Here in Seneca Rocks, West Virginia, Wednesday night is church night – and not just for those in my Mennonite church. Folks all across Pendleton County make sure to get home, get washed, have dinner, and head over to their churches for mid-week services. I’m blessed – Brushy Run Mennonite Church is just a little over a mile from my house, on the road it was named after. When I first moved to this house and was just getting used to attending church on Wednesday, I was pleasantly reminded about mid-week services by the honking of car horns as church members passed by!
I’ve been attending this church for over a year now and Wednesday night church has become a delightful habit, a restful break in the middle of the week, a chance to gather with those I hold dear. As I entered the church this evening, I greeted friends and took a seat in a bench on the left side of the church. Men sit on the right. I really like this form of segregation – I’m able to focus more completely on the lessons or hymns or sermons when surrounded by my women friends. The church is also comparatively stark – plain white walls above a wood-stained chair rail molding and paneling below. There is nothing with which to distract my attention – no stained glass, no crucifix, no stations of the cross, no banners or signs or paintings or decorations. It’s quite pleasant, a peaceful haven to contemplate my relationship with God.
Tonight, one of our young men, married almost a year, led our congregation in song. The women and men then separated for prayer, with the women remaining in the church and the men meeting in the entryway. (A folding wall provides privacy for each group.) One at a time, each woman petitioned God for various needs – tonight it included looking over our elderly members, granting healing (if it’s the Lord’s Will) to a young woman with cancer, and providing strength and compassion to all caregivers. I love being part of this group of prayerful women, joining my requests with theirs in the middle of the week.
Once the two groups had completed their prayers, the men resumed their seats on the right for the evening’s lesson. We are reading and studying The Upward Call by John Coblentz and tonight’s lesson really struck home with me.
“And there went great multitudes with [Jesus]: and he turned, and said unto them, If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple. And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple. So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.”
(Luke 14:25-27, 33)
Jesus asks us for complete loyalty; He wants 100% of us, nothing less. Now, that might seem a bit much and I admit to wrestling with this. He’s asking us to put Him first – ahead of family, friends, job, everything. Is He asking the impossible?
No! It has been my experience that every time – every time – I’ve had to give up something, I have been richly blessed with something even better. Now, it might be hard to imagine finding a blessing in divorce, but if my husband had not left, I never would have found Seneca Rocks or this Gospel walk in the Mennonite church that I love so much. I absolutely adored being a stay-at-home mom, but that ended with the divorce, too. What a blessing it was, however, to be a teacher at their elementary school and to have the same school schedules as my children! God even provided for that!
All along the way, when one door in my life closed, an even better one opened. There are far more examples than I could possibly include here. But now that I’m 59, I can look back on my life and realize that all those “crises” were actually blessings in disguise. I learned early on that the challenges I had faced at an earlier time usually came in handy to help someone facing something similar, like miscarriage or depression. But now I can see that God was not just using me to help someone else – He was looking out for me in ways I couldn’t imagine. He’s “had my back” for a long, long time.
The last question in today’s reading asked, “What has been difficult to forsake?” I wrote:
- being a wife
- being a stay-at-home mom
- full-time teaching (a car accident made it impossible to return to teaching)
Looking at that list made me realize that each of those challenges – what I once considered sacrifices – had actually allowed me to stop, refocus, and concentrate on following a better path. God has been directing my steps all along and while I had no inkling of where the path would lead, He did! I’ve felt His “nudges” since college but now I recognize them sooner and never doubt that they’re from Him. I don’t ignore them, either, and I’ve been blessed by obeying those little nudges!
I know without a doubt that there is no sacrifice too great to “give up” for God. He always gives back far more! If a flood came through tomorrow and washed away this house and everything in it, I can say with complete trust that God would provide something even better for me. Even death is no sacrifice – when I die, God willing, I will go to heaven. And heaven is BETTER than Seneca Rocks! Even John Denver recognized West Virginia’s limitations when he sang, “Almost heaven, West Virginia…!”
No, there is nothing too great to give up for God – not money, health, family, job, home, or even my life.