When I was a little girl I was a thief.
I used to steal from my big brother. I couldn’t resist. I knew that hiding in his brown wooden wardrobe was a stash of sweets. I would creep into his room while he was at work. It didn’t take me long to find them. If they weren’t at the back of the shelf, then I would simply feel around his jackets as they hung quietly in his closet.
I can still remember the joy of feeling a tell-tale bulge inside one of the pockets, and the thrill of discovering a bag of Raspberry Ruffles hidden inside. Sometimes I would find liquorice…. the only sweets I ever put back.
My brother must have known that I stole from him. But he never challenged me. He was much too quiet, and forgiving, and unassuming.
And if you’d have told me that one day, this quiet, humble brother of mine would become a preacher, I never would have believed it, and neither would he.
John was never one to speak in public. Even though he went to church every Sunday, knew his Bible inside out, and read the scripture lesson when asked, he was always much more comfortable greeting people at the door, or handing out hymn books, or passing the offering plate.
John was utterly terrified of preaching. The very thought of having to stand in the pulpit and deliver a twenty minute sermon made his knees knock and his heart pound.
How could he go back to school and compose long, detailed essays, after forty years?
How could he battle through all that studying and reading when he had cataracts?
How could he become a preacher when he was over 60 years old?
But he did.
Because when the call comes, it doesn’t go away. We can ignore it, or walk away from it, or pretend we never heard it. But God is a pursuer. God is one who will chase you down and keep tapping on your shoulder, until you turn around and listen.
And John did.
I wish I could have been there. I wish I could have sat in that little church in England as my family gathered to celebrate. Like our dad before him, and our great Uncle Harry before that, my brother joins a long line of Methodist Local Preachers in our family who have answered the call…
and as I see John standing at that open door, I know that God opened that door for him; that God will walk ahead of him, opening doors in the hearts and minds of all who will listen to his message.
One day, the person listening will be me. I’ll sit in that pew as my brother preaches, and I will be proud of him. I’ll learn from his words and I’ll remember his bravery, his determination, and the sheer hard work it took for him to be standing there.
And I might just steal some of that courage, and perseverance, and obedience, like I stole his sweets all those years ago.