One of my favorite books is Mitch Album's The Five People You Meet In Heaven. I LOVE this book, and when I think of it, I wonder who will be MY five people that I meet in Heaven? And then I wonder if I will be part of someone else's "five?" It truly is a wondeful book - if you haven't yet read, it, I highly recommend it...!
But I also got to thinking about five people that I have already met here on Earth... five people who have been instrumental in my Christian Journey (whether they know it or not). This is what I discovered:
1. Debbie W. - Debbie has been my best friend for 21 years... since we were 14 years old. She has seen me at my highest points, my darkest days, and my most embarassing moments. When we were in high school, she invited me to her church, Forest Chapel UMC, after I had spent a Saturday night at her house. I didn't want to go - I had given up on church by then and usually I bailed after sleepovers early on Sunday mornings so I didn't have to worry about the "church thing" - but we were friends, and I didn't want to offend her... so I went. It's odd the things I remember about that particular Sunday... that I didn't have anything to "wear" except what I'd packed... black jeans and black high-top boots (it was the 80's...what can you do?!), and I was worried I'd be too casual. I worried that the kids would be weird - or that Debbie would act differently in church than she did around me. But the Sunday was fine - and I even went on other "church-related" things with her at other points during high school. While I resisted her attempts to have me join her for a Bible Study or Sunday church while we roomed together in college, her steadfastness in her own faith made an impact on me. She never pushed - she was just "normal" Debbie - but she, in her own way, witnessed to me. And later, when it came time for my future-husband and I to pick a church to attend and for our wedding... I went back to the only church I'd enjoyed... Debbie's home church. We spent 10 great years at Forest Chapel... with Debbie and her family there as well, of course! :)
2. David B. - My husband... David and I met in college. We both worked at a local J.C. Penney, and I joke that I "picked him up in the Men's Department." David never made it a secret that he was a Christian - a fact that often worried me (because of those "freaky, religious people, remember?!) - but he was... normal... and funny...smart... and real. When we were married, we went church-shopping together to find one that I could feel comfortable in. And even after we picked a church, for the first few years, he adhered to my stringent rule about "one week on and one week off" - attending church only every OTHER Sunday. We've had many, MANY disagreements about various church-y things and hot religious topics over the years... but David has never wavered in his faith. He has continued to grow and learn - joining various Bible Study groups - not letting my resistance interfere with his own Christian journey. For me, he is a rock - a solid and sturdy place that I could lean on as I wobbled like a toddler onto this road of faith. And nearly 13 years of marriage later, our paths are finally parallel... running side-by-side. :)
3. Roberta L. - I met Roberta while I was teaching first grade. I learned a TON about how to interact with 6 & 7-year olds from her. When I count the five most influencial people in my teaching career, Roberta makes this list as well - she was truly gifted with kids. She was also funny, and "normal." She had a great sense of humor. She was honest - she didn't let me get away with anything. Roberta also weaved her faith into her daily life. During playground duty, she often spoke of her prayer group - sometimes just in passing - but it was always there. You always knew that her relationship with God was important to her. I think she prayed for me - that I'd find a peace about religion... That I'd find my own relationship... But she never pushed me. (I think she knew that I'd balk and run the other way!) Like Debbie and David, Roberta seemed to know that "slow and steady" would win the "race" with me when it came to finding God.
4. Bess B. - The latest one... I met Bess at a Scrapbooking Day at our current church. She was sooooooooooo nice and sweet...such a contrast to my acerbic wit! She was telling her story about how God gave her and her husband very clear signs that they were to adopt from China (even though they already had 3 kids). Normally, this would be exactly the weirdo-religous-story that I would shy away from. But, Bess was funny and normal. She was true and genuine - anyone could tell that just by listening to her story. Most importantly, she INVITED me to visit her Sunday School class. WIth that one invitation, I had the courage to drag David (was I really the one dragging this time?!) to Roots, our Adult Bible Fellowship. And, miracle of miracles... everyone there was funny and silly and genuine and just... perfect. It's been nearly 3 years... they're stuck with me now... all thanks to Bess. :)
5. ????? - I leave this one blank for several reasons.... Because I have so many other friends - any one of which could insert their name in this slot - who have influenced my journey in a positive way... Because I'm only 35 - and surely there are people yet to come who will have a significant impact on my Christian Walk... And because in reading my blog, YOU are helping to shape and mold my journey as well. I don't necessarily know your names... some people leave "anonymous" comments (or none at all) - but I do know that your moments here on this blog leave me changed for the better.
What I do see, as I scan over my list are some common threads among my chosen 5... they are all ordinary, everyday people... all "normal," as I would say... whatever "normal" means! While I've had a handful of really truly fantastic pastors in my life, it is the "average Joe" who has impacted my life the most. The ones who are flawed... but who continue to chug along life trying their best. I wrote in my last post about finding God in "authenticity" - and these people are among the most authentic people I've met...
...So if YOU think your everyday actions go unnoticed, think again - because you just never know just how much your everyday faith, your small words of encouragement, your quiet actions will impact others.
I am blessed. Thank you, my friends. :)