“I have all the feels tonight.” This is a phrase I’ve heard now and then when someone is trying to describe the rainbow of emotions they are experiencing in the moment.
Tonight, I have all the feels.
Two years ago, on this night, I sat in the living room of Marcia and Henry Yu’s home after a very filling spaghetti supper. I don’t remember all that we talked about that night, but I remember the feels. My stomach was full of butterflies; my heart was racing; my palms were sweating.
I was 12 hours away from being installed as the new Senior Pastor of First Church of the Nazarene of Pasadena. It felt like the eve of a wedding day.
Before this, I knew about this church. In 2002, I stood behind the pulpit in the church’s massive sanctuary, and in a moment of wonder, a fleeting thought crossed the mind of this wild-eyed-dreaming twenty-something, what if I pastor this church someday?
But it was only a fleeting thought, and it was never something that I thought would really happen.
Some 15 years later, however, the chair of the search committee, Larry Rench, and I began a conversation, and that eventually led to interviews, and that then led to loading a moving truck, and sitting in the family room of Marcia and Henry Yu’s home. I don’t remember if I slept very well that night. I rehearsed my sermon hundreds of times, and my mind swirled with all the feels.
That morning, I easily changed my outfit a dozen times or so. I didn’t know you very well yet, and I knew you had never had a female senior pastor before, so I wanted to make the right impression…conservative, but not too conservative, professional, but not unapproachable….
Both of my boys wore their little vests and ties, and they could barely understand what was happening that day. They had just left the only home they had ever known, and they had left Nana, Papa, Grandma, and Grandpa in their home state. But you loved them so well, PazNaz. You embraced them, and fed them plenty of cookies and punch that day!
I’ll never forget standing behind the pulpit for the first time, and then looking out at you. A confidence from the Holy Spirit overcame me as I preached my first sermon to you. You can watch it again right here:
For me, it’s a lot like watching a wedding video. We made a commitment together that day, and ever since, we’ve been practicing fidelity to the Lord and to one another.
As I reflect on our two years together, we’ve had some victories and we’ve had some intense valleys. It hasn’t been easy; in fact, it’s probably been harder than what any of us could have imagined. I don’t think we fully knew the cost of having a young woman as the Senior Pastor. I also don’t think I knew the cost of some of the bold decisions I made.
Just like a marriage, we’ve seen each other’s flaws, vulnerabilities, and weaknesses. And perhaps like many marriages, we might even wonder if we would have married one another had we known about each other’s flaws. But here we are, two years later, living the mission one step at a time.
One step at a time.
And as I step into tomorrow morning, May 22, 2018, just two years after I was installed as your Pastor, I step into the future with the same confidence and boldness that I had two years ago.
Because we are going somewhere, dear ones.
The “millions of moments” that collided on May 22, 2016, continue to collide today. Our story is still being written, and I know that I know that our story will far exceed our expectations if we are open.
Open to the Spirit, that is.
The same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead, who propelled the early church, and will propel us if we are open.
PazNaz, how I long to see us open up to the new things of the Spirit. I long to see us let go of our comfort-seeking, consumeristic mentality; and embrace the adventurous, uncomfortable, and missional flow of the Spirit.
No matter what, PazNaz, hear me, your pastor: Through your flaws and weaknesses, I love you, and I’m committed to you – and I pray you do the same through my flaws and weaknesses. That’s the beauty of doing this together…through it all. I will continue to weep when you weep, and celebrate when you celebrate, and I trust you’ll do the same. In the coming years, we will do both. But through it all, I’m in the trenches with you, on my knees, and ready to get my hands dirty. We’re going places, PazNaz. Open yourself to the Spirit, and let’s get this adventure on the road.