“…And I’ll never turn away the one who comes to me.”
She makes noise. She colors on any church bulletin, sign-up sheet, welcome card, and hymnal she can find. She rarely makes it through the service and cannot handle the children’s programs. She runs laps around the sanctuary. She melts down. She’s been known to do the low crawl under the pews from the back of the church to the front. Her favorite part of church is the end – when she can race to the fellowship hall and drink all the lemonade.
Yet she is a well-loved member of the church, an important part of the Body.
Although she cannot fully communicate it, God speaks her language perfectly. This is an indescribable comfort to me on the hard days.
Rhema has a faith story.
A couple years ago I wrote the following:
My father pastors a church that’s a good distance away from where we live so we don’t get to visit as often as I’d like. But when we go there, we’re home.
At the end of the service, the “doors of the church are opened.” This means that anyone who wants to can come -just as they are – to receive prayer, to join the church, to give their life to the Lord. It is a powerful, heartfelt time of decision.
A few weeks ago when the doors of the church were open, we all stood to our feet and sang a hymn. Rhema slid out of the pew and into the aisle. (We always sit in the back in case we need to make a fast getaway.) She had her iPod in hand, and she did a little tip-toe dance in the aisle. I whispered her name and held out my hand attempting to coax her back to her seat. But she ignored me, hummed a little tune and hopped further down the aisle.
I knew that if I tried to lead her back to her seat, skirts were bound to fly, and the pastor’s daughter and granddaughter would end up in a wrestling match in the middle of the aisle while the choir sang “Come To Jesus.”
So I resolved to do nothing but quietly follow her ambling steps down the aisle.
As people noticed her slow progression I could almost hear a collective intake of breath. One woman said softly, “Let her go.” Another whispered, “Praise the Lord.” Others encouraged, smiled and nodded.
These friends – sisters and brothers – have prayed for our family, for our Rhema, for so many years. They rejoice over every “inch”stone she acheives and celebrate every utterance and happy noise she makes. They love and accept her completely as she is.
But I couldn’t just let her go. She might do something inappropriate like jump into the baptistry behind the pulpit.
So, meekly, I followed. As we neared the front a thought crossed my mind that left me rather panicked.
Oh no. Maybe I’m supposed to go up front. Maybe, just maybe, right now God is leading her, and she is leading me. To that sweet throne of grace. Maybe right now I need prayer. Maybe I need to fall on my face and cry Lord, I need you. Maybe I’m the one who needs to open my clenched fists, examine my heart, and give it all to Jesus again and again – my burdens, my sin, my shame, my pride, my hopes and waiting-on-answer prayers, me.
Finally we reached the front. We were only there briefly. She hummed and rocked a little. Then she resumed her iPod game and meandered back down the aisle.
Afterwards my parents and I chuckled about it. We agreed that you just never know how God might be speaking into the hearts of our young ones. Even though Rhema cannot sit through a Sunday school lesson or sing in the children’s choir or even articulate what she knows, I’m trusting she knows; God is developing a special relationship with her.
And it’s just like that girl to push me closer to Him, too.
“They say that I can move the mountains
And send them crashing into the sea
They say that I can walk on water
If I would follow and believe
with faith like a child.
They say that love can heal the broken
They say that hope can make you see
They say that faith can find a Savior
If you would follow and believe
with faith like a child” ~Jars of Clay
One thing I know.
She is not afraid to come.
She’s not hindered by the details – the tradition or position or what anyone else thinks. When the Spirit of God moves her, she moves.
She just seems to trust that she will be received… into arms wide open.
I must, I must follow her lead.
Rhema in 2009. She has yet to do this again, but slowly the words are coming back.