When you think about it, it is odd, in comparison to the long and numerous years that map the length of a human life, that what sometimes happens to us in a moment in time defines who we are for the rest of our lives. I have had more than my share of life defining moments. Each one is a treasure to me.
In one, it was as if I sat on the precipice of what would seem to be an inconsequential decision — totally ordinary in significance. But it turned out to be the driving force that motivated me from then on. It took up permanent residence in my heart. From then on that experience and what followed would assemble the vision that I would chase and still chase, sometimes consciously and always subconsciously, as my goal for the accumulation of my working days.
I am thinking about a moment in time in my young adulthood (if I was really an adult yet) when I was trying to commit to what I would aim for in the decades of working days still yet to come. After I committed to the ministry, stymied by a locked in lostness as to what to do next, I followed what some would call an intuition, to a group meeting of peers. I was inhibited by shyness and the awkwardness of the moment; yet I felt the weight of knowing I had to do something. It seemed to me that my very existence depended on my doing this something. I remember it so vividly even though it was 1973 and now it is 2021. What I knew I had to do was simply to say something about my immediate experience with Jesus.
In that group of youth called a “share group”, on a Monday night, others had talked about their various thoughts about Jesus during the preceding week. I do not remember any of those things which were said. I was too preoccupied with hanging onto that cliff — without really knowing how but knowing that all the experiences ahead of me somehow depended on my opening up and testifying that night. After the time for sharing was concluded and the transitional prayer was being offered, I blurted out something and began to cry.
That was it! But what happened next taught me what I needed to know to be a minister of the Gospel. I was immediately surrounded by pats on the shoulders and hugs. It was not the comfort that I received, but validated over the next six months before going on to college at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, it was the sharing about what Jesus was doing in our lives during the week out of a sense of being led by the Holy Spirit. Week after week, we met to talk about our times with Jesus, our encounters with the divine, our growing understanding of things that cannot be understood without the Spirit of God moving among us. Everything I have been about in my ministry since then as I guide the gathering of the followers of Jesus was what I learned when I leaped off that bluff of silence with my comrades of youth each sharing their own hearts. When I stopped holding back and leaned into the community of those who share with each other, my understanding of what I would be doing and have been doing in the ministry was envisioned like a light that would guide my way. For me, it is the clearest picture of the discipleship that I continue to long to see developed and experienced among those that call me pastor, mentor, or brother. When the words that describe our walk with Jesus are talked out loud with the sounds of our unique voices, between our fellow Christians, the Holy Spirit creates a shared life among ordinary believers — the life of the church as I understand it. It is sometimes as if Jesus is sitting in the chair across from you. The joy is congealed and the substance of the Trinity is present.
“What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have observed and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life — that life was revealed, and we have seen it and we testify and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us — what we have seen and heard we also declare to you, so that you may also have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete” 1 John 1:1-4
Stephen Williams, January 19, 2020