This is the 5th week of our Lenten series on the seven I AM statements of Jesus. Each post this week will focus on Jesus as the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
By: Amy Dalke
Sometimes I stress about things. (Shocker, right?)
It’s mainly when I try to juggle 43 balls in the air with finesse. (So basically, 98% of the time.) From my off-center perspective, it’s not enough to just juggle those balls well. I want to control it perfectly, thank you very much.
And the fact that I’m like 118 degrees to the left of perfect doesn’t keep me from beating my head against a wall to get there.
Case in point: our church (Faith UMC) has a new worship service, The Branch. For many months prior to the official launch, I had envisioned such a service, and earnestly prayed for it without even knowing it was already being discussed amongst church staff.
As the plan began to take shape, I was asked to be the Lay Director. My initial shock over this request had everything to do with the fact that HAD NO CLUE what it even took to put together a worship service. Combine my stellar lack-of-attention-to-detail skills to that absence of experience, and you’ve got yourself a deal.
So tell me, how is this supposed to work? (Exactly.)
(Please don’t be fooled: Lay Director is just a fancy label for someone who brainstorms ideas with a team, and occasionally goes to Hobby Lobby to buy candles.)
Nevertheless, from Day One I was conspicuously aware that prayer needed to be the foundation of this worship service. Because I, for one, can quickly twist God’s glory into my own version of pride. (Despite the obvious fact that God was in charge of bringing the awesome, and I was just responsible to wait on him and listen.)
Our team was resolved that prayer must be the heart of our planning, so that we would be discernibly guided by God in every step.
The first three services were soaked in prayer. We prayed over everything, and each move we made just clicked in a divine rhythm. Which sounds cliche, but seriously. I’m not even exaggerating a little bit.
There were so many moments when God showed up in spite of us, that it blows me away. On countless occasions, one of us would have an idea that another would unknowingly bring up in conversation, which would serve to confirm that these were not our great ideas at all…but so distinctly God’s.
The service went so well the first three times, that when it came time to plan for the fourth one (which happened yesterday), we had the drill down pat.
We were such a well-oiled machine, mind you, that we failed to ask for God’s input.
(Oh yeah…God. You did have a part in this, didn’t you?)
We started our set up for Sunday’s service last Thursday evening, and I even patted myself on the back pretty hard for not waiting until the last minute.
Then we showed up at 4pm on Saturday afternoon (thinking we had about an hour’s work ahead of us), only to discover that there were Boy Scouts who would be using the chapel until 6pm.
Parker (our staff leader) handled the delay graciously. Me…not so much. Frankly, I was ticked at the Boy Scouts. I briefly considered that patience is a virtue, and roadblocks are just opportunities and all that, but then I chose to be frustrated instead.
The wait could have been used to pray over the service or something, but no. I just played Boggle on my phone and scanned Pinterest. And every once in awhile, voiced irritation about Boy Scouts in general. (Lord, have mercy.)
Things went smoothly once we finally got started a little past 6pm; but two hours into the evening, it became apparent that someone needed to go to Home Depot. And you know a thing isn’t going as planned when it calls for a lumber run at 8:00pm.
It was a long night.
I was woken up way before dawn on Sunday morning, by a loud whisper in my head: “You didn’t pray about any of this…”
Talk about having the wind knocked out of you. Message taken. Loud and clear.
So I got up, and went straight to my knees, and prayed over Sunday’s service with an intensity that could only come from God. Ironically, about an hour before I left for church, I learned of two big last minute changes that could have thrown me in a stress spin.
But GO FIGURE…praying all over the thing gave me confidence that God would take care of it. He made it abundantly evident to me that by grace, I can partner with him…but I don’t steer the course.
I have no doubt that God allowed our chaos to remind us of Who is really in charge. And he opened up a gracious space of time for us to recalibrate before we would lead others in worship. (Sidenote: I could learn a million lessons in servanthood from Emily Adams, Mindy Standlee, and Ross Sandlin. They’re basically my heroes.)
Our worship yesterday was saturated with God’s tangible presence, and we learned a lesson that I pray will forever mark the leadership of this service.
Jesus is the Way.
We can do life our way, on our own terms, with our own know-how. But God’s glory is hazy at best when we leave him on the sidelines. On the other hand, grace and beauty spill all over the place when Jesus is in the lead.
My conclusion: if we want to be Jesus people, prayer isn’t just a good idea – it’s as critical as our next breath. And besides that, you’ll rarely fall on your face when you live life from your knees.
p.s. I really am a Boy Scout supporter. And I’m not mad at them anymore.