This is like the fifth time today that I’ve opened up WordPress Admin and tried to blog. Each time I’ve found myself at a loss for words.
This past weekend was an insane one. We plotted a top secret visit home, in which we planned to visit only a few people who we felt could use a little love, and not tell the rest we were even around. It’s not that we didn’t want to see people — we wish we could see everyone. But we have such a limited amount of time and energy on our visits home, that on this particular trip, we needed to be strategic about where we spent ourselves.
And spend we did — although the investment paid off in spades. We got back to New York at 5:30am on Monday morning, after driving through the night; weathering rolling bouts of terrifying rain, and nearly running out of gas at 4:00am when our planned service stop was “Out of Order.” I had to be at work for 10:00am that same morning, so you can imagine that I didn’t have much left in me.
But it was worth it. We got to visit Randy in a home without bars, where he appears to be thriving as a dad. His little boy is adorable, and grudgingly agreed to share some of his toys with Benjamin while us grown-ups talked. Randy’s girlfriend has grown in leaps and bounds since she last crashed on our couch, and has turned out to be a wonderful and attentive mother. They plan to get hitched, and Randy is working through his priorities as a free man and new dad, but so far is spending most of his time hanging out with his son. Which as far as I’m concerned, is a great place to start.
We also had the privilege of attending a Princess Ball for our young friend, and Benjamin’s newest girlfriend, Allison. The culmination of her young woman’s Bible Study, the Ball was a chance for her family and friends to support her and bless her for how she’s grown. And she has grown since we left, and it was pretty cool to be a part of her night.
We did also get in some brief visits with some other good friends, and even got to very quickly meet Benjamin’s newest playmate Theodore Hambleton, who was born last Thursday (and who’s arrival we found out about due to New York’s free Rest-Stop-WiFi and my obsessive compulsive need to check e-mail). Congrats to Brian and Melissa on your new family member!
Still, despite being a trip of encouragement and celebration, we were pretty much vomiting with exhaustion when we got home on Monday. My project at work continues to loom over my head as the final details come together, and of course, things don’t get any slower at church as the school year wraps up. So I e-mailed my boss at church and asked for the week off, hoping they’d understand that we were all on empty.
Tuesday evening was VIP night, a somewhat new tradition where all the volunteers get together for food and worship and just to fellowship together and enjoy the fruits of our labor, and how God has grown us as a community. The last one was an awesome time, but I still didn’t want to go.
I have a brutal cold, probably as the result of lack of sleep, and a giant canker sore on my tongue that makes it painful to talk (and that one definitely is the result of lack of sleep, because it happens to me a lot when I don’t get my 6-8 hours). I practically dragged myself out the door, with Nic and Ben, to go down to the church — not really for myself, but because I wanted to honor the other volunteers…
God, and Pastor Buddy, had different plans. And this is where it gets awkward to talk about…
After the food we all gathered in the sanctuary to sing — me mostly mumbling, but glad to be doing even that, because I love worship, and rarely get the chance to do it from in the production booth. About halfway through the music, Barb offered to (more like told us she was going to) take Benjamin. She told me later, she just felt like she needed to. When the music ended, Buddy came out on the stage, and said some kind words to the volunteers in general, and then said “They don’t know I’m going to do this but…”
Now when a speaker says that, it usually means someone is about to get embarrassed. At first I was looking around to see who it was, but then I got this feeling in my gut like it was about to be us.
“…I’m going to ask Jon and Nicole Wise to come up front.”
We clambered up onto the stage and sat on a couple stools they had set up there, and Debbie (Pastor Buddy’s wife) came out with a bucket and some towels, then the two of them got down on their knees… and washed our feet.
I think Buddy said something about the various ministries we’re involved in, and I think I took the mic from him and said something about how this shouldn’t be for us. But mostly I was just humbled and awed to the point of tears. In front of easily 250-300 people, the pastor of our church and his wife, washed our feet. I can think of no more Christ-like an act of service and humility than that, and for some reason, they did that for us.
Did they know that we were completely exhausted, and totally hanging by a thread this week? Or was that just a God thing?
I’ve been empty before. Every couple months, the pace catches up with me, or something bad happens, and I get discouraged. Usually I handle it wrong. Usually I respond by getting selfish or angry — actually usually both. But this week I was determined just to rely on God to get me through. To not take it out on anyone, or shut anyone out. To just place myself in God’s hands and trust that He would sustain me.
I had no idea that God’s grace and would be made so evident, or that He would use such a beautiful act of service to let me know that He’ll love me through anything.
They called up two other couples as well, probably more deserving than us. In fact, I’m sure we should have washed everyone’s feet in there. It’s so amazing to see, in a church of 1500, almost 500 volunteers (they weren’t all there that night) who are a part of making it happen every week. These are the people who get it — who love and serve like Christ did. Not there for themselves, or ever asking for attention. But there because the harvest is plentiful, but the workers are always too few.
Its an incredible honor that God put us here, and allowed us to work along-side such a wonderful church. Thank you Buddy, Debbie, Brian, Dave, Nate, Chad, Kevin, Heather, Linda, Jim, Eva, Deanna, and every single unpaid staff and VIP, for giving yourselves to God’s work. Yesterday was a little glimpse of what it’s going to be like hanging out in heaven with you all!