“When I stand before God
at the end of my life, I would
hope that I would not have
a single bit of talent left,
and could say, 'I used
everything you gave me’."
I was left sitting in shock after the phone call, wondering what it would have been like if I could have visited her just one more time. I spent days reminiscing about the way she asked questions to help equip me for the current task. Questions that would inevitably prompt me to study, learn and grow - but, also questions to help me delve into the purpose that God had designed for me, and she gave me the confidence to believe that I was capable of living it out. I should have been breathing in the goodness of the wisdom I had received from her as well as breathing out a whisper of thankfulness for the God-given gifts she used to pour into hurting people. But, oh how painful this loss turned out to be.
Even in the confusion, after hearing of my mentor’s passing, I can take stock of what I know. And I know this…God is good and His mercies never fail. His timing is planned and His ways are always perfect. He has an ordered purpose in our lives and has given gifts to show His glory on this earth. He is always good.
Years ago, I entering into Saddleback Church’s Lay Counseling program as the first part of my journey into learning how to love people abundantly and be instructed in the ways of walking alongside others in their pain. I attended this class for the ten month session, soaking in the lessons, peeling away the layers of my own “personality onion” and wondering if I really had what it took to be a Lay Counselor. When the class is complete, you are tested, interviewed, mentally assessed, approved and then literally thrown to the wolves! I wonder if my first counselee was as nervous as I was when we locked eyes and I awkwardly entered into the room that held my first official lay counseling session?
As a new counselor, you would take on a caseload of approximately two to three clients per week. Every week that you counseled, you were required to debrief all of your cases with a group of counselors, guided by a team of supervisors. The group I was placed in was made up of some beautiful people, it was timely and it was nothing less than magical.
You know those groups that just randomly come about, meeting your every need, supplying your very hungry and thirsty body and soul with exactly what you require in that season? These types of groups are those that would be almost impossible to duplicate and you wouldn’t even want to try. They are special. The people are memorable. You get filled up to the brim and your only option is to pour out that sweetness onto others.
Our supervision group was just that. It was lead by Rod and Pat. Two amazing humans that had been in the counseling program for years and were deemed responsible by our counseling pastor, Dr. Bob Baker, to hold that supervisory position within our church. Our group was made special by Rod, the “dad” figure who never ceased to point out truths while you were sharing (anonymously) about your counselee’s current trauma or life decision. He would often be heard saying, “Ha. There’s more to THAT story!” A comment that was a welcome relief when you believed that the facts of your counselee’s story just didn’t quite match up.
Then, there was Pat. A sweet “mom” type figure to us all. A woman who had a deep well of love for her counselors and a woman who had been consistently filling her life with Biblical knowledge and had no problem coming out in firm statements regarding a couselee’s troubles saying something like, “That’s just NOT God’s best for them!” She would speak in sort of a curt manner initially, sounding as though she was mystified that anyone would ever cross God or His Word in their lifetime, but would always follow with a patient tone, indicating she loved the process of bringing someone to the light of His truth.
She knew God’s truth because she meditated on it every day. She was a giant in the world of lay counseling and she was my unsung hero. She and I would sometimes sit after our group session and chat about the work that God was doing in every counselee’s life. She grounded me in scripture, yes, but also pointed me toward common sense lessons and reminded me to look for the consequences of sin in my counselees’ lives. She had a keen ability to identify the “fruit” in someone’s life as they began to heal and would be able to firmly determine if they were allowing God’s sanctifying work to bring about the necessary change.
Pat knew when people were strong, so she would push them harder. She knew when people were weak and offered a loving response. She knew when people were acting out of disobedience and walked them right to the foot of the cross to guide them towards repentance and she knew when people were healing and celebrated with them in their new patterns of life. I watched and listened and soaked in every bit of her wisdom. But, it wasn’t enough. It never feels like enough. I miss her so much, but was able to look back at my texts to a surprising note she sent on a day when I needed it.
“Hi Linda, I just found out you are speaking at Crossline Church tonight. I want you and Brian to know that I still pray for you every Wednesday. I have prayed for your Ministry way back since you told me your heart was to have a marriage ministry. I will be covering you in prayer, Pat.“
My supervision group was on Wednesday nights, so this text brought tears to my eyes as I thought about being the recipient of six years of her prayers that I wasn’t even aware of. We left Saddleback Church and the Lay Counseling Ministry six years ago to pursue a smaller church and eventually grow a Marriage Ministry of our own. At her funeral, Pat’s family spoke of a spreadsheet she had created that was a list all of the prayer requests that had been placed in her care. We had been bathed in her prayers and so were many, many others. She interceded for us every Wednesday without us knowing. She was silently obedient to God's calling in prayer, how beautiful is that? She didn't require any fanfare that would lead to an award here on earth, she just followed God's calling by using her gift. I want to be like Pat when I grow up.
I am encouraged as I move forward from my grief into a new understanding of how powerful prayer is. She prayed and we enjoyed the fruits of her labor. We have been protected in our ministry as we care for marriages and I feel as though this has been in direct relation to her intercession. The marriages that we have mentored since leaving the lay counseling ministry have not only been covered by us in prayer, but covered by Pat in prayer as well. I wonder if that is why we have been fortunate enough to see so many relational miracles and healing under the banner of God’s love?
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards
of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the
very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that i
n all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for
ever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4:10-11
God gave Pat the gift to serve counselees, bringing them into a new understanding of how to invite “God’s best” into their lives. He also gave her the gift to serve all of us counselors, never shying away from speaking truth and life over us, equipping and encouraging us as we guided others in the way of Godly obedience.
So, thank you Pat, for using all the gifts God gave you - and using them up to the very end for His Glory. You are now in “God’s best” for your life. You have been etched in my heart and I hope that your legacy of caring for others in prayer will live on in me.
Grace and Peace,
The Ups and Downs of Life...