It was the summer of 1999. The summer before my senior year of college. I was the interim middle school pastor at Northplace Church in Sachse. The guy who was leading that ministry had resigned and moved to Arizona. The church needed someone to oversee the students in grades 6-8. I was already interning there, so they “promoted” me (although looking back on it, I am not sure it’s ever a promotion when it involves working with middle schoolers—those kids smell funny). That summer was incredible! I went on my first mission trip to Mexico. I took a group of about 20 students to youth camp. It was a blast. At the end of the summer the lead pastor approached me about becoming the permanent middle school pastor. I explained to him that my parents would kill me if I didn’t finish my last year of college. So the church hired me part-time while I finished up at Southwestern University. I was thrilled!
Everything was going great at the church, but soon some logistical issues arose. I was going to school in Waxahachie, an hour away from Sachse. I would commute on Wednesday nights for our student service, driving over and then drive back in the same night. I would come over on the weekends also, but I had no permanent place to stay. I was hopping from one home to another. Sleeping on this couch one weekend, that couch the next. I had friends who were gracious to help me out, but I felt I was rapidly wearing out my welcome. To put it simply, I needed a consistent place to crash on the weekends. I brought this issue to my pastor and he had a solution: “Why don’t we just announce it one Sunday morning to the church, and see who is interested in hosting you?” Sounded easy enough. And sure enough that’s what happened.
The next Sunday Pastor Rick had me join him on the stage and he let it be known that “the middle school pastor is needing a family to host him on the weekends.” At that moment a woman named Carol McMillan nudged her husband Mike on his side. “I think the Lord wants him to live with us!” Mike was not so sure this was the Lord speaking. As I would later find out, he thought I was a total dork. Apparently he was not impressed by my hairstyle (shaggy and unkempt) or fashion choices (I was going through a thrift shop phase at the time). But Carol’s persistence prevailed. The McMillans offered to host me and I accepted.
I would be lying if I said I wasn’t initially nervous, and understandably so. I had never even met these people, and now I was going to be living with them. I was unsure of how well we would gel (that rhymes by the way). Let me just say that after my first weekend at the McMillan crib, all my fears were relieved (for several reasons):
1) Carol cooked PHENOMENAL meals! I was used to the college staples of Ramen noodles and dollar menus. This lady was serving me chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes with gravy, green beans, hot rolls, and cake for dessert. All of it cooked from scratch! Yes ma’am! I will live at your house as long as you will let me.
2) Mike and I hit if off instantly. We had so much in common. God. Sports. Bathroom humor. What else could I ask for? 3) And then there were Rachel and Amanda, Mike and Carol’s daughters. I grew up with brothers, but never had sisters. But now I did. Ages 3 and 5.
In a short period of time it was crystal clear to me that the Lord had arranged this whole thing. My time with the McMillans was going to be about more than having a bed under me and a roof over me. God was giving me the hookup, depositing something extremely valuable into my life. I was being given a front row seat to how a Christian home is supposed to function. Some people learn about marriage and parenting by studying books or perusing websites. I was going to learn by witnessing it first-hand. In the day-to-day grind of life, this man and woman were preparing me for my future.
It has been almost 15 years since I spent that year with the McMillans. I didn’t realize at that time just how much they were pouring into me. I learned so much in that year, and I learned it because they were modeling it before me. I am not sure they even consciously realized that I was watching them, taking mental notes, sponging up everything they had to offer. I think they were just being who they really were—every day people striving to glorify God in their marriage and family. The Lord knew I needed what they had, and He graciously allowed me access. I have often wondered what if Carol had ignored the prompting of the Holy Spirit that day. What if she dismissed what she felt the Lord was leading her to do? I can say this much, I would have missed out on one of the greatest seasons of my life. That man and women became like family to me. And they still are.
So fast forward to March 12, 2005. It was the day I married Christie. As we stood at the front of Covenant Church everything seemed surreal. Were we really getting married? All these questions were racing through my mind: “Do we have what it takes to make this work?” “What will we do when hard times come?” “How the heck do you raise kids?” Toward the end of our ceremony, we invited Mike and Carol to join us on the stage. We asked them to pray a prayer of blessing over our marriage. We asked God to do for us what He had done for them. And almost ten years later, He still is.
During this decade long journey I cannot tell you how many times I have asked myself the question, “What would Mike and Carol do in this situation?” I learned so much about being a man from Mike. I saw him work so hard to provide for his family. I saw him serve faithfully in the local church, both as a home group leader and a deacon. He was a man of discipline—getting up early to work out, managing his finances well, and also maintaining time for friendships. He and Carol worked in tandem raising their daughters. I saw how they loved, laughed, and disciplined. Those girls have turned out to be incredible young ladies. Rachel is in her second semester at Dallas Baptist University. Amanda is about to graduate from Rockwall High School. They both love the Lord passionately. When Christie and I think about raising Caris, I think back to how Mike and Carol raised their daughters. So much of who I am and how I function as a husband and father is traced back to their example.
Let me say something. This devotional today is not about marriage. It’s not about raising children. I am writing today about being obedient to God. I am writing about pouring your life out for the good of others. You may not believe this, but there are others who need what you have. There is no one else in the world, or the Kingdom, who is like you. Your gifts and talents, your stories and experiences. All of them comprise the unique composition that is you. What are you doing to impart who you are into the lives of others? Who could benefit from your life? Please stop and ask yourself that question. Far too many Christians discount their ability to influence others. Don’t be one of them! There is someone out there that you can be investing your time and energy into. I believe if you will say “yes” to doing so, the Lord will show you who they are.
There is a young man growing up without a male role model in his life. There is a single mom who doesn’t know how she is gonna make it. There is a teenage girl who is struggling with identity and self-worth. There is a widow who needs help with chores around her house. There are so many people who need people. The church should be a community of men and women who are always asking the question, “Who needs me?” And we should be faithful to give ourselves away for the good of others. I wonder how many lives in our community would be impacted if we lived “on mission” this way.
“We all have different gifts. Each gift came because of the grace God gave us. Whoever has the gift of prophecy should use that gift in a way that fits the kind of faith they have. 7 Whoever has the gift of serving should serve. Whoever has the gift of teaching should teach. 8 Whoever has the gift of comforting others should do that. Whoever has the gift of giving to help others should give generously. Whoever has the gift of leading should work hard at it. Whoever has the gift of showing kindness to others should do it gladly.
9 Your love must be real. Hate what is evil. Do only what is good. 10 Love each other in a way that makes you feel close like brothers and sisters. And give each other more honor than you give yourself.” (Romans 12:6-10)