Last week I was on vacation. I spent a great deal of time reading books, playing cards, visiting an aquarium, and watching The Office.
It was a good trip. I thought I might have some deep reflections to share upon my return home: deep reflections about the importance of rest; deep reflections about taking time to enjoy the world around you; deep reflections about resisting the urge to let work and accomplishments define you.
I have no deep reflections from the trip.
But this morning--well let me tell you what happened this morning.
I got to the the office like I do every Monday, and I started catching up on mail and messages from last week. Among other things, I looked at the attendance sheets people fill out in our Sunday services, and the visitor cards.
And the Sunday I was out, we may have had the most visitors of all the weeks I've been serving here. Visitors, people I hadn't seen in a few weeks and missed, people who can only make it around occasionally, or who visit every now and then--and folks who may have just given the church its one chance... and I missed every single one of them.
You've got to be kidding me. What the heck?
... Really. What the heck?
I'm out one freaking week, and all of these people I would love to see and love to connect with are here. Way to not realize that May 12th (Mother's Day!) is the big visitor Sunday of the year. Apparently. Way to schedule your vacation like an idiot.
Second reaction (after taking a break to walk around the church and pray for a few minutes):
I'm really glad all of these people were here that Sunday. I hope they experienced God's grace in worship. I'm glad there are dependable people I can ask to lead the service while I'm gone, and that those people were leading it that week. I'm glad the visitors were able to encounter this congregation and not just the guy who's assigned here for a few years and then leaves--oh, and apparently believes that his presence here on Sunday morning is super important.
Because it is... and it isn't.
I play a big role at Grace, a prominent role, and the Lord can use me in powerful ways. But it's the Lord doing that work, not me. In ministry, "neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth." (1 Cor 3:7) Different servants come--some of whom also have very prominent roles--and we all work towards the same goal, but our Lord accomplishes the work. And I don't think God was on vacation that week.
Last Sunday, some of God's other servants had a chance to work in ways they might not get to every week. Yesterday, I was back: making announcements, leading prayers, preaching. Either way, both weeks, only God gives the growth.
I'm thankful that the folks I missed weren't missed. It doesn't much matter that they couldn't hear a Nance Hixon sermon (some of my preaching, people probably would be better off without!) or shake Nance Hixon's hand on the way out of the church. The Holy Spirit, whom I pray works through my efforts, was present and at work through the efforts of others, and I've got to learn to trust that.
Thanks for the reminder, God.