Steve's on

My First Time

Zach Van Dyke January 11 2010

When it comes to writing, I often procrastinate until the last possible moment. Whenever I get an email from Cathy reminding me that my next article for is due, I usually decide it’s time to rearrange the books in my office, cut my toenails, and catch up on my television watching…there always seems to be an episode of Law and Order: SVU on some channel that cannot be missed.

This time when I received the email, I decided I had been negligent about my Facebook correspondence and needed to spend some time “catching up.” While feverishly “liking” people’s statuses, I came across a status my wife had posted on December 26, 2009 at 11:47pm.

Kelly Van Dyke sitting in the front row of an empty sanctuary listening to Zach preach!!!

After spending a few moments thanking God for giving me a wife that would listen to me practice my first sermon into the wee hours of the night, a thought crossed my mind that could lengthen my procrastination.

I know Kelly journals. Maybe she would allow me to post her thoughts about that first sermon for this week’s article.

God loves me. Like many times before, Kelly shocked me by saying “yes.”

As I was listening to Zach practice his first sermon in an empty sanctuary at midnight, I was filled with pride. It wasn’t perfect. And despite working on it and practicing it all day, it was still fifty minutes long. (Zach told me the first time he practiced it, the sermon was an hour and forty minutes long). He still needed to cut twenty. It was late and this was crunch time. He preached his sermon again. We discussed, cut, re-worked and then he preached some more. Still fifty minutes.

I had to come to terms with the possibility of sleeping at the church and wearing my sweatpants and Uggs to the service.

Laying across the front row listening to Zach pray and plead for the Holy Spirit to come and speak to His people, my thoughts began to drift. It was late, nearing one in the morning, it was the day after Christmas and we have 3 young children, I was exhausted. I entered a kind of dream-like state. Not really sure how to describe it but I kind of journeyed through my past, our past.

As a child, I went through communicants class in this church. My dad had been a pastor here for 14 years. I met Zach here in fifth grade. This church, this body, had loved me and hurt me. They took part in shaping and shaking my view of God. They had ministered to me, walked by me, and deserted me. Many times I have had to forgive and others have unexplainably forgiven me. Chills began to fill my entire body and I was overwhelmed by the thought that I just need to rest in the arms of the One who is writing my story, Zach’s story, our story and the Church’s story.

We headed home a little after one, and we both got very little sleep. Zach was up with stomach cramps at four, throwing up at five, and left for the church around six. He left saying, “Never let me do this again! I know God gave me this message specifically for these people, but I don’t want to do it! Next time I am preaching on something that doesn’t expose me. Transparency sucks!” I rolled over and went back to sleep for another hour or so annoyed at my husband’s flair for the dramatic.

Around 7am, I was awakened by my own stomach cramps and an unbearable fear and panic set in. I had to stop Zach! I had to keep him from standing before these people! I had vivid visions of an angry mob. I had to protect him! Now this may sound ridiculous, but for me, in this moment, it was so real. Fear gripped me. I laid prostrate on my living room floor crying and asking God to take this burden, this responsibility, this calling away from us. I grew up as a pastor’s kid and had experienced so much pain from this very church. I have seen too much! It hurts.

I told God, “I don’t want this!”

He then gently reminded me of the prayers He had given me since Zach took the job as a youth pastor. “Lord, less of me. More of you. Use me, please. Use Zach. Let us see Your church and ourselves as You do – beautiful, spotless, forgiven. Give us adventures and let us always say ‘yes’ to the places you are leading.”

I knew I needed to say ‘yes’ despite the pain. ‘Yes’s’ are costly.

Eventually, I placed Zach, myself, my family, and God’s people into His hands…where I know they already were; yet I am so grateful he allowed me the chance to lay them down myself.

I went to the church, prayed with Zach, and then waited restlessly in the front row.

I was too nervous to visit with anyone, sometimes praying, sometimes wondering how Zach was feeling and wishing that I could be filled with peace and joy knowing that my husband was ministering God’s Word.

I began to wonder how all of the other pastors’ wives do this. They always sit poised and smiling. I’ve never seen a pastor’s wife that looked like me- red eyes, biting fingernails, bouncing her knees. Oh well. The moment was here.

As my husband stood up to preach his first sermon ever, I made eye contact with him and gave him the biggest smile I could muster. I prayed, “Ok God, do Your thing. I am ready for the ride. Come Holy Spirit, come.” And He did.

For the next thirty-seven minutes (far from one hour and forty – Praise Jesus!), I sat in awe of the real presence of the Holy Spirit and the impeccable way that He was speaking through the mouth of my husband. I had heard this sermon a few times, but this was different. God had a message for His people and He spoke it clearly, with smooth transitions, poignant illustrations, clutter free and straight to the heart.

After a breathtakingly beautiful sermon, Zach closed, “So glad it’s all about grace. Amen.” I burst into tears.

Zach had said “yes.” And God showed up for him…and me…and our church body. What an unbelievably unique blessing to hear the voice of my Heavenly Father, through my terrified, diarrhea ridden, sinful, and willing husband.

12 Responses to “My First Time”

  1. (with tears still welling).. Lovely, precious, bound married-love for your husband.. and for our lord .. xoxo Kelly, dearheart.

  2. Beautiful Kelly! I was crying and then laughing at the last sentence. I remember the drama of Zach when he would get an upset stomach when he was little. Micki said it would be a big production before he “threw up”, lol, poor thing I can’t imagine the “feelings” before your first sermon. Thanks for sharing! I will be praying for y’all along this journey, it is not easy, but wow, God is going to affect so many people through the two of you, stay strong. I still remember when Benny was a youth minister and we went through so much hell from the congregation. The person who gave us the most grief and whose “complaints” finally drove us away from the ministry was the organist. And not long after we left, we had heard he had left his wife and two sons for another man, another lifestyle…, you just don’t know the struggles everyone goes through and those are the people who will be the hardest on you, but LOVE them through it and don’t give in to the devils schemes because they will come at you from every direction. ;)

    I love you,
    Aunt Lindsay :)

  3. Kelly,
    Thanks for letting Zach share this…. loved it! And love you both!

  4. Bruce and Whitney says:

    We read and we laughed and we teared up…AND we thanked Jesus that the transparency of your journey, in love for Him and in love for each other, is something that we have the privilege of witnessing and gaining strength from. (and an occasional nervous stomach) Beautiful, filled with truth, love and you!

  5. sarah stoner says:

    what a wonderful, beautiful reading kelly. i am sorry we were not in town to hear zach’s sermon. we thank the Lord for your faithfulness, love and realness. we love you 2 or better said, you 5.

  6. Kelly, I, too, laughed out loud and cried as I read your personal thoughts. I once believed that going through life without the bumps was a blessing. I was wrong. God has showed me that it is the tough times that draw us to the cross where we experience His love and forgiveness. Chuck Green once told me when you go through those times think about your blessings. You are one of my blessings and I am so thankful for you. I am encouraged by you and Zach and your faith in God. I love you.

  7. Zach and Kelly,
    I love hearing your thoughts and experiences.
    You words bless me and lots of others.
    May peace and joy be yours today!

  8. Zach and Kelly, I am amazed at how God is using you! I love reading your words, and I am always brought to tears.We love you and are praying for you! Donna

  9. Cathy Maner says:

    I love the honesty and realness of these articles. Thank you for reminding us that it’s all about Grace and that God does show up. You are a beautiful family, too.

  10. so beautiful. so proud of you. so thankful you have envious of your spiritual relationship. you are such a blessing. so……

  11. Matthew Downs says:

    What a powerful account of God using his servant through the eyes of one who loves him so dearly!!!

    This is amazing, thank you for sharing Kelly. Thank you Zach for answering the call….

    love you both…

  12. [...] has given me an amazing wife. Want proof? Go back and read my blog about my first sermon in which I share my wife’s journal from that Sunday. It doesn’t make sense to me that I have a [...]

Leave a Reply