The short time for the young preacher to be at the church was drawing to an end. For him it was to be an interim moment to test a call. At the end of the summer the invitation came from the people of the little church asking him to stay. The church as well as the neighboring church had asked him to please stay. “We will fill your car with gas; we will keep your freezer full with fresh meat. You can have time to finish your school in the near by university. You can pastor both congregations.” The invitation caused tears to well up in the eyes of the young preacher. His calling had been confirmed. In his heart however he believed moving on was the next step. He was not sure where that would lead, but he knew it to be the appropriate step at this point in his life.
The drive back to the city was long, but there was an air of excitement and anticipation as to a future with a confirmed call. He would go back to college and pick up where he had left off. He would study theology and pastoral care. It would be a task he would give himself to without hesitation. He knew he must always remember the lessons he had learned. He knew that he must always remember the connectedness between the rural community and the world he was about to reenter. He was going back to the city to be where his roots were. Somehow he knew that a part of life and understanding about life had been grafted into his being. He felt like something deep and rich had been added to very his core.
He had moved back. He thought he was about to pick up where he had left off. His studies were hard. He put in long hours. He reflected on the dogmas being presented. But now something was different. He was pulled to think on the relatedness of dogmas and to a broader world of religious experience. He had seen so much that was so different in such a small place and in such a small amount of time. If God was so powerful and so immense, in such tiny dosages, what then is the realm of God’s unfathomable presence in such a massive universe? The eternalness of God was growing in the mind and heart of the preacher. Would there be time to even comprehend the magnitude of God’s willingness to touch lives as his own life was touched. The preacher had to study not only to know God but also to know himself in relationship to God.
Then a new reality set in. During the time he was gone to be at the church he had cut back on earning money. He had only saved enough money to pay for the semester of school he was now finishing. He knew he would have to take time off again to raise the money to pay for school. It was coming up to Christmas and the semester was almost over. He wondered if he could find work during the Christmas break to at least raise enough funds to make a down payment on his class work. Perhaps the treasurer would grant him leniency and he could pay as he went. That had been done once before. He was not looking forward to working again as it kept him away from his studies. He made numerous calls and many stops to enquire about a possible job but all the jobs had been taken.
Then he went back to visit a friend. They sat at the dinner table. The whole family was home. They chatted, told stories of the last year. The kids asked questions about life on the ranch. The preacher talked about his many firsts, driving tractor, riding range, giving birth to a calf, branding, building fences, and clearing manure piles. There was a lot of laughter. Then without a word the preacher’s friend stood up and walked to the cupboard. She took a letter from inside the cupboard and handed it to him. She said I’m sorry I almost forgot to give this to you. It is from the people you worked for on the ranch. The preacher opened the letter. Inside the letter was a check. It was for the amount of the next semester’s tuition. The preacher sat dumbfounded. Then he read the letter to his friends.
“Each Sunday from the pulpit when you were here, your Jasper stories sprinkled your sermons and caused us all to laugh even sometimes cry. We began to wonder what great event would happen this week and what God would teach you because of that calf. We came to believe that God had visited you and us through that calf. We watched you change. We heard you ask important questions. We knew that God had called you and we knew that our ministry had been affirmed. We also knew that you would understand. We took Jasper to auction. The money in the check is from the sale of Jasper. We believe the funds will cover you next tuition. God bless you and Merry Christmas.”
The family sat in quietness. The preacher began to tear up. He could only ponder the thought about how true it is that in giving one’s life another shall experience life.
It is not only ours to give, but it becomes ours to experience.