When God Stops by
I confess: I don’t always go to church. Like today, the morning after a jam-packed Lindy Hop weekend with lots of fun, friends, and busyness. Not only is my body tired and achy, but my soul wants quiet…peace. And sometimes that is found at home…alone. So when I awoke this morning, I tended to my family’s needs, doing laundry and cooking a hot breakfast, then I sent them off to church. I will spend some much needed quiet and hope that if I do…God will stop by as I contemplate this wonderful message of priorities, balance, and God’s anointing on my life! – Gina
When I first began pastoring nearly thirty years ago, I spent the bulk of my time studying, praying, and counseling people. I lived and breathed ministry and longed for the spectacular. Whatever was going to happen, I knew it was going to be large. My ego, my expectations, and my plans grew exponentially by the minute. And I could almost hear the jet God was sending my way.
Though I loved my family with all my heart, I had a difficult time justifying “casual” time with them. ”After all,” I’d reason, “people are going to hell, and I need to stay close to God. I can’t get too tangled up with everyday things.”
My greatest dread was my “day off.” That was a day I was to stay home and do the regular stuff—non-big stuff. Although Gail looked forward to these days, they were like a scourge to me. I would rather be praying, preparing, and setting strategies to affect the world-at-large than taking out the trash, tumbling on the floor with our toddler, or going hunting at the mall with Gail. On those days, I would often exasperate her because, though I was with her physically, she sensed that I was somewhere else mentally and emotionally. I was tons of fun.
I knew God expected me to “service” my relationship with my family, and I really loved them. But it seemed to me that God valued ministry over garbage removal, playtime, and casual chatter—and He certainly didn’t care about shopping. There was never any question that if someone needed me to pray, counsel, or preach at him, I must lay my day off “on the altar” to follow God’s call.
Then came the day in the spring of 1982 that would forever change the way I saw things.
I woke up late that morning and didn’t get my regular prayer and study time in before the family was up and about. I knew that if I ran off to study and pray then, it would look to Gail like another workday. So I stayed home and started participating in what was happening around the house—though I was disappointed and a little short on patience for not getting my devotional time.
I kept mentally beating myself, thinking, I should have gotten up earlier! How can I expect to win the world for Christ if I am not consistent in my devotional time?
Then I would catch myself: Forget it for now, Edwin. You’re supposed to focus on family stuff for now—you can pray later.
By noon I had helped clean the house; had coffee and conversation with Gail; and fed, changed, and started rocking Michael, our firstborn, to sleep for his midday nap. Gail also decided to take a nap. As the nap window opened, I smelled opportunity. I thought to myself, All right! I can run and spend some time with the Lord.
Actually, by this time in the day I was somewhat proud of myself. I had been a pretty good husband and father all morning, and now I was ready to press in and be a good Christian too!
After Michael fell asleep, I laid him down and hastened toward the stairs, excited that I could finally work in my God time. As I passed our bedroom, I heard Gail call to me, “Honey, would you please rub the back of my neck?” She had a headache.
My reaction wasn’t good. I bristled inside. Doesn’t she appreciate all I’ve done today? I thought. I’m a pastor . . . a spiritual leader . . . God’s man. I need time with God!
I knew she had the right to ask for attention, but this wasn’t the right time. I had fulfilled my natural duties all day long. It was time to me to be about my Father’s business. Just as I was about to protest, I felt the Lord say to me, If you’ll do this, I will show you something.
I was immediately puzzled. I usually had to wait before God in prayer for some time before I would get the slightest impression, much less hear words. Here I was in the midst of frustration and feeling selfish about my life, and He was clearly speaking. “OK,” I said to Him. Then I walked, somewhat bewildered, into our room and sat on the bed.
As I began to massage Gail’s neck, something happened that I had not expected—the very presence of God filled our room. Thoughts raced in different directions through my mind, What’s happening? Am I going to have a vision? Does she sense this? Why are You present like this, Lord?
Then as I looked at Gail, she seemed more beautiful than ever. This presence seemed to make me appreciate my wife more! I loved just being with her and rubbing her neck. It seemed important and valuable. I had been heading for study and prayer. Surely that was more important in God’s eyes than spending more time with the girl I had married . . . or was it? What was going on?
There is a concept in the Bible known as the “anointing.” The term anointed implies an “upon” presence of the Holy Spirit. ”Upon” suggests the idea of pressure from above. The anointing is an action of God where He comes upon individuals and they are enabled or empowered to do things they could not have done without Him. The anointing not only affects the anointed one, it also releases power to change those who are ministered to while under its influence.
I was familiar with God’s presence, or anointing, at various places in my life. As a preacher, I often sensed His presence as I spoke. In counseling sessions, a wave of insight would come, and I knew it was God equipping me to give godly counsel. Many times, when praying for sick or troubled people, I have sensed a strong anointing of God, which has emboldened my faith for more effective prayer. As I have witnessed about my faith to others, I have experienced God’s palpable presence that helped me say things I didn’t plan to say or even realized I knew. But I had never experienced God’s presence or anointing to be a husband. I thought I was to do that alone! I never imagined God cared about something so domestic.
On that day with Gail, the Holy Spirit was “anointing” me, enabling me to be sensitive to my wife’s needs. But it was more than that.
I knew I was supposed to be sensitive to her needs before experiencing this anointing. At Bible school they taught me it was necessary to keep your home in order if you wanted to be useful to God in ministry. Keeping one’s home relationships in line was an obligation—like flossing your teeth or changing the oil in your car. The unusual thing here was that God was anointing me to do something everyday, something totally common. He was anointing me to meet my wife’s needs just as he had always anointed me to preach the gospel or minister to hurting people. That said to me that God cares about my life—my boring, mundane, everyday, non-big life. That changed everything for me. I began to see that my everyday life was not just the stuff of duty; it qualified to be in the arena of adventure!
Because of its importance to me, the ministry has forever been a thrill. I always experience a deep sense of purpose and satisfaction when I sense God’s presence touching others through me. It has never been a dull or boring thing to follow God. It has been an adventure.
Home life, on the other hand, seemed pretty mundane by comparison. It had always been part of the “daily grind” of responsibility. But my whole viewpoint changed that afternoon. For God to speak to me in such a dramatic way made me realize that it was a very important area to Him. I saw that everyday life didn’t belong in the domain of the ordinary and the not-so-important, but it was to be on the same footing and place of importance as reaching the world for Jesus. My natural life could be made super, making it supernatural. I realized I had so longed for the spectacular I had missed the supernatural.
There is an enablement, or anointing, for us as spouses, parents, children, employees, employers, and so on. God doesn’t just move in big plans or with worldwide schemes. We need His anointing in our everyday relationships as desperately as we need His anointing to reach out to the world-at-large.
The God who said, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation” (Mark 16:15) is the same one who said, “Husbands love your wives” (Eph. 5:25) and “be kind . . . to one another” (Eph. 4:32). We don’t have to destroy or neglect our relationships with family and friends to serve God in ministry—and if we lose ground, we should fight to gain it back! Neither do we have to lose our kids to be “on fire” for God or to be effective in the marketplace. In fact, I think God will use the maturity that is cultivated when we build relationships with those close to us as a platform to dealing more effectively with situations beyond family and friends.