When are the Glory Days: Lessons Learned from Heartland Part Two
When are the Glory Days? Lessons Learned from Heartland
Editor's Note: This is part two of a three part series where Sheree Phillips, our pastor's wife, talks about the glory days of life in Northern Virginia.
In part one of this series, I talked about Jack, a beloved character from a TV series Benny and I have been watching. It’s amazing to me how God uses the everyday things of life, including TV shows, to speak to us.
Have you been thinking about your glory days? I have. For years, and in new and hopefully more mature ways most recently.
From our late teens to mid 40’s Benny and I experienced some serious glory days. For nearly three decades we were a part of some life-altering things. After Benny’s shocking high school conversion in the early 70’s, and on the heels of the “Jesus Movement” that had recently hit the east coast, we watched God do some unprecedented miracles in our high school. Classmates were becoming Christians and a Bible study started by a brand new beliveer mushroomed into weekly meetings full of post-hippie teens. Our high school choir outings included “church” where Benny preached, and our Vice Principal asked our group of Jesus Freaks to actually do a 7th period meeting with worship and preaching attended by nearly 400 students. It was a genuine revival unlike we’ve experienced. And then our parents talked us into getting married during the spring break of Benny's senior year to give us time to adjust to one another before our out-of-state move for college. That first year of marriage is not a part of the glory days. That's for another post :-).
The glory days continued as my former juvenile-delinquent husband started a youth meeting that eventually included another local pastor. Saturday Night Alive vibrated wtih joyful worship and practical preaching, and grew to nearly a thousand mostly young people. When Benny and a small group of other twenty-somethings decided to start a church with no money and only a small community center for meetings, the glory days transfered to a warm and thriving church.
Those Northern Virginia years were characterized by six surprise post-infertility babies and an adopted sweetheart. There were church weddings and Celebration conferences; baby showers and picnics; fellowship and small groups that learned how to rejoice and weep with one another. We vacationed and had “blizzard parties” together; brought meals to new moms; helped each other move; prayed through heartaches and deep suffering; and learned what it meant to be the church not just on Sundays but every day. Our family photo albums are full of pictures of holidays, birthdays, pool parties, homeschool field trips, baby dedications and the miracle Sunday when we broke ground on a church building a group of a couple of hundred mostly young adults sacrificed to see built. It was truly glorious.
In our mid 40’s something changed and we came to believe the glory days were forever over. Our departure from our beloved church and cherished friends to move to Florida was painful and perplexing. We were grateful for a new life in a place we had come to love, yet at times we’ve deeply longed for those good ‘ol days and tried to figure out ways to duplicate them with little or no success. We have cried and run through a laundry list of what if’s and if only’s.
My broken husband spent many nights sitting alone in the dark pondering deep regrets and wishing for a second chance at everything. And some of those second chances came, including the opportunity to plant a new church in our old age here in Orlando.
What happened? How did so many years filled with joy, fruitfulness and recurring blessing end? Why was marriage and ministry now such hard work? Would there be any glory days ahead for us? Yours and my stories are different. Yet there can be empathetic similarities that may have found you connecting your story to mine. In the past 20 years there have been huge gifts from God. During our Florida years we enjoyed over a decade of service and new friendships at another wonderful church. We’ve added 4 “new kids” (our children’s spouses) to our lives, along with 17 beloved grandchildren -- which meant we and our kids had to providentially leave our cherished home and church in Virginia! But one of problems with narrowly defining glory days to those characterized by joy and accomplishment is that they take on a kind of sentimental sweetness that makes future blessings pale by comparison.
So how did Jack’s brief speech at the Rodeo Hall of Fame induction help us? I’m eager to share that with you...and I pray it helps any of you who need a fresh perspective, too.