Several months ago I smiled as I sat on the front row alone, again, while at my home church. As one of the lay leaders in our church family, I have the honor of leading our congregational prayer at our worship service a few times a year when our elders don’t. I smiled because as I sat there, I remembered a time years ago at a women’s retreat when I was serving as the speaker. The worship time was coming to a close and I sat in the front row alone, waiting for my introduction to happen that would then lead into my first talk.
Feeling All Alone
Alone. And I felt it. I’m not sure why I felt it that day, as I speak often and have experienced that front row waiting time more times than I can remember.
But Jesus companioned me in those moments as a sad feeling of loneliness came over me. Somehow, He strengthened my awareness that He was with me, right there on the front row and inviting me to lean into Him. To rest in Him and then…stand up and go to the podium. And be poured out by Him…for Him. It was a sweet time of teaching…and abiding in Christ!
It can feel lonely as we serve even though we may be surrounded by people we love, who love us, who ‘get us’. For moms serving lunch for the 2580th time to their littles and being the only one over two feet tall in the room. For older single women caring for aging parents, juggling several spheres of responsibility and little relief in any of them. For LOTS of women in ministry who are poured out at their churches, or in their campus ministries or in a cross-cultural context. These women in particular may be widely known about…but known deeply by very few.
Yet Never Alone
Yet, even if it feels lonely, and we are perceived to be alone to the human eye, we are alone with Christ, the one who dwells within, the only one who intercedes for us from the inside (our souls!), the only one who knows the Ephesians 2:10 he has not only called us to, but had prepared FOR us! When Jesus promised his followers that he and the Father would come to make their home in us (John 14:23), another amazing promise was added: you will bear MUCH fruit (John 15:1-8). Not a little, not some here and there…but MUCH, and that muchness also beautifully tells the world who I belong to.
Moms serving families, bible study teachers preparing their lesson, counselors reviewing notes, adult sons and daughters caring for elderly parents, friends sitting with a hurting person, employees preparing for a tough meeting with antagonistic bosses. So many scenarios for loving service that have at least one significant thing in common: JESUS in the room with us.
Christ is with is as we serve and as we love others. Imagine: our Living Lord, and his living word at home in us…being poured out of us, through us, in these settings! Most of us struggle to be aware of his presence throughout the day…I do. That’s why I smiled months ago when I sat on that front row at church and he reminded me of himself and that memory. The Holy Spirit, the one who reminds us of what is true, will help us to increasingly be aware of the Lord with us…in the room, at the coffee shop, at the diaper changing table, in our office and…on the front row!
One of my heroes and mentors in the faith, Amy Carmichael wrote a beautifully honest poem, that I’m assuming came out of a time of deep loneliness at some point in her long 53 year ministry career in India.
Rose From Briar
Thou hast not that, My child, but thou hast Me,
And am not I alone enough for thee?
I know it all, know how thy heart was set
Upon this joy which is not given yet.
And well I know how through the wistful days
Thou walkest all the dear familiar ways,
As unregarded as a breath of air,
But there in love and longing, always there!
I know it all; but from thy brier shall blow
A rose for others. If it were not so
I would have told thee. Come then, say to Me:
My Lord, my Love, I am content with Thee.[i]
Lord Jesus, I’m sorry I forget that You are with me all the time, and in the most intimate way: dwelling with me from within. I want to receive all the encouragement, companionship and love You have for me through people Lord. I also want to receive by faith, all the times when You want me all to Yourself! Grow my discernment in understanding these things and receiving the gift of Your presence day by day, front row by front row. Amen.
Ellen received her MA in Biblical Studies from Covenant Theological Seminary in 1999 and serves as the Women’s Ministry Coordinator for Harvest USA, a national ministry focused on gospel-centered discipleship and teaching regarding sexuality. Ellen loves ministry to women and is most passionate about mentoring, teaching God’s Word and spiritually nurturing others to walk deeply with Jesus. New Life Presbyterian in Dresher, PA, is her home church.
[i] “Rose from Briar”, from Mountain Breezes: The Collected Poems of Amy Carmichael. Elizabeth Elliot, Mountain Breezes: The Collected Poems of Amy Carmichael. (Fort Washington: Christian Literature Crusade, 1999), 294.