The convention center fell silent, a noteworthy occurrence as just minutes before the room reverberated with the deafening sound of thousands of youth laughing and chattering away.
Silence. Complete silence as the speaker on stage of the Christian youth rally shouted out questions he knew he could not answer.
“I don’t know why your parents had to divorce?”
“I don’t know why your grandmother died?”
“I don’t know why your best friend killed himself?”
“I just don’t know why?” he shouted with a sound of defeat in his voice as if he was letting these thousands of teens down. Soon, though, the defeat turned to hope as he gave the answer I was waiting to hear, for how many times have I preached such a sermon on trying to understand why tough things happen in our lives?
“This I do know. God takes what is ugly in our lives and God makes something beautiful out of it,” the speaker announced with many an “amen, amen, amen” coming not only from his lips but from those like me in the audience who knew how true that statement was.
God knows the answer to our whys. God turns the ugly in our lives into something beautiful. God is doing His best work in our darkest times, the theme of the very first sermon I ever preached. What a great message, I thought, for these kids to hear.
What a great message for we adults to be reminded of as well for how many times today have you asked God, “Why…” insert the problem or the conflict or the failure or whatever.
But this I know, with God there is always hope. There is always redemption. There is always resurrection—life springing forth from what seems to have died.
The silence in the convention center broke with thundering applause. I wiped the tears from my eyes as the lights went on and soon our coats were on and the kids from the church and I were heading out for an afternoon of laser tag followed by lunch before the afternoon session of the youth rally began again.
Three teenage girls were in my car and as they chattered away about this and that—more that than this it sounded to my ears—the “co-pilot” as I nicknamed the teen who got to sit upfront with me, tried hard to find a rap station on the radio.
I know they were excited for laser tag and lunch, but I was quiet, still thinking about the sermon we had just heard.
Since no rap station was successfully found, I seized my opportunity to share with the three teens in my car.
“So, what did you think of the sermon you just heard?” I asked.
“It was really good,” girl 1 said, with girl 2 agreeing.
“It wasn’t just good, it was powerful,” said girl 3.
“What did you think about the fact that God can basically make all things new in your lives?” I delved a bit further.
“Awesome” and “cool” were the typical teen comments.
“Hey, did you try this station…there should be some good songs there?” girl 3 instructed girl 1, better known as my co-pilot.
My window of opportunity was closing quickly and so I jumped in before Jay Z or Rihanna or Taylor Swift or whatever music sensation of the day could steal my thunder.
“Some of you don’t know my story of how God made something ugly into something beautiful. Let me tell you…”
Silence fell over the car as I shared with the girls my story of going from Manhattan magazine editor to pastor and how the strength to leave my on the surface glamorous career for what looked to be a far from glamorous job of pastor came about when my boyfriend was killed in a freak jeep accident in Africa.
As I spoke I told them how it was God who gave me the strength and courage to venture into the unknown—leaving the security of a job and a paycheck, going back to school, moving to a rural area where my cute heels were definitely goners during mud season—and how it was God who wiped away my tears of loss and heartache not just once, not just twice, but hundreds of times. Yet all those tears shed did indeed water the ground to some pretty beautiful things in my life, among them, meeting my husband during mud season in the rural area I served as pastor.
Girl 1, my co-pilot, stopped her search for music on the radio and just stared at me as she listened. Girl 3 I couldn’t really see as she sat right behind the driver’s seat. Girl 2, though, I noticed in the rear view mirror was listening intently.
I pulled into the parking lot of the laser tag place and the excited chatter about who will be on whose team began. Intense listening moment had ended.
Oh well, I thought. As I held the door open for the girls, girl 2, who was new to our youth group, stopped before racing in to join the others.
“You know, Pastor Donna, your story would make an incredible movie,” she said with a look on her face that expressed thanks for me sharing with her.
I smiled and told her if that happened she could play me in the movie, but she would have to wear a blond wig to cover her dark brown hair. She laughed and soon she was with the others getting ready for laser tag.
I sat and thought about her comment. I have heard it before, many times from young and old. There was even a moment when I met someone who knew of someone who was a producer for a TV network and remarked I should get in touch with said person. I never did. For with God, don’t we all have amazing stories to share?
“Your story would make a great movie.”
It would for God is one awesome writer of all of our scripts. God is one incredible producer, casting director, sound person, you name it, God turns all of our lives into one of the best motion pictures ever. That is, the movie of hope realized and faith rewarded. The movie that has the same ending for us all: redemption and resurrection.
Pastor Donna, your life would make a great movie.
And so would your life.
And the nominees for best picture are…