One’s passion for serving the body of Christ is often found in the redeemed fodder of one’s life. Since I was born into a church-going family, I was on the Cradle Roll as an infant. Year by year I grew up sitting in the pews, wooden theater-style flip-up chairs, or eventually, the comfy upholstered connecting chairs popular in a lot of churches today.
I remember sleeping in the pews as a toddler curled up with my head on my mother’s knee. Then I graduated to the flip-up chairs which merely allowed for teenage slouching. By the time the upholstered chairs hit the scene, I was all but stretched out on them again, sitting up straight on the outside but overtaken by a slumbering spirit on the inside.
In the past twenty years and the last ten particularly, I have never been more aware of or more passionate about women (and men) in the body of Christ sitting as shadows in the pew.
Once a former shadow myself, I now walk in the tension of a heart to encourage and call women to life with the Word of Truth, and wanting to yell like a drill sergeant, “Wake up!!” Thankfully, between my husband’s occasional reminders and my heart to honor the Lord in honoring others, I usually fall to the side of encouragement and life-giving Truth (which sometimes hollers “Wake up!” in its Own right).
So what brings about the awakening?
For each individual, only the precious Holy Spirit can truly answer that question. But in looking back over my life story and listening to the stories of many others, I have found the Lord uses some common denominators:
*PAIN – Pain is a great motivator. Whether or not we begin to awaken depends largely on our response to pain. It obviously signals something is raw, broken, or hurting. Yet the Lord allows us the choice to face and work through the pain with Him, or stick a band-aid on it, fight against it, or shove it down, which in essence is our way of putting the pain to bed. The problem is, we crawl into bed with it and slumber on. It doesn’t go away and we remain as shadows in the pew.
*GAIN – There’s a popular saying from the athletic world – No Pain. No Gain. It’s true. And equally so in things of the Spirit. There were two truths the Lord especially brought home to me while I was still living as a shadow in the pew:
1. What was I gaining from that which I was holding onto? (See Pain above). When I looked more closely at what Paul was talking about in Philippians 3:7-8, I discovered that his counting as loss whatever was gain to him – opened up a whole new world of meaning. Loss in that passage is defined as detriment and damage!
2. When I understood that the result of exchanging my pain – which was increasingly damaging and detrimental the longer I let it fester – was that I gain (win) Christ, I began to awaken to a new sense of life possible.
* RAIN – The strongest shadows appear when the sun is shining. I well remember sitting in yet another church pew (at choir practice) feeding on greens – of the jealousy and envy variety. Miss Sunny Singer was the choir favorite (yes, at church…), which only increased my sense of shadow-being. I love to sing alto harmony, but where I was emotionally and spiritually at the time prevented it being a sweet savor of worship to the Lord. Quite frankly, my attitude stunk. No doubt, singing my part perfectly didn’t cover up the sound of clanging cymbals in the Lord’s ear. My heart had grown hard and dim within; a shadow in the pew believing the sun was only shining on others.
What I needed was rain. The soft pelting drops of the Spirit of Truth steadily raining down on the soil of my heart. To this day, when dryness begins to creep over the land of me, Holy Spirit’s rain of Truth soaks my heart as nothing else will.
There is not one among us, male or female, who has not experienced pain in life. As believers, the remedy remains the same for everyone – exchanging our pain for Christ’s healing balm; indeed, for Christ himself.
Finally, for anything fruitful and life-giving to be produced from our shadowland, the rain must fall. Ask Holy Spirit to bring it; welcome it when He does. In this way, He brings forth substance where once sat shadows in the pew.
Let it rain. Let it ra-ain…
Open the floodgates of Heaven.
Let it rain! Let it ra-ain!
Open the floodgates of Heaven!
LET! IT! RAIN!
(Let It Rain – lyrics by Michael W. Smith)
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