Although more than forty years have passed, I remember the exact day I began to recognize God’s plan for my life. I was fifteen years old and attending a youth retreat at Lake Junaluska when that plan was revealed to me in a very real way. I remember one specific moment during that week when I became overwhelmed. I couldn’t name it then like I can name it today, but at the time it could only be described as a warmth of my soul.
If you have been to Lake Junaluska you can probably imagine what it was like on that early summer day when the spring rains had not yet stopped. We had been flooded for a week living in tents on a muddy slippery hillside, and we were miserable. We slept with our sleeping bags over our heads so that we didn’t wake up with water dripping on our faces because the tents were soaked.
On this particular day, we had gathered with youth from all over the south, and hundreds of us were sitting on the floor in the meeting hall, knee-to-knee, crammed in like sardines. It was hot and humid and just yucky, and we were there for hours. But the music was good… I still sing some of those songs sometimes. And I’m sure the message was good too, although I couldn’t tell you much about it. What I can vividly remember is that the Spirit of God was there in that place. It was more than a feeling; this was a physical presence that washed over and through me.
As the assembly ended, we walked out onto the front porch of the meeting hall. The rain had stopped, and we stood there overlooking the lake. Along the left side of the lake was a path that was lined with rose bushes in full bloom. Just beyond the path were the mountains that rose up out of the lake and encircled us on all sides. In front of us high on the mountainside was a huge white cross. I was living inside every picture I’ve ever seen of Lake Junaluska, but this day was more than picturesque. On this day, there was the brightest most colorful double rainbow that reflected in the lake and made a huge double circle around that cross. I couldn’t breathe; I couldn’t shake the feeling from inside the assembly hall. I couldn’t explain it at the time, but I knew I wanted more of it; and deep inside of me, I heard my name being called. God had a plan.
My experience faded to the back of memories for a couple of years until I was eighteen and I realized that God had so much in store for me. It was God’s voice that said “work for Me and I will take care of you.” So I worked – I volunteered here and there on special projects, singing in the choir, attending UMW meetings and never missing a Sunday. The voice never stopped calling, but I wasn’t being still enough to listen. I had convinced myself that I was following the right course, but God had a plan.
For years, I continued to hear “work for Me and I will take care of you.” For years I said “I’m working, I’m working.” Music director, youth worker, UMW, choirs, handbells, children’s Sunday School teacher, VBS director, and committee after committee after committee, chair after chair – the list of jobs seemed endless, and I certainly was working. I was doing everything I was qualified to do. I just couldn’t do any more because I just didn’t know how.
But the Spirit of God did not wash over me when I worked. During all those years of work, the Spirit of God visited when I was alone and quiet and listening, and I began to understand little by little that there was more. My path and God’s path had crossed many times – it was time to consider leaving my path completely. God had called my name with expectation and it was time for me to listen and it was time for me to respond. It was time for me to trust that God really would provide for me because God had a plan – and that plan was to serve.
In the Gospel of John, we hear how Jesus took on the role of a servant when he knelt before each of the disciples and washed his feet. The men had walked the two miles from Jerusalem so they were surely dirty, smelly and sweaty. His willingness to care for them in this way paved the path they were to follow – the same path we are to follow. In that one simple gesture, Jesus modeled for us how to love. We put aside our importance and simply take care of someone else. We love with no regard for our status or reputation. God’s plan for us is to serve.
On this Holy Thursday and the final day of Lent, may I listen for God's voice and enter into the Great Three Days with over forty years of purpose in my heart – the purpose of serving God and others in love – for this is God’s plan.
Serving in love,
PRAYER FOR HOLY WEEK
Holy God, source and sovereign, you put all power and authority into the hands of Christ – Christ, who washes our feet in humble service. Teach us to love one another as Christ has loved us, so that everyone will know that we are his disciples; through Jesus Christ our Lord we pray. Amen.
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KEY VERSES FROM TODAY’S SCRIPTURE READINGS
Exodus 12 – This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.
Psalm 116 – I will offer to you a thanksgiving sacrifice and call on the name of the LORD.
1 Corinthians 11 – Do this in remembrance of me.
John 13 – I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.
For today’s full scripture readings, click here…