Pam's Faith Journey

It was a three and a half hour drive from our hometown to the small village where my husband Dick served as a pastor to three rural churches. We had traveled these roads many times during the nine months since Dick had entered full time ministry. We usually chatted away the hours in pleasant conversation.  But this particular trip we spent in almost complete silence.

We were returning from visiting with our parents. For the last few months Dick had felt inadequate and dissatisfied with his pastorate. We had talked of leaving the ministry and Dick returning to work for the state. We had planned to break the news to our parents while we were visiting, but that never happened.

My mom had recently started attending church with my sister and was forever talking about the Lord and getting "saved". We were a bit uncomfortable with her and privately decided that she had gone overboard and become some sort of fanatic. Yes, we were in the ministry and felt people should try to please God, but we were uneasy about getting so personal with Him.

Our visit was both busy and enlightening. The church where my mom attended had just gotten a new pastor. Mom was very excited about him and his family. She was anxious for us to meet him because he and his wife were about our age; she just knew we would really like them.

Dick and I weren't too thrilled by the idea. After all, if my mother was so intense and fanatical, what would her pastor be like? We shuddered to think about it. But we agreed to at least go meet them.

As we pulled into their driveway, Dick and I looked over the roof of the car at one another.

“How long do you think we’ll be here?” I asked.

“Maybe 15 minutes? Just long enough to be polite,” Dick suggested.

I agreed. Fifteen minutes could seem like an eternity if these people were anything like I was expecting.

But they weren't! That evening we spent about two hours with the pastor and his wife. We went back the next day for a barbecue and spent six hours just talking! It was the beginning of a very special friendship, and more importantly, the beginning of our relationship with Christ.

We seemed to have so much in common. We were the same age and our children were only one month apart. This was their first pastorate, too. We both worked as husband and wife teams with the youth groups in our churches. But there the similarities ended. They were so content and satisfied with their ministry, while we were discouraged and unfulfilled.

Their concept of God was also radically different from ours. They talked about the Lord and how He was leading them as though He were right there beside them. I felt like I should be able to look over and see Jesus sitting on the couch! Their relationship with God was so personal that this young woman even consulted Him when she cooked! It was as though she had a running conversation with God! "Pray at all times" (I Thess. 5:17 TEV) was a description of her lifestyle, not just a quote from the Bible.

During the entire time we were together they never once lectured us or scrutinized our commitment. They did ask us when we had become Christians. We explained that we had grown up in the church and felt that we had always been Christians. Our new friends accepted us just as we were, without doubting or questioning us. It was an overwhelming experience.

Perhaps that is why we were so quiet on the trip back to our home when usually we would have talked for hours. I just couldn't get over the differences in our attitudes about God and the ministry. Materially, educationally, and vocationally, our situations were about the same. But they loved what they were doing. Dick and I both commented on how very similar and yet how radically different our lives were, but neither of us offered any explanation.

When we were within a half hour of home I asked Dick if he had noticed a plaque hanging above Bill and Peggy’s kitchen table.

Nodding his head, he said, “I not only noticed it. I memorized it!”

"Christ is the Head of this house; the unseen Host of every meal; the silent Listener to every conversation."

During those quiet hours in the car, I had come to realize that that plaque told the reason why our friends were so different. For them, Christ was right there, in every decision, every conversation, in every aspect of their ministry and home life, every day. Jesus really WAS sitting right there on the couch beside them! For me, he was far away, a distant God in heaven whom I tried to appease by my good works.

Dick agreed that the plaque really summed up the difference between us and our new friends. We said very little more, but each of us knew that the other was giving the subject a lot of thought.

Our church organist was going to be moving and, as a gift to the church, had arranged for a Gospel singing group to lead worship the following day. For the first time in nine months Dick and I got to sit together in church!

The entire service was filled with songs of praise and challenges to commit your life to the Lord. The Good News that Jesus had died on the cross to save us from our sins was made so clear. I had known about Christ's death on the cross for the sins of the world, but the thought had merely flickered through my mind and never pierced by soul.

I felt the urge to go to the altar to pray, but our small son was tired and restless. I breathed a prayer to God, asking Him to quiet the baby if He wanted me to go up front. Within seconds our son fell asleep and I was able to gently lay him on the floor and walk up to the altar. As I knelt there, I became aware of Dick beside me.

That morning Dick and I joined hands and asked Jesus to come into our home, just like He was with Bill and Peggy. An odd prayer, but one we knew as soon as we arrived home that day, God had answered.

Have you seen the movie, “The Wizard of Oz”? Remember the scene where the film goes from black and white to color? As we opened the back door of our home and entered the kitchen after church, we experienced that same kind of transformation. We knew immediately that Jesus was there! He was in our home!

God opened our eyes to what had been important to us before—those material things that occupied our interests and took priority in our lives. But most importantly, He also quickly opened our eyes to our faulty beliefs and philosophies—beliefs and philosophies that blocked and distanced us from God.

Many people would never have noticed that Dick and I were not living for Jesus; after all our lives centered on the church. Dick was a minister! He memorized his sermons from a pastors' annual, so of course they sounded good.

We believed in God in a general way and knew that a long time ago Christ had lived and died. But He was more like an historical figure than someone we could know today.

We were highly moral; we tried to help others. We believed that we had to please God and earn our way to heaven by doing good works. We had never realized that we personally needed to believe Jesus died to forgive our sins (Romans 3:25 TEV).

At last we understood that only by "Christ's sacrificial death on the cross we are now put right with God" (Romans 5:8 TEV). What a wonderful sense of relief and thanks we felt when we learned that "it is by God's grace that we are saved . . . not the results of our own efforts." (Ephesians 2: 8-9 TEV).

The very next Sunday Dick preached his first sermon straight from the Bible instead of a book. A lady in one of our churches came up to him after the service and said, I’ve been praying for this day.”

She knew from Dick’s sermon that her prayers for our salvation had been answered. Though we were aware that Christ had begun His work in our lives, we didn't realize it would be so obvious to anyone else.

That was thirty-four years ago and my husband is still a pastor. We are excited and challenged by the ministry the Lord has given us. We now have Good News—the greatest news—to share with others! We probably sound a lot like my mom and I'm sure there are those who have thought that we are fanatics. But the real difference is the presence of Jesus right here with us in every decision, every problem, every conversation, every day

In Matthew 28:20 Jesus promised that He would always be with us. Dick and I have found that His Word is true.

We have had the great privilege of inviting many people to our home and sharing with them what Jesus is doing in our lives. On a plaque above our doorway, and written on our hearts, are the same words we saw at the home of our friends:

"Christ is the Head of this house; the unseen Host of every meal; the silent Listener to every conversation."

It is our prayer that when others are with us they will see Jesus and will be irresistibly enticed to know Him personally, too.

And wherever you are, Bill and Peggy, we just want you to know how very thankful we are that God brought you into our lives. Meeting you changed eternity for Dick and me. We would love to hear from you!

©2011 Pamela D. Williams