I walked into the room not really knowing anyone, yet dying inside just to have an adult conversation with someone. We had moved 250 miles away from the town we had called home for 10 years. Our son was just 2 ½ years old and well, enough said. It was the toddler years and between that and the move I needed a “momlationship,” as my friend Melanie Dale calls it. I needed to feel human again. This mommy needed to connect in a bad way but I had no one to connect to. So I did what any good Southern Baptist girl does – I found a women’s bible study group that provided child care. I mean it had to be a win-win because they offered Jesus, coffee, and child care, right?!?
The first Tuesday morning of our study I left not really knowing anyone, nor could I even recall a name, but smiles and polite surface talk was exchanged. It was enough and at least it offered human contact outside our new home. I continued to attend each Tuesday and the Lord sent me a friend – a real, live one and not just one on the interwebs (or my make believe friends as my husband used to call it). Olivia and I just seemed to hit it off and her sweet, authentic spirit just spoke to my soul. She became a dear friend to me.
Life went on and we both stopped attending on Tuesday mornings for various reasons. And shocker – I made lots of friends after settling into our new home town. Olivia and I both became busy, the buzzword us Americans love to throw around. She and I stayed in touch over the last couple of years thanks to Facebook but it just wasn’t the same.
This past weekend I was asked to speak at a fundraising event for breast cancer – by Olivia. You see, she and I didn’t know what would occur after those Tuesday morning bible studies. But God did. He knew that our worlds would collide again when my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer last year. He knew I would become a huge cheerleader for my mom and advocate for other warrior women just like her. It was a divine appointment two years ago that He connected me and Olivia.
It wasn’t until I sat in the pew at First Shiloh Baptist Church this past Saturday that I realized what God had done in our lives. I began to tear up and hold back the weeping as I saw the glory of God right before me. I was overcome with emotion as I stood there with my head bowed. He had taken two women who were unlikely to meet any other way and crafted a way for our pain to be used to share Jesus with others. And the timing could not have been more perfect in my eyes on the cusp of all the racial tensions that have been resurfacing across the country. I was the only white person in the whole congregation. But you know what, when I looked out at the faces as I spoke, I didn’t see how we were different. I saw how we were the same. I saw their smiles, heard their amens, and shared in their worship. I saw us all as Jesus sees us – HIS.
I prayed for God to allow them to see Him through me that day and for me to be able to connect with them in a way I was unsure I could. Our worship styles are different, and quite frankly I was convicted as I stood there realizing that maybe I need to be as on fire for God as they were. Why am I not shouting in His presence? Why am I not calling on the Holy Spirit? Am I afraid, or am I lukewarm? I’m pondering many things now. So, instead of me delivering a message to them, they ministered to me.
God created that divine appointment not because he allowed breast cancer to infiltrate both our families. He is not a God that “allows” destruction. But He is a God that can use what sin in this world has caused and turn it into something beautiful. He didn’t create the friendship between Olivia and I just because I needed that at the time. He created it because He had something to teach me about my own relationship with others and with Him. And possibly by sharing that, others will learn as well. He had a message to share.
Instead of seeing how others are different from me, could it be that I should ask how I am different from them? We as Christians even build barriers around ourselves when it comes to other cultures because we are afraid. We are afraid of how they worship or being uncomfortable. But maybe that’s what God wants – for us to be uncomfortable. I believe there are still many race issues in this country. Do I understand it? No, nor will I pretend to. I see people as human beings, not in terms of race. But sadly, not everyone does. I do believe that Christians could do so much to help bridge that gap though. And one way I would encourage that is to get out of our comfort zones and attend services with one another. Christ intended us to worship as one – because we are all His people – so why don’t we? Why haven’t I? Because we are scared and because it is different. But I think the only way we can make progress in this country is if we begin that in the church. It takes baby steps and I took mine this weekend.
I can’t stop thinking about what God is teaching me right now, or wondering where He is leading me. I do know that it won’t be my last time attending First Shiloh Baptist Church.