I hate annual church business meetings.
Being in the ministry for over 30 years, there have been times when hateful things have been voiced in those meetings, hurtful arrows aimed directly at my husband and I. So each time controversy arises in an annual meeting, I put on my flight suit and prepare to take off (at least mentally if not physically.)
Things were going well last Wednesday night. We've just passed our 4th anniversary with this congregation and have weathered many storms, settled a lot of dust and cleared out a lot of cobwebs. We didn't expect any unpleasant surprises at the business meeting, but wouldn't you know it...
Near the end of the meeting a dear elderly saint piped up. "I have something. May I say it?"
Uh-oh. Here it comes, I thought.
"I called two people who visited here and asked why they didn't come back. They said the song service was too long and we didn't sing enough hymns out of the book. I happen to agree with them. I get very tired after sitting through Sunday School and a long song service. We need to change it or we'll drive more people away."
Since my husband is the only piano player and I'm one of the two voices on the worship team, I felt like it was a bit of a personal attack. (Flight suit on - begin to check engines for a fast take off- better to leave than to say something I shouldn't out of anger.)
Well, the discussion perked up for a few moments with one group siding with the dear saint and the other group expressing their feeling that the song service needs to be longer with more choruses for the younger generation- that's why they don't come.
When that discussion died down, the point was made by the same dear elderly saint that we just don't love each other in our church. She cited several instances to make her point.
At first her words rankled inside. I wanted to fuss, fume and justify myself and even stalk out of the meeting. But the Lord stopped me. "Listen," He instructed.
Suddenly the older woman's remarks - all of them - made sense. It wasn't that we didn't love enough. The music wasn't really the issue either.
It was that SHE didn't feel loved! She was in a lot of pain, not able to get to church as often as she liked and she was wallowing in her own neediness. At the deepest level, she couldn't even feel God's love.
"Don't be angry with her remarks, Let her feel My love through you," God said.
Now I don't have a lot of time or patience for holding the hands of mire-wallowing saints. But the more I thought and prayed about it, God showed me I haven't prayed for her enough. And there were little things I could do to let her know she is important to God and me - things that wouldn't take a lot of time, but could make a world of difference.
Thanks, Lord - for reigning me in and opening my ears to "LISTEN" to the heart of another - not just her words.