One was a professor in my undergraduate days at Miami Christian College, whom I didn’t like at first because she was a woman. Yes, I said that (remember, it was the early years?) Her name is Joyce Jones. My judgmental roots were so deep at the time I was struggling with my sister’s divorce and wondered whether I should even attend her wedding because I was, after all, a defender of God’s truth and ways. Arrogant, right? Joyce gently helped me realize that error in judgment that I was making. More importantly, she showed me that relationship trumped rules in that case. She also encouraged all of her students to read the book by J. I. Packer, “Knowing God.” I reread it even now. Thanks, Joyce!
The second is Steve Brown from Key Life. Steve was the former Pastor of the Key Biscayne Presbyterian Church in Key Biscayne, Florida. I didn’t like Steve when I first met him. As a matter of fact, I tuned him out during Spiritual Emphasis week at MCC because, are you ready, drumroll, please? He smoked a pipe!
A few years later, I connected with Steve and told him I didn’t like him at first. He allowed that many people didn’t. He then invited me to have lunch when I was in the area, I did. He was gracious, welcoming and as real as it gets. He accepted me and encouraged me as a young Pastor. His sage advice has guided me through some difficult times.
That was over 22 years ago. We stayed in touch for a few years over the phone and I even had him on a radio show that I was guest hosting at the time. Unfortunately, life happened and I lost personal touch with him but his influence remains.
And Joyce? She’s moved but at least there’s Facebook!
Growing up as a fundamentalist if you were divorced, you were done as far as ministry in the church. If you were a woman? You didn’t serve on Boards, that was up to the men. After all, there were rules.
And then there were the checklists. Every day, I thought I knew how much God loved me and approved of me based on what I did or didn’t do.
We weren’t supposed to smoke, drink, dance, listen to Rock and Roll music or go to movies. In some circles growing up (not mine) woman weren’t even allowed to wear pants (even though most times they were really the ones wearing the pants in the family but I digress).
My how things have changed for me. Don’t get me wrong, there is much I appreciate about the early years. Especially those who really invested in me.
But there are people who come along that really make an impact. They cause you to change, to grow and to never be the same. So I’m thankful for Steve and Joyce who were conduits of grace and love to a young man who thought, at the time, he knew better but now knows that he didn’t.
Through them, I learned God loves me where I am but doesn’t leave me there. I learned that God is more concerned about my relationship with him than whether I was crossing every “t” or dotting every “i.” And I learned that no matter how far I wandered from my Heavenly Father that he would come after me and always welcome me home even if I had been a disappointment or worse, made a mess of things.
We all grow and change. We make our mistakes and we learn from the good times and the bad. One thing is for sure, I’ve needed that grace over the years and need it more than ever today.
And if I need it, there’s a good chance that others do too. Let’s all be conduits of His grace. You may never know what a difference you can make!