When I think of ministry, there are many things that come to mind. The people I have ministered to cannot possibly compare to those who have taught me the lessons that have shaped who I am. I believe that ministry is about being an example to students and allowing them to see the real you and the things that have helped you grow in faith. If I were to teach my youth without being an example, I don’t think even the best Bible studies would be effective.
I have learned from some of the greatest pastors and teachers! And, I am incredibly thankful for them. But, the person who taught me the most about faith and sacrifice is my brother. He is not a minister. He is not the best Christian example. He’s not a person who most people would consider fit to teach youth. Yet, he had a profound impact on my life, and until recently, he had no idea!
I was seven years old. My brothers, sister and I were at home doing our weekend chores while my parents were out running errands. I was lucky enough to have the job of straightening up the living room, which also meant that I got to watch TV while I worked! I was a little girl fascinated with witches who rode on brooms, but that day, there happened to be a cartoon on television that featured a little witch who flew around on a vacuum cleaner! And what was I doing? Vacuuming!
I decided to practice riding on my vacuum cleaner. I swayed this way and that, imagining that I was flying through the clouds. And, all of a sudden, the handle snapped off the vacuum! Being seven, I did the only obvious thing to do. I put the vacuum back in the closet where it belonged and didn’t tell anyone. As I went down the hallway with the broken vacuum, my brother Earl saw me hiding the evidence. But, he didn’t say anything, so I carried out my not-so-well-thought-out plan.
Later that evening, my mom was cleaning up a mess that we made in the living room, and went to get the vacuum. When she discovered that it was broken, she ever so calmly called all four of us into the room. She presented the broken vacuum and asked for confessions. Of course, it was easy for me to pass up admitting my sin because I was terrified of getting into trouble. Mom didn’t know who did it, but she was determined to find out. So, she gave us a time limit and said that if we didn’t turn over the guilty one by that time, we’d ALL get into trouble.
Knowing that Earl knew what I did REALLY made me nervous. Shamefully, I still didn’t admit to it! So as our time drew to a close, Mom came to ask us yet again. Without blinking, Earl stood up and said, “I did it.” Whew! I got out of it!
Earl’s punishment was to work off the cost of the repair. So, he had to weed our entire garden, which was huge. As I watched him paying off my debt, I realized that it should be me out there. I asked my mom if I could help, and she just said that it was his job because he did it. Still to this day, I can feel the guilt of watching him pay off my debt.
He never told my mom the truth. A few years ago, I finally told my mom about it. If you ask him today, he’d tell you a completely different story, something about me blaming it on him!
When I started to learn about Jesus and His sacrifice for me, it was easy for me to relate, because I actually experienced someone’s sacrifice. Even though Earl never intended to be Christ-like, God used him to show me that His son took the very punishment that I deserved. And, while I watch Him suffer on the cross, I know that He doesn’t deserve it, but He loves me enough to take my sins upon Himself. He looks to Our Father and says, “I did it.” There is nothing that I can do to help. He has done it all.
It is experiences like this that remind me that children and youth are affected by what we do, not always by what we teach in the classroom. I may not be the perfect example, but I hope and pray that God will use me to demonstrate His great love for us the same way my brother did. This teachable moment continues to make its impression on my life almost 20 years after it happened! It is incredible to see how God can use us so powerfully!