It was December of 1998. Josh had just proposed. We were planning on getting married the following October. Sean Currier, the Youth Pastor at Knoxville First Church of God asked us if we would be interested in working with youth. And so it began.
A Couple of months later we packed up to go to the State Youth Convention in Gatlinburg, TN as youth counselors. Of course Josh had been on many youth convention trips as a youth himself, but this was my first experience. I was still pretty new to the Christian world at the time, so I felt a little out of place being "in charge" of these Christian teenagers.
I remember coming back one night after the evening service. When I got to my hotel room, I reached into my pocket for my room key but soon discovered it wasn't there. I suddenly remembered that I had left it in the room on the dresser. Before I could even think about it, a four letter word came out of my mouth that started with S and ended with T. The second I realized what I said, one of the youth girls who was standing next to me started giggling. She then went running off to the room next door where some of our youth had gathered along with the Youth Pastor. She announced to all that Courtney had just cussed. What a great counselor I had turned out to be. I was totally mortified. Sean just said "Oh, is Courtney speaking in tongues again?"
Fast forward about six years. Sean had left Knoxville First Church and Josh had become the Youth director there. I was pregnant with Jackson and the church decided to pay my way to go to a "Pastors' Wives Retreat" in Pigeon Forge. It was to be led by Debbie Dreger, the wife of the State Coordinator for the Church of God. There were seven of us staying in a cozy little cabin having a wonderful girly time of fellowship. I learned a great deal from each of the wonderful women that were there.
One evening we curled up with our warm coffee and sat around the fire just sharing with each other. I felt pretty comfortable with these women, so I thought that maybe I should share the story (the one I just told you above) about my horrible start in the ministry. However, when I told the story, I didn't sensor it at all. There I was in a room with six other pastors' wives and I had done it again. Three of those ladies were wives of men who would be on the board that interviewed my husband for his ministerial license just this year (Great!) Why couldn't I have just spelled out the word or something?!!
I have thought about the evening at the cabin since then (and I usually get a sick feeling in my stomach). I often wonder, did it just slip? Or was there something more to what happened that night? Was there something within me that just wanted to know, will these ladies still love me if I screw up....if I'm not the perfect pastor's wife? I think I was testing them. (They passed, in case you were wondering).
I think that all too often we do the same thing with God. We wonder if he will still love us if we do this thing...this thing we know we shouldn't do? Foolishly, we test him like a two year old tests the limits of his or her parents. And just like a two year old is sure to anger their parents during this process, I am sure that there are many times that we anger God.
Leah is two right now and so, of course, I can relate to the "testing your limits" thing. I can get pretty frustrated with her these days, but, even so, at the end of the day, I still love her more than life itself.
The hope is this: If you're wondering if God still loves you anyway, the answer is a resounding, YES! Sure there is no doubt we frustrate him with our self destructive tendencies, but the fact of the matter is that when we humble ourselves and return to him, sorry for what we have done, he opens his arms wide and he still loves us.
In the story of the prodigal son, a young son takes his inheritance and "squanders his wealth in wild living." His foolishness lands him in a field, dirty and feeding with the pigs. When he decides it best to return home and ask his father for a job, this is what happened...
He got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. But the father said to his servants, Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Lets have a feast and celebrate. -Luke 15:20-24
The son's older brother grew angry because he had been faithful to the father, and yet, it was his foolish brother who was being honored. The father said to the older brother...
We had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. -Luke 15:31-32
Thank God, He loves us still.