The roots of the call of God on my life go deep. I remember and stand on the faith of generations of men and women before me, who taught me how to love well by loving me. A wholehearted love, rooted and grounded in family who came before and a faith in Jesus, began to grow. They lived the two greatest commandments to love God and their neighbor so well. And I am deeply grateful. As such, I have always known the love of God for me and the love of family. These two great loves will be tested over the years, but they are holding strong. This is grace.
One of my earliest memories comes out of these two great loves and the call of God on my life. My pastor when I was a child was one of those deeply humble and revered men of God, Dr. J. Thornton Williams. He had such a strong influence on me and I’m not sure he ever knew it. When I was five years old, he asked me to help him preach his sermon on a Sunday morning. Now, you have to understand, this was in a huge downtown southern Baptist church back in the late 70s. Women couldn’t teach or preach and yet here was this revered man of God asking a little girl who was a nobody to help him preach his sermon. This is remarkable to me, looking back.
So how did I help him? I sang. He asked me to sing all three verses of “Jesus Loves Me” at the beginning of his sermon. I can vividly remember sitting in the front pew with my mom and dad waiting on the time to come in the service for him to call me up to the pulpit, not knowing enough about what I was doing in front of 1200 plus people to even be nervous! I remember practicing those verses and that song over and over and over again until I could sing it by rote. As I sat waiting, I hummed it in my head, not wanting to forget. And I didn’t forget. When the time came for him to preach, he introduced me and turned to me, motioning me to come up there with him. He reached down and picked me up in his arms so everyone could see me and hear me from up there behind the pulpit. And I belted out all three of those verses with all my heart. I’ll never forget that moment.
For the rest of my life, any time I would begin to get nervous about something I was getting ready to do, I would remember this moment and remind myself that if I could sing in front of 1200 people at five years old, I could do whatever it was that I was facing at that time. It gave me an anchor that I didn’t even know I would need as I moved forward throughout my life. It was the beginning of the call to ordained ministry for me, the first of many steps in the Spirit.