Post Author: Darian Duckworth
I was robed and walking towards the narthex when one of my church members stopped to whisper these words. I offered a broken “thank you.” I felt the tears grow and burn in my eyes. Halfway down the hallway, I turned around and ran back to my office. By the time I got there, I was sobbing. The clock read 10:24 AM, six minutes before worship began. I was grateful that I gave up make-up, especially mascara, years ago.
I need to get it together, I thought. What if we have first-time visitors? I should go meet them. Are there any announcements I need to make? Why do we buy such cheap, generic tissues in churches?
I took a deep breath and looked in the mirror. If I could just get the tears out of my eyes, surely no one would see the dark circles underneath. I fluffed my hair–not because it dried my eyes but because it made me feel a little better.
I put my hand on the doorknob, only to feel the tears rise again. Darn. I took another deep breath, eyes closed. I could hear those words again…
“We’re praying for you.”
I leaned into the dark doorway –and into those prayers. If there were visitors, the church members would greet them. If there were announcements, a church member could voice them. All I needed to do was show up. I was weak, but God was strong. The church’s spiritual leader was weak, but the Church was strong.
I finally emerged and headed back down the hallway at 10:28 AM. The choir was lining up, and I was able to slip into my spot quietly. The prelude began. We processed in. Everything went as usual. I stepped forward to lead the Prayers of the People.
“The Lord be with you.”
“And also with you.”
I smiled, genuinely smiled, as my brothers and sisters wished me the truth: God was with me. God was with us all. We prayed together. We sang a hymn together. I returned to my seat.
Tricia, the soloist, stepped forward. When I heard the first notes of her guitar, the tears started again.
The song was called, “Grace For the Moment.”
I scanned the congregation and saw tears on many cheeks. Whether saint or sinner, pastor or parishioner, we share this in common: we all need grace for each moment. Though I had been physically alone in that office only thirty minutes earlier, I was far from lonely in the sanctuary of believers. When the final strums of the guitar faded, the moment when I most needed grace arrived. I stepped into the pulpit and quietly thanked her.
I took a deep breath, raised my open palms, and said, “Let us hear God’s Word.”
Nine months have passed since I walked into church with a heart broken by a break-up. When I reflect on that Sunday, I do not see myself as the “pastor” even though I held the title and preached the sermon. Instead, the people of St. Luke United Methodist Church were my pastor. Their love contributed to the healing I celebrate today. My eyes were red and raw from cheap tissue. But God’s presence, experienced with God’s people, was the balm that makes us all whole again.
Image by: Chris Costes
Used with permission