Baptists have interesting rituals when they hire pastors. So far we’ve been through two hirings at churches, and the process can be fun and interesting, but also grueling. Imagine that you have a face to face job interview after weeks and sometimes months of phone interviews. This face to face interview will last two to three days, and, by the way, it’s not just an interview for you, but for your entire family, including cranky toddlers who have been sleeping in a strange place for a few nights. Let’s just say that things can get interesting.
I’ll never forget the day we met the pastor search committee from First Baptist Olney for the first time. We had arranged for Chad to preach for them at a church halfway between their town and ours, and I was nervous about meeting all of them, especially with three children in tow. I really wanted to make a good impression, but with Emerald at an unpredictable age, I didn’t know what to expect from her. I did a lot of sweating and a lot of praying that she would stay in the unfamiliar nursery and that the screaming would be minimal.
We arrived at the little church, and there was the committee, piling out of the church Suburban with big smiles and friendly attitudes. I dropped Emerald off in the nursery, where there was minimal screaming, and the two older kids and I found a seat on the front row with Chad. I wasn’t really concerned at all about Adelade and Sawyer. They already knew how to behave in church, and they were well trained little front row Baptists.
A little while later Chad was knee deep in a pretty great sermon when he, like preachers often do, posed a rhetorical question. He paused for dramatic effect before moving on, and in that split second, a little voice beside me loudly piped up with the answer to his question. I was completely shocked. Adelade hadn’t even looked up from the drawing she was working on when she shouted out the answer that he was planning to give himself. Here I was worried about Emerald, and Adelade was the one who caused a stir! It took Chad a second to recover while everyone in the crowd sort of giggled, and Adelade just looked up at me with a sweet smile. It struck me as so funny that she spoke up during a sermon on this day of all days, and I really loved her for it.
After the sermon, Adelade ran to her daddy and he hugged her tight. He was her daddy on and off of the stage, the same in a suit on Sunday as in his basketball shorts on Saturday. The same daddy who teaches people from God’s word also snuggles with her when she’s scared, prays for her when she’s sick, and helps her with her math homework.
You see, she didn’t feel an ounce of self-consciousness in that moment. She didn’t feel nervous sitting there in front of her daddy while he taught her. She was listening, and when he posed a question, she answered it. She felt like she could do that, because this wasn’t just some stiff preacher in a suit up there, it was her own daddy. She was used to talking to him. She was comfortable answering his questions. And, she was enjoying hearing what he had to say.
I wonder how often we treat God like a stiff preacher in a suit? How often do we feel self-conscious when we go to Him in prayer? How often do we feel like we’re on trial, as if a committee is watching our every move, as if we have to be perfect to approach Him? When, in fact, we should feel so at ease in His presence that we feel like we can listen to Him and then talk right back. We should come to God knowing that He is more than a great judge in the sky, He is more than a rigid teacher or an unapproachable ideal that we don’t have access to. The more we learn of His character, the more we should understand how He feels about us. He is the God of compassion, who is involved in the minute details of our lives. We can go to our Heavenly Father with confidence because we know Him well. This God who created the universe is also our daddy, and we can run to His arms any time.
Well, we survived that weekend and lived on to actually be hired at First Baptist. It’s been amazing and wonderful, and I love the fact that their very first moments with us showed the kind of love that Adelade has for her tender-hearted preacher-in-a-suit daddy and the kind of easiness that we should feel with our great and loving God.
He is so big, and so real, and He loves us so. Once again Adelade taught me the lesson I didn’t know I needed to learn. She hasn’t shouted out any answers in church lately, but if she does one of these days, I’ll just giggle along with the crowd and pat her on the back for paying attention. After all, her daddy is the preacher.
And she knows him well.