He Leadeth Me – January 22, 2018

When I stop to think about where I am on life’s journey, I am overwhelmed by the fact that it is all because of God. I am so thankful for that today, but I haven’t always believed it.

Let’s back up to 2009. At the time my family lived in Kansas City where I worked as the music minister in the Baptist church my father pastored. We were the perfect Christian family. People wanted their families to emulate ours. Even within our home, it seemed perfect. We all loved each other and served God together.

Toward the end of 2009 and into 2010, everything started to unravel. My homosexuality, which I had worked so hard to keep a secret from my conservative family and our conservative church, was discovered. My mother was diagnosed with cancer. She is healthy and well today, by God’s grace, but not long after her surgery, my father’s affair with a member of our church came to light. A related situation resulted in his arrest and eventual imprisonment. The tragedies seemed endless.

How could I trust a God who allowed these things to happen to me? I decided that I didn’t need God. When everything with my dad transpired, two ladies in the church stayed close and did so much to help my mother, but the church as a whole turned us away. Through all of this, I turned to my friends who weren’t Christians. They were the ones reaching out to help me cope with the tragedies. I kept asking myself where God and his people were!

Fast forward to 2016. After spending six years living my life according to my own plan totally shutting God out, I received a phone call about a Presbyterian church in Greenville who was looking for an organist. I had been working most weekends as a substitute organist in the area, and I had no desire to be a permanent part of any sort of organized religious institution. However, I decided to go ahead and interview for the job. As soon as I stepped inside the church, something was telling me that I was meant to be there.

Once I was offered the position and accepted it, it wasn’t long before I began to feel like part of a family. It had been so long since I had actually listened to a sermon. I had heard hundreds of them over the years I spent as a supply organist, but something about this place was different. I started to realize that I was being accepted for the person I am. I didn’t have to put on a façade or hide parts of my life from anyone. I wasn’t just accepted; I was valued. I was valued as a child of God.

Over the first few weeks of regularly attending church again, it became so evident to me that the voice inside was God. I had turned my back on him. I cursed him. I told myself that if God does exist, I don’t need him. Yet he still was leading. He was still providing. He was still comforting.

I am so thankful that God led me to that church. He used the people of Fourth Presbyterian to show me his love in a way I had never before experienced it. Now, he has led me to First Baptist where once again I see his love on display through my church family.

I imagine that Ruth must have felt this same gratitude as she held her son in her arms. God led her, a Moabite woman and an outsider, right into the midst of his people. He made her one of his own.

On Sunday, our deacons will be installed, and this service is another example of God’s leading. Each of these deacons has felt the leading of God, and they offer their service to the work of his church.

In choosing the music for this week’s prelude, offertory and postlude, I seek to capture this journey. The prelude, “Serenity,” represents that moment of reassurance and peace that comes when we understand that God’s hand is guiding us even when we don’t recognize his presence.

The offertory is an arrangement of a well-known hymn “He Leadeth Me.” The opening words express exactly how I feel as I write this post: He leadeth me, O blessed thought! It is so incredible that he cares about the direction that each of us takes. This piece also shows the response that we should have upon recognizing his constant presence: His faithful follower I would be, for by his hand he leadeth me.

Finally, the postlude implores us to “Go Your Way with Rejoicing!” Knowing that God is leading us, we can rejoice. Even when the experiences are seemingly unbearable, reach out and take his hand. He is always there; he is always leading.

– Shelton