My Three-Year-Old Minister
As a minister – a single minister at that – in a small town, it can be hard to find your minister. Tasked with the job of ministering to others, I have often missed the experience of having someone minister to me.
My denomination puts forth a good effort to do that through routine regional efforts, but more often than not, I haven’t come away from those meetings and retreats feeling recharged. Maybe it’s the setting, maybe it’s that I think too fast to focus that long, maybe it’s that the topic of the moment doesn’t seem to line up with what I need at that time (although, the retreat we had on prayer was revolutionary for me). I think that at least part of it is that I am an intellectual and I am recharged by academic discussions – challenge me and make me dive deeper into scripture, and I’m a happy girl. I’m in the minority of that, and a lot of the meetings/messages aren’t like that, and tend to rely on emotional pushes.
At any rate, it had been a while since I walked away from one of those meetings feeling like I had been refreshed.
While those of us who are full-time ministers may be the shepherd of the congregation, it isn’t uncommon to find someone who ministers to the minister. An elder, a deacon, someone who seems to have the right heart, attitude, words, and actions to breathe life into the shepherd. I didn’t have that in my congregation until about eight weeks ago, when I met my minister as she climbed into the carseat in my van when I was picking her family up for church for the first time.
Aaliyah is the daughter of a Christmas employee. Her father, Keith, is one of the most positive, thankful, and hard-working people I have met, despite having faced some really big challenges. He lives to do right by his family, which includes a wife and three daughters. Aaliyah is the youngest. She is polite, quiet, and doesn’t go anywhere without a backpack full of small toys.
This past Sunday, we sang a song we have been learning, and to hear her sing “Just Give Me Jesus” almost made me cry. She didn’t know every line of the song, since it’s rather long, but she knew the chorus: “Just give me Jesus and I’ll be alright. I know I can make it walking beside. I know tomorrow is safe in His hands. Just give me give Jesus; I know I can stand.” A tiny voice, from a little girl who has no idea how big and bad this world can be, but growing faith.
When it was time to pray, I asked for prayer requests and praises, and when none were mentioned, I started to pray. After a few words, I heard her voice again. By the second sentence, I remembered: her father is teaching her to pray at night by repeating after him. She didn’t know that she “wasn’t supposed to” repeat my words in church, so she did like she is being taught. I slowed down and made my words simpler, and together, Aaliyah and I prayed for everyone’s health, safety, and joy.
It’s hard to pinpoint why her singing and praying overwhelms me in such a powerful way. I think it might be because in her, I see light. When she gets in my van and says “good morning,” she just cannot help but radiate goodness. She has no idea that she is doing it, but she’s ministering to me. I am beyond sad that she won’t remember me in the coming years, given the fact that I’m moving ro Minnesota in a month. For now, though, I will enjoy what time I have with my little minister and hope that she grows up with a faith that’s strong and a joy that she can’t hold down.