I spoke to a friend the other day, and God brought up two stories in my life that He wanted me to share. They’re tales of God’s expressed love and they so impacted me. I pray they do the same for you.
I was a children’s pastor for years. And as the children grew up and left the children’s church, I stayed with them and became a youth pastor of sorts. It was a natural progression and dear to my heart. Children’s ministry is like giving water to little sponges, but ministry to a teen is so much different. Wounds and the world take a toll on teenagers. I noticed the door of entrance didn’t open as quickly and quite frankly, opened less widely when it opened at all.
There was a young man in his late teens who came to our church, and God gave me love for him. I was wide open to him and a relationship immediately sparked. Because of his living circumstances, I knew the time we’d have together would be brief, so I availed myself to him as much as possible.
One day he asked if I wanted to go out to the park to play catch. I really didn’t want to, but for his sake, I said okay. To give you a little background, I was never into sports. As a child, my self-esteem was too damaged to open myself up to the possibility of further ridicule. So I just didn’t play beyond Gray-Y (YMCA youth sports) and little league. “Hey batter, batter!” felt too much like mockery with the wounds I already had, so my sports career was short.
Well, this young man and I went out to an open field and started pitching the ball. We just talked while the ball lobbed back and forth. I was wearing sunglasses, since I was facing the sun. And I was glad for this because something remarkable happened to me. God flooded in on me and I just started to cry. I never let this young man know I was crying but the tears just poured out of my eyes. I could’ve sobbed, but I just allowed the tears to be the only evidence of God’s presence. I asked God, “What are You doing?” His response was, “Playing catch with you.” Oh, this was more than I could take. This guy, who I thought I was ministering to, was a pure vessel of God’s love towards me. I don’t know if he even had a clue of what was going on. Though we only met a time or two after, God used this episode to heal something deep in my heart.
I didn’t really have the “playing catch” moments with my dad. It may have been because I was unwilling to be vulnerable to possible scorn. Not that my dad would have done that, but I was just a raw nerve back then. To be really good at something, you have to be willing to fail, and I felt like such a failure already that I simply couldn’t enter another arena.
So here I was playing catch with Dad, (the living God) present in a young man who may or may not have had any idea. We literally stayed out there until dark, and for me it was time with my Father. God desired to play catch with me, something I wouldn’t have asked for nor even wanted—but oh, how I loved it.
In my next post, I’ll tell you my second story – how I met Jesus the carpenter.