Last night was our last regular club gathering of the school year (next month we have PROM!). And we wanted it to be a great night, a perfect night. We wanted to end the year on a high note and so we planned for that. We had a silly game where girls were blindfolded and had to determine the flavor of baby food. We had a fabulous lasagna dinner our volunteers lovingly made. We had a fun, summer theme for decorating the tables. We had a great photo album craft planned. And we had a powerful message all ready to go. And then despite our best laid plans, life happened. Mentors had last minute change of plans and couldn’t drive girls. Girls had last minute work or school conflicts and couldn’t come to club. Volunteers who care for babies got sick. Traffic was horrible and people were running really late. It was feeling like a recipe for disaster.
If I’m honest, I started thinking, “Really God? But we planned a great night. And we wanted all of the girls to be here. And we had a perfect night planned and it’s about to be ruined!” And in that moment, I heard the Holy Spirit’s still small voice say, “I know all about it. Instead of complaining or freaking out, just talk to me about it.” So right there in the hallway, I prayed. “Ok God. I really don’t get it. But I trust that You do. You know who is here and I’m trusting it’s exactly who you want here. You know every little detail and I’m not going to worry about it because you know all about it.” I took a deep breath and headed back into the group.
Pastor Andrew Schey (campus pastor for Rock Harbor Huntington Beach) was sharing his story of meeting Jesus and the transformation that happened in his life. You could hear a pin drop in the room. Then he invited Myrna up to share her story. She shared boldly and honestly about some of her darkest and most difficult moments. How God has redeemed the hurt and shame of the past and turned it into something beautiful. How God called her into ministry to teen moms in ways she never expected. How God created beauty from ashes.
They were raw, moving examples of the Gospel – that Jesus died on the cross to save us and all we have to do is say “yes” to Him. Andrew gave everyone the opportunity to say stand up and say “yes” to Jesus. It was a bold call to action. Stand up in a room in front of your peers and say, “Yes. I need Jesus and I want everyone to know.” Slowly one girl stood. Then another. More followed until 5 girls were standing. And in that moment, none of the earlier chaos mattered. None of our planning mattered. The food, the games, the decorations, the craft…they were just extras. Because God was working in ways we couldn’t see. He was doing something far more powerful than we could ever have planned for. He was working in spite of the chaos, in spite of our best efforts. And at the end of the night, 5 girls said “yes” to Jesus.
This is why we are here. This is what life is all about. None of us can do it on our own. We need Jesus. We need the transforming power of His love. Only God can redeem the hurts and pains of the past. And only God can exchange beauty for ashes.
“To all who mourn…he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory.” Isaiah 61:3 (New Living Translation)