This morning in church, we sang, “I love to tell the story” and a tiny snippet of the sermon referred to the way “dispersed Christians” were able to tell about Christianity because they had been pushed out of Rome.
Not really kicked out of Rome…but it might feel like it.
That was just a lead-in to the rest of the sermon. Yet it stuck in my head because of what I thought Pastor might be leading up to – which is whether we, as Christians, are telling others about why we believe. Or even what we believe.
Some of this has been brewing in my mind for a while because, once again, God and the Army have decided my friends needed to move. And off they went. Just this summer, four dear friends have moved. The last minute lunches, or help cleaning out the freezer, or texts while they were on the road… Those precious last hugs lasted a little longer because this time, I am not likely to be PCSing or moving again with the Army. I don’t know that we will ever live close to each other again. Two husbands retired, so those friends are in their forever homes. Another has at least one more move, she thinks.
But they have moved. And our city feels a little more empty because of it.
You may be asking what my friends’ moving has to do with dispersed Christians and telling the story of our beliefs.
Here is the thing – I have been watching friends move away for what seems like my whole life. When I was really little, my Grandpa Casey (one of my first and most patient friends) lived with us for a little while, and then he was gone, and then he came back for a while – and then I only heard from him at Christmas and birthday. Then, when I was in third grade, my best friend Julie M. moved across town, and then all the way to Ohio. Growing up in Arizona, Ohio seemed impossibly far away.
My story is this, and it’s one I should love to tell. When I was 7, I had a Sunday School teacher named Mrs. Dasse. (DAH-See) When I’d had chicken pox, she and her husband took care of me when I was healthy enough for Mom to go to work but not healthy enough to go to school. I adored her. One Sunday, she talked to us about a friend who would never leave us. She talked about how, if we asked Him to, He would come into our hearts and be with us always.
Now, I was liked by some and not liked by others. I was kind of an odd, studious, and adult-thinking kid, and making friends could be difficult. Someone might be friendly that day, and not the next, as sometimes happens with girls.
Of course I wanted a friend like this.
The need for a friend like this was nearly painful.
Mrs. Dasse talked with me behind a bulletin board that day, while the other children finished their worksheet or craft project or whatever. And we prayed together. From that time on, even when the moving trucks pulled away, or the deployment bus took my husband – there has always been a friend in my heart. He has never left, nor forsaken me.
That friend, of course, is Jesus. He lives in our hearts through the Holy Spirit, but when I was a little girl Mrs. Dasse just told me He would never leave me. And that, in the sometimes scary complexity of life, is the most important part to remember.
I admit there is a lot about the Bible and even about God that I do not know nor understand. I admit that I am often confused when church says one thing but it does not match up with the love I know God feels for us. But I have always known this friend in my heart, and I believe in the comfort that He can bring. I believe in the tight connection that we can feel, when the nights are long and the darkness is scary.
It is not difficult to ask Him into your heart. All we need to do is tell Him we need Him. I can’t do this on my own, I need you, please come into my heart.
Because Mrs. Dasse asked that question on that day, I have never been truly without a friend. And that is why, as I watch my friends move on to the next part of their life stories, I knew it was time to tell others my story.