I decided to try out a new church yesterday. I visited a local church that I have driven by a thousand times in the last 5+ years and have never been to even once. Today, I took the plunge and gave it a shot.
I sat down and looked at the bulletin. “Youth Weekend!” it proclaimed. I thought, “Oh, perhaps the kids are out at some winter retreat or something. ” I didn’t give it much thought.
As the lights dimmed and the praise team took the stage, I thought, “Wow, all those people are super young-looking. Interesting.”
The leader stepped up to the microphone and said “Good morning! Um, this is like ‘youth weekend’ which means the youth do the um, entire service, from praise and worship, to announcements, and um, like even the sermon.”
Yes, yes. That sound you hear in the background right now is crickets chirping. LOUDLY.
I looked around at my fellow congregants and waited for someone to stand up and holler “Sit down you young whipper snappers! You have no business being up on stage!” Shockingly, no one did such a thing. Outrageous, I know. Instead, everyone seemed quite pleased, smiling and nodding their heads as if *in agreement with the entire situation!!*
“Well,” thought I, “there is clearly nothing to be learned here today. I mean, seriously…these *children* will not be teaching me anything so this will be a great opportunity to get credit for *coming* to church while catching up on my Pinterest boards.”
I pulled out my smartphone and pretended to be reading the Bible while secretly planning out the perfect cottage kitchen for my perfect cottage home (Did you know that pink kitchens are COOL?).
After getting through the praise portion of the service with surprising skill and ease on the part of the children, the “sermon” began. A precocious boy stood up in a suit and tie, walking back and forth on stage while adopting the traditional “pastor of a big church” stance (that’s hands alternately clasped and pointing to unseen forces in the distance), and introduced 3 other children who were going to stand up and give their testimonies.
This development called for drastic measures. Instagram, anyone?
And then suddenly something strange happened. I was listening. Not just listening, but *hearing.* I heard words that resonated with me, “God has plans,” “God was speaking to me through his word,” “I decided to fast from Social Media for a week,” “God takes his own time to get everything exactly as he wants it and then brings you in on it” and “his plans for me are so much better than I can even imagine!”
Three 18 year old kids, all seniors in high school, spoke about their lives and how they knew they had it better than many, and were humbly and honestly grateful for that. But as each one spoke, they seemed to be building on each other’s words, so that by the time the last one, “David,” got up to speak, I was no longer looking at my phone. I was hanging on his every word. His defining moment was when he clearly and distinctly heard God saying , “David, I love you. David, I love you. David, *I love you!*”
Before I could stop them, tears streamed down my face and I was in real danger of starting down the “ugly cry” path.
How could these teens, children, mere babies, really, be used by God to speak to *me?* Me, a divorced 48-year-old woman with two distant teenagers, financial struggles, no idea what to do with my life, and hopelessly still in love with my ex-husband? They know nothing, they have learned nothing, they have experienced *nothing*! And yet, there they were, opening their mouths to speak as God would have them speak.
I stood at the end of that service humbled and slightly ashamed. But mostly grateful that God in his infinite wisdom showed me a different side to his glory. He used children.
And those teens made me cry. Less ugly, more joyful.