also your vendors or clients or customers as well.

If God has given you a position in a family as a Mama-  then your reach is your household and your children and your extended family members and the churches, schools and neighbors and people that you could extend God's love to in your areas of raising a family.

If God has given you a blogging platform of any capacity, then your reach is unlimited in so many ways. With the click of a button, people can feel God reaching for them through the power of His love through the words you type on a single post, or an email response or a even in person through a coffee or lunch date.

People are hurting. They are hungry. There are families in our neighborhoods who have no idea what they are going to do- about any number of things. Or whose marriages are hurting so badly because they have no one they can trust to confide in or who cannot afford counseling.  Or people who are wondering if God cares about them at all, sitting in the church pews beside us, just going through the motions of playing church and never connecting with the God who loves them so much. They have no idea how much they are loved.

No one has ever reached for them.

We have to be willing to get over ourselves.

May we never get to a place where we think He is done reaching for us or that our reach has no affect on anyone else. 

May we be mindful this week as we head into the glory that is Easter weekend, to be intentional to reach for God's people in any way possible.

You have no idea the power you have within you to change hearts and lives in the most amazing ways. Just something so small and simple can turn a heart to Him today. Truly...

Beautiful Easter blessings to each one of you sweet friends.

I hope you know that He sees you no matter where you are seated in this gift called life today.




Love Being A Nonny said...

Oh My Goodness. I NEVER have the words to comment the way my heart feels. But I DO know this. I want to reach. I want to reach as far and as wide as I can. Because when I was a young girl I was reached....and I have never forgotten. YOU my dear pearl are reaching more than you can ever imagine.

Tiffany said...

This is such a wonderful dedication to Elayne and to Him! A true example of living our lives to bring honor to Him and letting our life song sing to Him!!

you are a beautiful child of Christ Sibi!


paige said...

so good!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
so beautiful!!!!!!!!!!!!!

{A*very} Blessed Life said...

Sibi, I can't even begin to tell you how this post has touched my life at this very moment. He has reached me through your words and this shouted his whispers with such a distinct calling! Thank you for allowing yourself to be a vessel for his love. He has touched my heart through you. May you have a wonderfully blessed Easter.

Bravehearted Beauty {formerly LLH Designs} said...

Catching up on my reading just a wee bit this morning and was just so struck by this story. I love it! And love the way you shared it. Love that spirit to spirit reach! Only God! Awesome! xoxo!

Unknown said...

This and every post I read have me in tears and broken. You have a gift from Father God present His truth in a very practical relatable manner. Yes Elayne made an impact in our lives as well. Deeply thankful