The stony silence of the congregation ushered me back to my seat in the second pew. The sanctuary suddenly felt chilly. I wanted to sneak out during the prayer before the sermon but rejected that kind of cowardice. So, I stayed through the service and quickly passed through the glare and stare gauntlet waiting for me on my way back to my car, in the parking lot. As I drove away I felt confident there would be no future invitations for me to be guest music ministry at this church again.
In my early years as a pastor’s wife, many smaller congregations in our area enjoyed hosting “special music,” guests, from other churches, in their worship services. My full schedule caused me to resist this notion, initially. Several of my own church members insisted that hoarding my singing voice to our church alone seemed selfish. I allowed my name to be put on an area-wide “special music,” list and agreed to sing at other churches once a month.
I offered my best efforts for each invitation. Coordinating my music with the pastor’s sermon,rehearsing, and filling the hole I left behind at my own church, added hours to my work week. The thankful, positive responses I received from most congregations I visited, however, affirmed my decision to sacrifice time for neighboring small churches, until this day.
Months later I learned that this very traditional congregation considered hymns, in their original form, to be the only appropriate music for worship. Well, perfect. No wonder the room turned icy when I presented an alternative arrangement of an old hymn. The song had been well received in my church and others but was definitely verboten in this one.
The experience left me frustrated, and questioning my commitment. I didn’t lack for work at my own church. Why should I risk the chance of this kind of rejection again?
I’ve been frank in my posts so far, that sometimes I was the architect of my ministry troubles, but my mistakes and sins were NOT the only situations that landed me in hot water. The truth is, trouble will find you. In fact, doing good can get you into trouble. God led me to share my gifts with others and do so with excellence.
Consider what doing the right thing led to for Joseph. He honored his father by searching for his brothers. This obedience landed him in a pit and then slavery. He refused to have sexual relations with Potiphar’s wife so his moral integrity caused him to be branded as a rapist and imprisoned. During his incarceration of fourteen years, for something he didn’t do, he faithfully cared for the needs of other prisoners. The reward for his compassion was to be forgotten for two years, by the cupbearer, once he returned to his position in Pharaoh’s court.
I used to think that negative responses meant I wasn’t doing the right thing. Yes, that sounds silly when you see it in print, nevertheless, I somehow developed the notion that obeying God meant I would get more “Atta boys” than raspberries. There is no Scriptural support for that. The Bible is chock full of folks who obeyed God amidst bad reviews, in the short term.
I once felt prompted by God to call on an older church member who spent much of the visit complaining to me about my husband. At the time I responded with a hardness of heart, vowing that I wouldn’t do THAT again.
In time, I learned to respond, not react. I gained understanding that if your life isn’t being messed with in some way it means you’re probably not on the front lines for the kingdom. Jesus wasn’t kidding when he said we’d have lots of troubles in this life, if we faithfully follow him.
Are you disheartened by some of the responses to your ministry? Do you feel that your efforts towards goodness aren’t producing edible fruit yet? Is hardness creeping into your soul? Joseph spent his teens and twenties in iron shackles, watching his youthful dreams drift farther and farther away. Only hindsight showed him that God used his incarceration to change a young dreamer into a man of iron character who eventually ruled over Egypt’s national resources and saved his entire family.
“Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9) This verse is my go- to when I am misunderstood, misrepresented and mistreated. I remember that I serve a big picture God and that I am part of his grand plans, if I’ll keep obeying Him. What we experience at the hands of others serves only to drive tenacious and gracious women towards their destinies.