Not going to get into why my attendance at places of worship has been pretty much non existent for most of my 20s and 30s but there I was, this past weekend, entering a church in Fish Hoek, willingly, twice in one day.
No weddings or funerals brought me there, it was my mom who asked me to take her in the mornings (now that my dad, sadly, is finally unable to attend the service any more as he needs to be nearer to a bathroom, and besides sleeps most of the time when he is there) and my son asking me (again) to please take him to the evening service as he has been told there are more young people and less grannies of an evening.
And he’s right. I know this because around 20 ears ago I used attended this same church (though back then they met in a school hall) occasionally on my brief visit back to SA during my 7 years living abroad. Mostly to meet some other people my age (I grew up going to church and youth groups and back then I was comfortable enough attending one).
So I relented and took R to the evening service because, well, he wanted o and there was no good reason not to.
The music was cool (R loved it as the band is young and there are electric guitars and drums and such) and the sermon was interesting. I recognized the preacher (a man I had seen speaking at the church on one of my visits back in the days of being in my early 20s) with good reason (more later).
At the end of the sermon this man, J, asked if anyone wanted prayer and if so for them to stand up. I was surprised to see R getting readily to his feet. J and some other church folk went around praying quietly for a few moments with each standing person, J himself came to R and didn’t ask him anything, just prayed a blessing on him.
Then he headed back to the front and we all stood up for the final song.
And then, J called out over the congregation “Sorry, that young boy in the glasses (pointing at my son) what is your name again?”
R tells him his name.
J says: “I have such a strong sense of God’s hand on you and on your life.” (pause) “Never forget that you don’t have to be like everyone else. I think God has a special plan for you.”
That was that, R was pleased as punch though a little shocked (as was I).
But my reason was a little different… as I explained to R after the service…
Back in that brief time when I was visiting SA I had returned from time spent in the UK where I had met and fallen in love with my ‘first true love’. You know how that goes. Long story short things didn’t work out well and we ended on very bitter terms (from my side). Many months – in fact a close on 2 years later, back in SA, I was still not over that break up. I was, in a word, obsessed with this boy. I was consumed with pain and re-lived our relationship over and over in my mind. It haunted me day and night. So there I was, sat in this school hall on the other side of the world, and there was this same man, J, preaching. Back then he was still a bible college student giving practice sermons – he was just a year older than I. And in the middle of his sermon he had interrupted himself and walked through the congregation up to me (he didn’t know me at all) and he said to me in an almost apologetic tone:
“I’m sorry, but I have to tell you that you need to forgive whoever it is that has hurt you. It’s a man, maybe a father or brother or boyfriend, I don’t know, but if you don’t forgive him you are blocking blessing in your life and his”
Then he’d gone back to the front and carried on with his sermon.
He had been spot on. And, eventually, I listened to that warning and I did in fact forgive the boy and was able to move on.
So you can imagine my surprise when 20 years later this same man (who did not recognize me at all) has a message for my own son.
Just a story I wanted to share here.