Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: Illustrate the meaning of "Every Dark Cloud has a Silver Lining" (without using the actual phrase or literal example). (02/28/08)
TITLE: Without Knowing
By Julie Paulsen
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Coming out of a traumatic spiritual trial, we were now in a period of healing. All 18 of us, my parents, siblings, spouses and children attended the same church forever. “Attenders Only” didn’t describe any of us. On Sunday or Wednesday evening we were found teaching, leading singing and serving the body. We took turns at cleaning the building, providing a meal, urgent childcare, or simply listening to a friend. We loved working for the Lord, together! Our church family became our social structure as we met with friends and family for worship and play, “daily from house to house.” Life was peaceful, comfortable, as I imagined it would be always. However, God had other plans.
I was stunned at words spoken by Kate, a life-long church friend, “I have a hard time eating with you here,” she stated flatly with a stern glare. As the music played loudly at our 20th class reunion voices drowned out our conversation. No one else knew that I was being shunned. Kate was a high school buddy, a college confidant, a bridesmaid in our wedding and spiritual sister. This encounter wounded me deeply. But, I shouldn’t have been surprised it was to be expected. Warm close spiritual ties are broken when someone is officially withdrawn from their church, and I was branded as an “erring sister.”
How did this happen? We believed we were listening to God and learning to listen to the Holy Spirit. Officially, the withdrawal papers stated, “Julie Arneson will no longer state it is a sin to sing with instrumental music...have a bake sale, etc.” It went on, and on; each person in our family receiving their own “papers.” Realizing that our social structure was kicked out from under us, we were left wondering if we had perhaps made the biggest mistake of our lives. This new found listening to God and the Holy Spirit was something we questioned daily during this dry, dark time.
“God showed me as I was reading today…” became the typical segway into daily discussions about this journey we hadn’t planned. Every dinner conversation, and meeting with family ended with talk on trying to figure out what happened! God was showing us plenty, teaching us beyond what we asked for, walking with us faithfully and allowing us to question Him unmercifully. Mostly we asked, “Why, God, Why?”
With no church to attend we worshipped at home and daily poured through our Bibles, begging God to show us if we had done the right thing or not by daring to speak of His grace, mercy, having a living relationship with Jesus and walking with the Holy Spirit. Many moments when I was ready to walk back to the altar and “repent”, God would speak to me in His quiet voice, telling me that He was there lifting me up and saying, “Stay the course, don’t look back.”
We arrived as Dad requested and he explained the purpose of the meeting. He happened to meet a couple that day and shared our family’s experience. They requested a meeting with all of us, and Dad made it happen. The couple arrived shortly.
The gentleman was dressed in a pair of slacks, short-sleeved shirt and tie. His wife wore a simple cotton dress, clean, and pressed. Both were very neat, calm and proper individuals, sporting salt and pepper hair in 1960’s styles and big smiles. They assured us that we were doing the “right thing”. They spoke the Word of God to us and brought such peace to our souls. The evening was short, and we parted with many thanks and hugs.
In the months to come Dad tried to contact them by phone, mail and driving to their address. We had no further contact. Letters were returned, the phone was the wrong number and the address was not correct. We never heard from or saw them again.
I will never forget this couple.
Hebrews 3:2 NASB Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing.
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