Wednesday, February 11, 2009


When I was 14 or 15, I got to be a tool of God.

I'm sure it has happened more often than that, but, in a very powerful way, I feel like on that day, my personality, energy, ego, and intelligence all got pushed aside as God used me.

One of my friends was somewhat painfully shy in high school. He generally stood with one set of toes resting on top of the other and his shoulders kind of slumped forward. I don't know if he talked less to strangers than other people but his energy sure gave off the feeling that he did. Some of my best moments in high school were had in his company. The time we sat in the computer lab with Doug writing a Naturalistic short story about lemmings come to mind. We made sound effects to help us get into the spirit of it. I also remember writing a poem with the two of them that responded to The Passionate Shepherd to his Lover. I believe one of the lines went, "Intelligence? You have none. / There is no burger twixt your bun." English class aside, late evenings on church retreats were spent pouring our hearts out to each other.

On a Sunday morning that was designated as "Youth Sunday," my friend was giving a testimonial about what God had done in his life. That in itself I find kind of amazing since he was thoughtful and intelligent and funny and cynical. Kids like that tend to scorn organized religion in adolescence. But he had a deep spirituality and wanted to share it with the entire congregation of probably 300 people. I was sitting probably 3 rows back because I assume I was doing something with the music. He was up so high in the pulpit the pastor normally stands in. As he was talking, he got a little choked up or couldn't remember what came next or something. He just stopped talking and the silence went on and on.

This is the moment that God used me since I have no memory of thinking at all before I acted. I just stood up, walked up to the pulpit and held his hand. He began to speak again and finished his testimony.

If I had thought about it, I would have been mortified to break the set expectations of who participates when during a church service. I would have worried what people would have thought of me. I would have worried that I would make my friend even more embarrassed that he had to be helped.

Instead, I stood up and went to him, which was exactly the right thing. I am still powerfully grateful to have been able to play a role in that communication between God and my friend. He quailed and God comforted. I was just a middle man. It's one of the great honors of my life.

Yesterday, I stood up and spoke in a church in front of about 80 people: all pastors and lay-leaders of Presbyterian churches. I talked about my experience in finding my church and what it means to me. I talked about how hard it was to say that a church that gave me so much no longer met my needs, especially when so many of them led churches that were very similar to the one I grew up in. I talked about what a blessing Wicker Park Grace has been to me, giving me community and supporting me as I move closer and closer to God.

After the presentation, a couple of people came up to me because they had been at my church when I was a child and they remembered me. I didn't know either of them. However, as one man was clarifying who parents were, he also asked, "Were you the young lady who stood up with your friend when he stuttered so much he couldn't keep talking?"

Tears came to me immediately both at the memory of the experience and to think that I was remembered by a total stranger in that moment of pure grace.

For all of the bitchy things I've done. For all of the insecure, mean things I've done. For all of the mistakes I've made.

This man remembered me in my purest form.

Thanks be to God.


Emily DeWan Photography said...

Damn, you got me teary with this one. I love reading accounts of powerful moments in relationships. And fifteen years later someone in the congregation still remembers that day... wonderful.

ABG said...

thanks. crying, too. oh that we would all have moments of such grace.

Don said...

What a gift - to have your better self cherished by someone for 15 years. Thanks for sharing.