By Deb Douglas
As a leader, have you ever tried to convey one thing but it was perceived as something totally different? Or have you perceived God’s work one way and found out later God’s intention was something very different? If so, I think you will connect with my experience as a leader on staff at a new church.
One Christmas, a Sunday school class had invited my husband Paul and I to come to their white elephant party. We had not been in the church long, but I thought it was long enough that this group knew us and particularly knew my sense of humor. We had worked closely with this group on several ministry projects and I wanted to show them appreciation for their help by giving them a class gag gift. Looking back, I think I must have been at a stratospheric level of stress that year to even think of doing such a thing.
I dug through our storage room looking for just the right things for this elaborate gift. I wanted something really tacky and in my way of thinking, really funny. I gathered a laundry basket of items and got to work. I wish I had a picture, but since I do not, you will have to let your imagination run wild here.
Picture this: a shiny hubcap from a 60s model Chevy. A red velvet bow made with 20 yards of different shades of red faded, wrinkled ribbon. Coke cans turned into bells with clackers made of lug nuts. Bits of plastic red cemetery flowers left from our house’s previous owner, circa 1950 stuck into and around the bow. Flocked fake poinsettias with gold plastic centers.
Are you getting a visual of tackiness? I used a pack of hot glue sticks putting it all together. I wrapped it in a huge box with a beautiful bow on top. I presented it in front of everyone at the party. I made a speech about how great the class was and how I wanted to do something to brighten their classroom so this was coming straight from my heart. As the teacher pulled out this hideous thing, the room went silent. I mean not a peep. Pure silence. I was ready to laugh and joke, but there was silence.
After a few awkward moments passed, the teacher’s husband said, “That sure is going to be something hanging up in our Sunday school room.” It slowly dawned on me that they did not expect a gag gift. They expected a beautiful appreciation gift, not something to laugh at. They were all feeling sorry for me because they thought this was my finest attempt at art. That’s when I got really tickled. I laughed so hard, I could not talk. I could not even explain that my Momma had raised me better and that I do have taste!
The gag gift hung in the classroom for years.
Sometimes we think God is playing a bad joke in our lives with the things that happen.
The reality is God allows things to happen in our lives we do not understand. We may think we have the right perception of the events, hurts, and traumas in our lives, but God’s intention and purposes are different than the way we perceive things. We can hang on to our perception for years without realizing how far off the mark we are. Or we can choose to look for God’s hand at work. To do that, we have to know Him. Really know Him. We have to spend time with Him and understand His ways. And we have to choose to have faith in His character, His love, and His faithfulness.
The success of surviving the hard times in life depends on how well we know God. If we see Him as a vengeful judge seeking to get even with us then we will see the difficult moments of our life as being insurmountable obstacles to life. But if we see God as loving and faithful, we will welcome the hard moments as times of God being at work in us for our long term benefit.
In the hard times of our life, God is love. He is present. Choose to see His true character in the difficult moments of our lives. Don’t miss out on the joy of seeing Him at work.
Dr. Deb Douglas is the minister to women at First Baptist Church, Bossier City, La., and a LifeWay Ministry Multiplier, launched her first women’s Bible study at the age of 20. Her passion is encouraging and equipping women to serve. She is also a freelance writer and contributed to Transformed Lives: Taking Women’s Ministry to the Next Level, Revised & Expanded. Deb graduated from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary with a Masters of Arts of Christian Education/Women’s Ministry and a Doctor of Education in Ministry degree. She is the wife of Paul, mom of Jared and Katie, mother-in-law to Emily and Jacob, and grandmother to Caroline.