A Lover of God
It was a comfortable room, designed to be that way, of course. It was an office, a pastor’s study, but it was more of a living room than anything else, although it came with the standard furnishings you’d expect; a well stocked bookcase and a large desk angled in one corner facing the room and the window.
The pastor was sitting at his desk, though he felt like grabbing a few extra minutes of nap time on the couch. He looked at his watch. No time for relaxing, his appointment with Randy was almost upon him.
He sighed and closed the Bible he had been reading, silently praying for wisdom and the right words to say to this one who was seeking membership in his church – no, he thought, His church, God’s church, he was just the caretaker, the shepherd in charge. It was the Lord’s church, he knew, and he yearned for the approval of the One who had called him and entrusted him with the care of His sheep. It wasn’t an easy job, especially at times like this, with someone like Randy.
He heard a car door slam in the parking lot. In a few moments Pastor Evans was on his feet, greeting the young man and welcoming him into his study.
Randy was in his early thirties, single and new to the area and his faith. He needed a sense of family and acceptance and the pastor genuinely wanted him to know he was welcome.
Randy sat in the comfortable high backed upholstered chair that faced the pastor’s desk as Reverend Evans resumed his seat before his Bible. He paused a few moments before he spoke.
“Randy, I want you to know that you are loved, first by the Lord and also by me as pastor of this congregation. Never doubt that for a moment. I’m going to be asking you questions I would ask of anyone wanting to become a member of this church.”
Randy smiled and nodded. He had curly red hair and freckles that gave him a boyish appearance that the pastor found endearing.
“Randy,” the pastor continued, “I need to have you reaffirm your statement of faith for me. Do you believe that Jesus died for your sins, that He arose from the dead and through Him you have access to the Father and eternal life?”
“Oh, yes!” Randy replied without hesitation. “I have received Jesus as my Lord and Savior.”
“Good, and now you are birthed into the family of God and you are standing on a firm foundation.
“Randy, do you believe that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God?”
Randy hesitated a bit before he answered, “Yes.”
“In our church we believe that we are on a journey with Christ. We begin as little children in our faith and grow in our willingness to serve and obey Him. No one of us here can be stagnant in our relationship with Jesus, because if our faith is genuine, it will continually allow the Lord to change us into the people He wants us to be. Anyone who seeks membership in this church must come with an understanding of this principle. Do you understand what I am saying, Randy? By the way, would you like some coffee?”
Pastor Evans gestured to the coffee maker on the cupboard near his desk.
“Uh, yes, I would, thank you.”
Randy was left to contemplate the principle while the pastor busied himself with serving.
“Change is difficult for all of us, Randy,” the pastor said as he located the cups and the right words to say for a delicate situation. “Yet it is something the Lord requires, that’s what repentance is all about. Do you take cream and sugar?”
“Just a small amount of cream, thanks,” Randy replied smiling as he held out his hands to accept the cup.
The pastor returned to his seat and took a few comforting sips from his own coffee mug before he resumed.
“Holiness is important in our Christian walk, Randy. It’s not an option; it’s something we are called to as Christians. And though many of us fail on this journey, it is never our intention to deliberately continue in things that we know displease the Lord.”
Randy looked at the pastor solemnly.
“It’s all about love, Randy, real love; a love for God that transcends anything we can choose for ourselves. This is what discipleship is all about. We must come to a place in our walk with Christ where our love for Him will cause us to submit our desires to Him no matter what the cost.” He paused for a moment before he added, “No matter what He might require us to give up, we must be willing to pick up our cross and follow Him wherever He leads.
“In this church, it is our goal and all of us are willing to make the journey after Christ. We understand it requires the sacrifice of who we want to be, to who He wants us to become for Him.”
There was a serious silence in the room. Randy had lowered his eyes away from the pastor and was staring at the cup in his hand.
“Randy,” the pastor continued, “I’m going to ask you this – do you love God with all your heart, mind and soul, and if you don’t now, do you think you will be able to grow into a love for Him that will give Him full control over your life with no reservations?”
Randy shifted in his seat, before he replied softly, “God is all I have right now. I can’t give Him up.” His eyes began to fill with tears. “I know what you’re getting at, Pastor Evans. I’ve lost a lot in my life, friends, family. I can’t lose this One.”
Randy stood up with his cup in his hand, the one that had brightly colored letters and flowers that spelled out “You are loved” all over it. He knew what it said, and he was desperately holding onto his belief that those beautiful words were true.
He went over to the window and looked out at the hills in the distance, hills that were covered with trees that were struggling to shed the last remaining leaves of the previous season before spring began anew.
“Nothing’s easy, is it?” he said.
“No, Randy,” Pastor Evans replied, “But with God all things are possible. You know, we’re called to be martyrs for God, willing to die for Him. When we glance down the halls of church history it’s christened with the blood of all those who were and are willing to give their lives for the God they adore and who adores them.
“Are you willing to make that kind of commitment to Him, Randy – no matter what He might ask you to give up for Him?” Pastor Evens waited for his answer, praying that this young man really understood what was being asked of him.
There were several moments of silence before Randy sighed and answered, “If that’s what it takes to bring me as close to God as I can get, I’m willing.”
Pastor Evans rose to his feet and joined Randy by the window.
“Welcome to our church, son, welcome.”
Randy turned to look at his pastor and there were tears in his eyes. “Thank you, thank you. You have no idea what this means to me, to be accepted…” The tears were now cascading unabashedly down his cheeks. “It’s going to be hard for me...”
“I know. We will stand by you, and we’ll all be here to help you up if you fall,” the pastor answered.
“Thank you, I needed to hear you say that,” Then Randy turned his gaze back to the hills in the distance. “I asked my, uh, roommate to leave. He didn’t understand, we’d been together for a long time…” he paused thinking about the decision he’d made and its consequences. Then he continued, speaking softly as the early spring breezes began to tug at those reluctant brown leaves. “I know that there is a higher form of love that has nothing to do with what we do with our bodies. I want that kind of love. I want to love people that way, I want to love God. I want to be a lover of God.”
Reverend Evans looked at this young man and felt as proud of him at that moment as if he had been a son of his own flesh.
He put his hand on Randy’s shoulder and he began to pray for him. He prayed for strength and courage and peace for his soul and an increase of the presence of God in his life. The two men parted with tears and unspoken joy, then the door to that comfortable room was closed leaving Reverend Evens alone once again.
He returned to the window wiping a tear from his eye as the last of the old leaves finally left with the wind and disappeared from the landscape.
“A lover of God,” he repeated the words as he remembered his own journey and what it had cost. “To be a lover of God,” and he smiled as he felt the Presence of the One he loved stir within him. “To be a lover of God - that’s more than enough.”
copyright 2009 by H.D. Shively