June 27, 2016

Saying Goodbye - Piece by Piece

Yesterday, our friend and pastor stood up on stage and taught our church for the very last time. Every week for the past five years, I have listened to this man teach and challenge and correct me. Even during the really dark months with Harper when he and I could not attend church with the rest of the family, I would watch the sermons online and his words would help me get through another long week. God has used David to soften the soil of my heart more than I could ever explain.

He is the best teacher I have ever had. 

But, that isn't what I will miss the most. I will miss going to David and Sue's house every Wednesday and just doing life with them. I will miss Sue's sheepish giggle when I say something out loud that she would never, ever say... but is gracious enough to still find amusing. I will miss the banter with David. The jabs, the jokes, the back and forth attempt to rile each other up. I will miss the last-minute can-you-find-a-sitter dinners out because someone "has a gift card." I will miss seeing them parent, hearing them laugh, hearing them pray, and eating their homemade cookies. I will even miss the hot flashes. (David's, obviously.) 

You see, I don't feel like my pastor has resigned. Because it's more than that, they feel like my family. And, that might not seem like a really big deal to a lot of people at my church. But when you have gone your whole life terrified that when people discover who you really are, deep down, they will learn that you are not a good girl, that you're maybe too rough around the edges, that pieces of you are missing or broken, that you don't fit the mold... Being loved and accepted by people like David and Sue, is a really big deal. It's that healing kind of love. 

During a time in my life when I had no father in the picture and was living away from my brothers-in-law, David was a spiritual and emotional father and brother to me. This was a healing kind of love.

During a time in my life when I processed through so much hurt and junk from my past, and questioned my worth and the ability to be used by God in any way, Sue empathized with me. She gently encouraged me, and lived out the kind of grace and faithfulness I wanted to emulate. And she loved me in my ugly process. And this was a healing kind of love.

Here's the thing though. They have never been those people that you end up worshiping the ground they walk on because they're so amazing. They are amazing. Maybe the most amazing ever, but you can't fall in love with them without falling more in love with their God. And every second of my time spent doing life with them only pressed me harder and harder after Jesus than ever. 

I have never known anyone in a position of such significant notoriety that I still had this much respect for. Thousands of people have been fortunate enough to listen to the words of David's sermons every week for the past 15 years. But most have not had the privilege of watching him and his family diligently LIVE OUT those sermon words day in and day out. I have so, so loved watching them and learning from them and annoying them along the way. I have loved it, and it has been a healing kind of love.

A while ago, I saw this YouTube video of Kelly Clarkson working out all her daddy issues during a live performance of her song Piece by Piece. I could relate so much to her because I also have a pretty strong track record of spilling my baggage at inappropriate times and nobody knows that better than David and Sue! But the song is beautiful, in it she talks about how healing it was to be loved by her husband  who taught her to rethink what a man could be like. When I heard the song (and literally every time I have listened to it since) I cried like a newborn baby. I cried because I thought of the men I have known who have been a healing presence in my life. I thought of Tom, primarily, because watching him be a daddy has taught me so much about how a father loves his children. I thought of my brother-in-law, Joe, who was my dad and my brother right after I had lost both, and he taught me how a man can love a girl that wasn't his own. And then I thought of David. I thought of how he and Sue have taught me how my Heavenly Father loves me as his daughter. 

Years ago, when one of my little girls was scared in the middle of the night, I prayed with her and reassured her that she didn't have to be afraid because Jesus is real and he is always with her. She said that she knows that Jesus is real but that she just wants "somebody with skin on" to stay with her.

See, I knew that my Heavenly Father loved me, and I knew that I was his daughter. But, sometimes the little girl in you feels alone, and scared, and you just need someone with skin on to show you what that really means. 

David and Sue, thank you for being Jesus with skin on when I was alone and when I was scared and when I was lost. Thank you for staying with me. And thank you for a gospel-centered life filled with truth, grace and above all, love. The kind of love that shines so brightly that it reaches the darkest and most broken places in me. 

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