The following article appears in Guideposts’ True Stories of Extraordinary Answers to Prayer – Unexpected Answers.
When I listened to our tone-deaf song leader screech, “Amazing grace how sweet the sound…”, I prayed, Dear God, please help me to endure this racket.
When I looked around the church and saw many gray heads and only a few children, I prayed, Dear Lord, help my husband to see there are better ministries we can be a part of.
When I asked for volunteers to help with the prison ministry and no one raised a hand, I said, Dear Lord, wake these people up to Christianity.
Each week, my prayer list grew longer. I could recite all of the things wrong with our church—no children’s ministry, more needs than benevolence, boring Bible classes, no church secretary, few young couples, defective air conditioner…
Whenever I had opportunity, I petitioned my husband. “Thomas, the church is dead. Why don’t we go somewhere that’s more spirited?”
He’d say, “Be patient. Things will change. You’ll see. But first we’ve got work to do.”
Work to do? Didn’t he realize it would take a submarine invasion, air raid, and nuclear battle to change this congregation?
Couldn’t he see the majority of the Vacation Bible School attendees were over seventy years old, the number of people coming to Wednesday night class could fit in our guest bathroom, and the yearly contribution was not enough to pay for the leaky roof?
I wondered, Why me? I never signed up for this ministry. The only reason I assisted was because I’m the minister’s wife.
My stomach felt unsettled as I recognized marriage to Thomas meant that I was betrothed to the church. I swallowed hard realizing that I couldn’t divorce the congregation.
Every fifth Sunday, we have a fellowship after service. One afternoon as I watched members crowded around the card tables with their plates piled high with barbeque, potato salad, baked beans, and banana pudding, I pondered, Why do they continue to attend? What is it about this church that brings them back again and again?
I listened to laughter and the musical exchange of conversation from table to table. I studied smiles and the glow on faces as people sat shoulder to shoulder. I glimpsed hugs, pats on the back, and hands squeezed in gentle encouragement.
As gray heads dined with thick black tresses, feeble legs with strong, dim eyes with bright, the tenderness and acceptance that warmed the frosty room—cooled by that defective air conditioner—also thawed my chilly heart.
I realized I had seen all the things that were wrong with our church without recognizing the things that were right.
I again bowed my head in prayer. “Dear God, please forgive me. You placed the beauty of your Spirit before me, and I failed to notice. I looked for your grandeur in ministries, numbers, and the comfort of the building but failed to recognize the jewels placed in the hearts of each member of our congregation.”
I suddenly thought of the words in I Corinthians 1:28-29, “God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.”
I bowed my head again and asked God to help me be like those people as I strive to understand His amazing grace, veiled beneath the sights and sounds of an imperfect church.
Copyright 2010 by Dwan Reed. All rights reserved.