2010 marks the year that the McAfee’s began to engage our neighborhood as Villages Community Church. Our small missional community served at Egg Hunts, Daddy-Daughter Dances, and every other HOA event we could. We stood by as we watched balloons released for a child who drown in one of the neighborhood pools. We were faithful. We also dropped the ball a few times. Years passed, events came and went, and the friendships grew deeper. Soon we found ourselves in the 2014 holiday season. It was unlike any experienced before; at least in the McAfee household. A tragic suicide rattled our neighborhood the day before our family was to leave for Christmas.
There is something about the incubator of time and the security of faithful friends. The morning after the horrific tragedy that occurred on our street, our neighborhood Facebook page was buzzing. Families of every kind – some Christian, many not – were desperate to learn how they could be a healing hand to a family rattled to the core. Soon the HOA Events Coordinator tagged me in the post and asked, “Pastor Jennifer, will you please go visit the family and find out what we can do?”
For a split second I weighed my options. We were already 30 minutes behind schedule for getting on the road. In a fraction of a second the Holy Spirit set me straight real quick. God had a message of love, healing, peace, and understanding that He intended to fully convey. I had the divine privilege of being tapped to be used by Him. My plans were not more important than God’s, but I still had to choose to acknowledge that truth. So I changed out of my pajama pants into jeans, put my Coldwater Creek pea coat over my pajama top, buttoned it all the way up, and headed out the door.
There is so much I could share about this story. What I am most thankful for was the voice of the Holy Spirit and ears to hear. Life can be hectic. Most of the time humanity just wants to give it a rest. Yet, we are called to rise above this. Please do not misread me as saying there is not a need for rest. Believe me, there is, and it is wrong to not heed this necessity. What I am saying is that there are seasons where our desire to catch our breath is secondary to the breathless wonder we get to engage and behold when we choose to follow God’s prompting in spite of ourselves.
Self-control is such a befuddling concept. I tend to picture a guard at attention. Uniform crisp, mouth clasped in absolutely still silence, not even a mere ripple of muscle movement; Lifeless to the naked eye. I am now seeing a different perspective. I see a follower of Jesus carrying stillness into whatever storm called into the midst of, and choosing to not fixate on the boat begging to be sailed away. Waves don’t always cease, but they don’t equate to destruction either. Staying in the boat may seem safe and manageable, but stepping out in obedience is definitely most satisfying.
Nothing compares to loving people in their storms. People far from God are so ready for His healing embrace in the midst of their tragedy. This young man’s family responded to God’s love. They called every day. They clung to hope. They received God’s word. They invited me to serve them and share God’s word at the funeral. I would have missed out on feeling and giving the immense love that God has for them. I would have missed out on the countless prayers prayed. I would have missed out on so much. Pastoring is more than Sunday services. It is reaching a community who is near to and far from God. It is an honor. It is a privilege. It is the mantle.