I had a most incredible time at Hope last night.
Last Christmas eve I went to service alone, my kids being scattered to their respected husband's or boyfriends' family homes. I went there feeling sorry for myself. Church during the holidays when families are all together can be a difficult place to be as a single. God answered the prayer I prayed as I drove in that night, that I would find someone to sit with. I did. I ran into someone in my Alpha group who invited me to sit with him and his girlfriend (who is now his wife, whose wedding, in fact, I stood up at this past Thanksgiving) and who later after the service asked me if I'd be interested in renting his loft. That started a whole new and exciting and amazing chapter in my life- living downtown and living alone. I must say this about my life sans-divorce. I find myself in places and situations and with people I never dreamed or imagined possible. It has been a grand adventure with Jesus.
So last night, not wanting to repeat last year's Christmas eve being alone struggle, I went to church for a completely different reason. I went to church to serve. I have found that it is much easier to stop myself before I go down the road of self-pity then it is to get out of it once I have begun to indulge that sin. I am finding that sometimes I have to be strategic and wise and make plans to not put myself in the path of temptation by finding an alternative- by doing something different to seek a new solution to an old challenge.
I remembered how much I used to be blessed when people showed up out of the blue and offered to serve in children's ministry when I was on staff at Hope. To have an unexpected extra set of hands was like manna from heaven. The same thing at Immersion. To have someone walk up and ask if they are needed to serve communion when they aren't scheduled is a gift (by the way, the answer to that is almost always “yes”). If there is one thing you can count on- you can count on the fact that Hope and Immersion always need volunteers. Always.
So I made plans with a few single friends and we went to church to serve. We greeted, passed out bulletins, lit candles, collected offering, gathered up candles from the bridge and the gym, passed out lights, refilled the boxes of lights and pretty much did whatever was needed.
We had a fabulous time. FABULOUS! Being immersed in Christmas music, being surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of people who were there to celebrate the birth of our Lord, being able to greet and shake hands and hug and say “Merry Christmas” and meet new people and reconnect with others was a blast. No joke. It was really and truly and amazingly enjoyable. Melissa Chrystal and I just beamed with the joy of it. We left tired but fulfilled.
I know I have said this before at and about Immersion but going to church to serve is a completely different experience from going to church to receive. Not that going to receive is bad- that's what church is there for. But when you go to serve you become a part of this grand and large thing that God is doing and you become connected with this staff/volunteer team and share the camaraderie and fellowship of a shared mission that you don't experience or even see when you come to receive. You know that the small part you are contributing is necessary and you don't feel alone.
The last thing that Jesus did in the upper room after sharing communion and before His arrest in the garden was to wash His disciples' feet. “For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you … If you know these things, happy are you if you do them.” (John 13:15,17) What made me truly happy last evening, was looking single women in the eye and welcoming them as they arrived, letting them know in my own small way that they were loved and wanted and not alone. That was a gift for me straight from heaven; a gift that made my heart truly happy and transformed Christmas eve into a holy night.