It’s been three years since we unloaded our moving truck into a house that I’d only seen in photos on the realtor’s website. Hard to believe that I am beginning my fourth Oklahoma summer. In some ways, it seems like yesterday we began our lives anew here, and in other ways, a lifetime.
It really felt like a dream. We had endured some nasty, hateful people in Arkansas. “Your problem is that you’re a Yankee,” one man said to my husband. “You don’t know how we do things here.” Yes, this had to be a dream! This sort of talk is the kind you’d read in a novel about the Civil Rights movement, not real life in the year 2010! No way. And yet, it was truly happening. Hatred for fellow human beings abounded, but the real problem was hatred for God’s Word.
“Just hang on a little longer.” Terry would say to me, as I wept about the life I saw stretched out in front of me. “You can do this, it’s not the end. God sees us.” These words comforted my anxious heart. I didn’t want to believe that my future would include a lifetime full of snide comments, sneering expressions, and painful words said about us and sometimes to us. One man accused me of cheating at our Master Club program. The sting of those words, and the fact others’ believed them, was more than I could bear. I recoiled from all fellowship no matter how benign. I feared everyone and trusted no one. Each step I took from our parsonage down to the church building for services was intentional, determined, and for God alone. I remember thinking, “The Lord is walking with me. He goes with me down this sidewalk, into that building, and to my seat. He is with me, He sees me, He will stay with me no matter what.” The words tumbling around and around in my brain brought peace, and I made it, we all made it. One day at a time, one service at a time, one handshake, one greeting, and one round of small-talk at a time. Before I knew it, it was getting easier. Each step, each service, each moment – it all added up. It brought to mind Romans 5:3-4 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: My experience brought hope.
And then one day, it was over. We were packing and moving. The church people were happy, but I was happier. We had survived! It had ended! I felt as if I should get a prize of some sort. But the true victories in life are not like that. It seems that prizes are only awarded for the irrelevant victories in life. The ones that count, well, no human being sees you win those.
On April 25, 2013, we came to Oklahoma, and I must admit, I was prepared to look long and hard to find the best in this new situation. I was convinced that all people are the same, with different names. I assumed we would face the same problems as we had in Arkansas. In our first business meeting at our new church, I held my breath and broke out in a sweat. I expected someone to get up and leave, or get angry, or say insulting things from their pews. It had all happened before. But, this time, it was different. They didn’t do any of those things. Everything went smoothly. People were – I could hardly believe it – smiling!
In that first year, I kept waiting for the other shoe to fall, as my grandmother would say. I kept expecting terrible things to happen, people to get angry at the sermons, or at the outreach methods, the Sunday school, the missionaries, the funds, or me! But, by the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, this has not happened. Three years, and no one has threatened us or spoken reproachfully about us. I really do not know what to think. There have been some difficult situations, but, the people here love God’s Word, and because their pastor strives to love it, too, then that is enough. They are content. Even when they disagree, they know that at the heart of it all, God’s Word wins, and that is all that matters.
Things may change someday. Someone might get angry or leave, and I’ll be right back where I started in this journey. I’ll feel the old feelings and I know I’ll cry all over again, I cry easily anyway. But I have realized that each day, and in each episode of life, I have a choice. I can choose to love people, and give them my heart, even if they break it, or I can run away and hide to protect myself. I’ve decided to risk it. If I get hurt, then I’ll have done it by giving my all, not just half. The Lord will be there to help me. I’ll pick myself up, and keep going.
But it might not be that way at all. I might just find that this is where my heart was meant to be all along.