Originally published: Adventures in the Life of a Southern Gospel Wife ~ August 2009 ~ SGMRadio.com
When I think back to my wedding, almost 6 years ago today, I cringe a little. It was a beautiful day, a perfect ceremony, a fun reception, the start of a life I would not trade for anything. But on August 8, 2003, I still didn’t really understand grace. On that day, I was still thinking about whom I had let down, hadn’t pleased, lost forever. I was thinking too much about who wasn’t there and wondering who didn’t want to be there. I was still worried that I would never be good enough to live the dreams I’d always had.
I was the Bride, made-up, tiara-wearing, in love, and yet I was worried about being the center of attention. Surely, there were people watching us in that spotlight, wanting us to fail. See, though our wedding day felt like a fairy tale, from my ‘angel wings’ dress to our vows set to song to the prayer said over our new family to the Mexican fiesta dinner for 100 of our friends, our beginning was not that of a fairy tale, and the cloud of judgment and guilt followed me down the aisle. Sometimes it still follows me.
I have watched with some interest and also some dread as a Christian couple in the media spotlight recently decided to go their separate ways. I find myself defensive in light of the criticism around them. I try putting myself in their shoes and wondering how it is they cope with so much unsolicited feedback. On one hand, when people live their lives in the spotlight, public response should be expected. On the other hand, when you’re a Christian in the spotlight, you hope feedback from other Christians is more Christ-like than cutting, even when you are clearly struggling to live out your faith.
I tried to keep all of these thoughts far from the front of my mind as my husband and I, with our far-less-than-perfect past and our abundance of grace, headed to Missouri for the first Branson Gospel Music Convention. Seemingly out of nowhere, God gave us the vision of this event and the passion and… insane ambition!.. to carry it out. As we drew closer, I tried to ignore the thoughts of ‘Who do you think you are?’ ‘What do you think are trying to do?’ and “People are going to figure you out and turn on you.” In my own strength, I always fail to keep those thoughts at bay. I have what Joyce Meyer has termed ‘approval addiction,’ and on the cusp of the biggest undertaking in my professional and certainly in my ministerial life, I could only rely on the unwavering arms of God to keep me above that fray.
On the subject of those arms, don’t you wish you could feel the hand that gently wipes your tears or the arms that embrace you when you want to fall down? Do you ever wish that you could physically see the loving smile of Jesus? Do you ever wish He was tangibly sitting in the passenger seat of your car giving you directions, or that He was at the back of the auditorium nodding His head while you were at the front singing His praises, or that He was seated at your kitchen table calmly chatting while you were trying to fix dinner and keep the kids from tearing the door off the refrigerator? Sometimes I feel a bit envious of the disciples, who walked and talked and ate late-night nachos (you know what I mean), with the Lord. Even though they did not have some of our advantages – such as comfort, freedom, the book of Revelation – they got to touch Jesus, hear His voice, even know the scent of Him. We have our faith to rely on, but what I wouldn’t give in times such as Branson-eve to simply be in the presence of His kind eyes and loving voice and real-time wisdom!
Turns out, though, that once again, Jesus was waiting for me with a miracle. I didn’t share with anyone – not my husband, not my closest friends, not my parents, how I was feeling, how I was waiting for someone to basically come and throw me out of my own convention for not being good enough. In fact, I don’t think I even told God or myself. But He knew, and He showed up for me in ways so big, I am pretty sure I saw and felt Him in the most real sense possible.
On the first morning we were in Branson, the early arrivers gathered in an upper room, just above the exhibit hall floor, to pray. They looked at Rod and me with a bit of expectation, so Rod spoke from his place of confidence and excitement, and I started to speak out of my emotion… and I couldn’t! I looked into a crowd of 40 or so faces that were smiling at me, supporting me, and in it with me, and I was overcome. Jesus was there on those faces and in the hands that joined in a circle to lift His name. In those opening moments, before any tickets were checked or matching outfits were donned, before the stage or the sound equipment was set, before there was an audience beyond ourselves, God spoke to me, and He spoke through those of like precious faith that surrounded me, and He said, “I am here, and this is where I want you to be.”
One week later, I am still trying to put together all the thoughts and feelings and memories and plans that have sprung forth from Branson GMC. I am trying to explain to those around me, be it in person or on Facebook, that the ‘convention’ was not only a ‘success’ because of tickets sold or blessings working in other people’s lives, but because God used that week to write His grace on the walls for me. He gave people words to share with me (Thank you Roger, Kenny, Eddie, Cheryl, Julia, Ron, Bobby, Sharona, Brenda, Jimmy, Wayne, Annette, Stacey, Anthony, Lynda, and that radio lady who prayed with me, and so many more!) He gave people to take over at times so I could soak in the spirit in the music, particularly when my husband was on the platform, and I was able to resume my role as his Southern Gospel Wife. He gave people to care for my babies in such a way that I did not once have to worry or even feel too guilty about going days at a time without changing diapers (thank you Mom and Dad!).
I learned so much about God’s favor during Branson GMC. I heard it through the testimonies of others, and those are being captured in the press and on blogs and in the ministries of the artists who were there. But I want to tell the world for one moment, one page, about MY JESUS, and how He came through for me… how he assured me that grace reaches the depths of any pit, that He has in fact ordained my marriage for the good of His kingdom, and that He will use me for His glory and gain, not because of my skills or ideas or even my humility, but simply because of my willingness to be used.
Friend, if you read this and you are afraid of the call of God on your life, afraid of the spotlight that might be cast on your past, let me tell you: God has forgiven you and that alone means He wants to use you. At 32 years of age, I find myself in a very different light than I did at 22, or even 30. Being in His light, in His will, is where you will find Him in a real way. Don’t worry that the light is too bright and too many eyes will be upon you. When your heart is right before Him, all you have to do in the spotlight is hold up His message for all to see.