This past Sunday, two soldiers from our chapel congregation were baptized. As a pastor’s wife, I’ve had a front row seat to many baptisms over the years. There has never, ever, been one single baptism where I’ve kept my composure or dry eyes.
Seeing someone make the decision to outwardly express his/her decision to follow Christ is something that I hope my sensibilities never dull to witnessing. It’s a beautiful picture of the Christian faith, alive and vibrant; it’s a tug on my heart reminding me of the life-changing message and power of the Gospel.
Aside from my own decision and public profession of faith, three of the most meaningful baptisms I’ve seen have been the moments Ryan baptized our three children shortly after their personal decisions to trust in Jesus as their Savior.
The thing is, I’ve been thinking a lot about the role that church is currently playing in my life.
My entire life, being at church has been a staple and hallmark of who I am. As we transitioned into military chaplaincy, what church looks like has evolved. Ryan’s gifts and my gifts have evolved and changed as well. I’m learning there is no static view of ministry. While God himself is unchanging, he often uses circumstances of change to develop in us a trust in him.
Newsflash: I have had some pretty significant hiccups in adapting to the change from traditional church to the military chapel.
Ask any chaplain family and they will tell you that chapel IS NOT church. They serve two very different roles and it has taken me some time to process my feelings, my responsibility, my guilt, and my ideas of what church should look like.
We are currently serving in a chapel that is primarily geared toward soldiers who are just passing through our duty station. Most are here for only a few months of training. There aren’t really any families who attend our service; no children; a very short-lived “community” aspect. These soldiers don’t have free time to come to small groups or events. They come for our one hour service and that is where it ends. We set up for our service and tear it all down the minute it ends for the next worship service using our building.
In all honesty, Ryan and I have gone back and forth about how our family fits into this picture. On one hand, this chaplaincy ministry involves our entire family and we are committed; it’s not just a job, it’s a calling. We serve together. We attend service together. We worship together. But in that togetherness, there has been a questioning of where my role is and what opportunities our children have aside from sitting through the hour of our service.
I have felt the loneliness of not having an extended church family. I have felt the guilt of our three kids not having a dedicated children’s ministry or youth group. I have been STARVING for a place to serve. I’ve even taken to occasionally singing on the worship team despite nearly NO musical ability. I’ve also taken to the set up and take down of musical equipment, cords, music stands, returning music to folders, or making the donut run when necessary. There are even some Sundays when I can’t muster the energy to go to chapel. We are in a season where PWOC doesn’t fit into the equation and neither does attending an off post church regularly.
Which is to say, that right now, our chapel IS our church despite how I perceive its deficiencies.
After several recent (tearful) pow-wows with Ryan concerning my wistful feelings about chapel, I’ve sensed the Lord checking me. This past Sunday, seeing two young soldiers get baptized was my ‘AHA’ moment.
I’ve spent nearly two years measuring our chapel service against my own bulleted list of expectations. I’ve been trying to compare apples to oranges. I’ve been praying relentlessly for God to either give me an apple or help me to develop a love for oranges.
I’ve wanted a vibrant, perfect church but God has given me a quiet, imperfect chapel. I’ve wanted to know my role in serving only to be looking down at empty hands during our service. I’ve wanted to burn off my energy to dig in and do, but God is asking me to faithfully sit on our pew with my children and lean into worship and be a hearer and doer of his Word.
It’s sometimes difficult to find our place in serving especially when the roles, jobs, or ministries aren’t clearly defined. But I have decided, I don’t need a job description. I don’t need a predictable list of what to expect as we walk through a life of ministry. I don’t necessarily need a Bible study, a small group, an opportunity to make casseroles, or lead some project. All those things can become idols in my heart as I often seek the approval of others based on my performance.
What I do need is the opportunity to have a front row seat, not to my own work or efforts, but to the life-changing power of Christ. God always has us right where he wants us. He always has a message he wants us to take to heart. One I can’t seem to shake is the idea that God wants me to live my life in full submission to him, no matter how that looks.
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20.
God has asked our family to Go! And I, for one, am grateful for the opportunities he’s given us to see his power manifested in a variety of settings.