Preaching for the first time…

I’ve heard a calling to be a pastor since the eighth grade. Remember for just a moment what it’s like to be 13. How much of the world really makes sense? But I had to make a choice when I was 13. God put a huge responsibility on my plate, the responsibility of pursuing His call in my life. This means pursuing His call to figure out what ministry and being a pastor really means. This means pursuing His call by setting an example for all I am around, whether I’m 13 or 20, whether I am in church or on the band field or basketball court or classroom or wherever. This means pursuing His calling even when things get hard or you face opposition. 

As I stepped up to the pulpit to preach for my very first time last Sunday, I suddenly realized why it wasn’t ever actually a choice. Some people call a passion something that you cannot live your life without. In my heart, I have known since I was 13 what that definition really means. And preaching hit me like a ton of (very positive) bricks. I realized God put that calling right in front of me at that small First Priority Bible study because He was showing me that there is nothing else I can do with my life. 

The weeks leading up to this Sunday were very stressful. I finished my sermon by the first week in January, which left 3 weeks of sitting with this 8 page paper burning a hole in my briefcase. When I first finished it, I felt like I wrote what God was telling me (which is a totally new thing, by the way). But with weeks to prepare how to say that, I started to really doubt. What if get up there and fail? What if people fall asleep? Or walk out? Granted, I named that all of those thoughts were 100% ridiculous. (EVM last week discussed that doubt is an integral part of faith, and this was a perfect example). I could not have asked for a more loving, supportive congregation to share my first message with. I could not have asked for a more loving, supportive network of friends and family to call/text/meet me to affirm that this was going to be great. But, knowing this is what I’ve heard God calling me to do with the rest of my life, I couldn’t help but be terrified. 

That fear stayed in me until I stepped up on that Sunday morning. I stepped up on the crisp wooden floor, put my folder on the podium, and took a deep breath. I paused for a moment before I looked up. That moment was the most affirming moment I have experienced yet. The same calming, clear voice that I heard 7 years before was right there again, stronger than ever. And I knew. I knew all over again that this is what I am called to do. 

I am not going to sit here and pretend to tell you I have it all figured out now. Please don’t get me wrong on that. But I can sit here and tell you I have a purpose, a God-given purpose. Over the last 7 years, I have learned a lot about what that means. And through all of the opportunities that are coming up, from visiting seminaries this semester to subbing for my pastor at work when he’s on vacation this summer and so much more, I am sure I will continue to learn and grown and figure out little pieces of what all of this looks like. 

So thank you. Thank you to all who listened to my crazy doubts, who reached out to me to support and love me, who came all the way out to Pelham Road to hear me last Sunday, who have continued to give me peace and clarity through this process. There’s a line from my sermon (that feels way more like God wrote it than I did) that will always stay with me. “It is in these spaces that we truly learn of God’s presence, God’s grace, and, most importantly, God’s love.” I pray that God continues to make this statement true for you, in more ways than you or I could understand from where we are. Goodness knows He is working in my life constantly to show me more of who He is and how I can better serve Him with all that I have and all that I am. I could only hope you also get to experience this incredible process of knowledge and growth in Him. 

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