She is as beautiful a saint as we have ever met.  Of Chinese descent, she has reached out to international students at the University of Washington for years. She has lived and taught in China. 

When she asked about whether it was legitimate to take time off to look for a new place to live without charging it to her vacation time, it triggered a whole set of experiences in our past.  The following is the backdrop for my counsel to this saint. 

In 1968, at the age of 22, I was pastoring a small group of Russian Christians in Max, North Dakota (population 834; speed limit of 65 miles per hour on the bypass around town). We had the normal services—Sunday school, morning service, evening service, and Wednesday night prayer meeting. 

It was a farming community—wheat dairy and cattle. Getting back to church for a Sunday evening service was not a priority.  Our normal Sunday evening congregation sometimes plunged as low as five.  

But I was too intimidated to break with church tradition and say, “This is not working. People are voting with their feet. I can’t do a really good job on two messages each Sunday.  I propose canceling the evening service.”  I did not want to look unspiritual.  I had struggled with what I thought others would think: “Cancel the evening service” I imagined some saying. “Our kid pastor is so unspiritual!” 

Looking back, I now believe most would have been relieved.  But we limped on. 

Fast forward to 1982 when I was 36 years old.  We had served at Macomb Baptist Church for six years at that point and we very much wanted to get into a home we would own.  With the church’s blessing, Marilyn and I had hired home movers to pick up the church parsonage and move it five miles north to a lot we had bought. 

In the course of making that home livable, I was investing five or six hours a day working on it.  Most in the congregation were supportive, but one man was critical and felt I was slighting the church.  He was basically a good man. He had served well. He had been chairman of the deacons for all six of my years there; his wife led all the banquets and VBS and sang most of the solos. A powerful couple.  But by this point—six years into the 12.5 years we were there—he had turned against me.  He did not appear to want me to have what he already owned (a home).  

While I felt guilty about what I was doing, I should not have. But I was too intimidated and too insecure to rise up and say to that one deacon: 

           “You were not critical when I poured myself into the church 60
  or 70 hours a week for the last six years, so why be critical now
that the imbalance is in my favor of six months? You were not
          grateful for my diligence then and you should not complain about
my focus now.”  

Likewise on the phone last night (January 27, 2024), I almost shouted to this Chinese Christian, “No, you do not charge your house-hunting time against your vacation. You’ve poured yourself into international students for years . . . seven days a week, 15 hours a day to the point of feeling you do not have a life other than that . . . and you’ve financed much of it out of your own pocket, so no, do not view house-hunting time as vacation time.  “Don’t be intimidated by what you think others may think.”   

My favorite anti-intimidation story comes from a camp experience I had in about 1972.  A singing group of college students came to the camp. After two or three songs they introduced themselves to us. “I’m Sandra from Scranton and God has shown me I am to major in English.”  The second person—let’s call him Bill—said, “I am Bill Brown from Bangor and God has told me to join the army.”  With equal certainty the next young person said, “I’m Lee McCleary of Midland and God has shown me I am to marry Stephanie who lives in my home town.”    

Each of the seven in the musical group shared, confident that they had sensed God’s will for their lives. Good.  Wonderful.  But I wanted to hug the young woman on the end of the line.  This is what she said, “I am Alice Alworth from Abilene and I do not know what God wants me to do, but He is able to show me when He is ready.” 

She would not be intimidated by what others claimed to know. She was not going to pretend God was in her hip pocket. She was not afraid to appear to be less in touch with God; not afraid to look sufficiently unspiritual as to not know God’s will.  Go thou and do likewise (Luke 10:37).