Ironically, I’m writing today from Northeast Ohio – and the experience I’ll relate began and ended here in this community.
I met Jamie Rasmussen for the first time at Punderson State Park, at a luncheon designed to introduce him as a our future pastor. At the time, I was a staff wife; we were invited to tag along to meet this candidate.
The candidate became the new pastor, and Jamie and his family moved to the community and began to transition a church into the digital, contemporary age. Under his leadership, I transitioned as well; I moved from a full-time stay-at-home mom to a part-time worship leader. It was a season in which all of my gifts came together, and I got to be part of the incredible growth, energy and excitement that can happen when a healthy church gets a boost from a sharp, charismatic, focused leader ready to follow God.
But hard times, too, for me. For reasons I’ve explored before on this blog, there was a darkness in my soul, difficulties in a marriage based on shifting sands and fallow fields, and a lack of wisdom to find help or healing.
Everything blew up.
/ / / /
I remember sitting in Jamie’s office, exploring the idea that God has a perfect plan for everyone in life. I’d been taught – or caught – that teaching in years past, and it solidified in my soul. Except at that point in my life, it had fossilized; calcified into a paralyzing crisis of faith. Things weren’t going according to God’s perfect plan, and I had no earthly idea what to do with that. Rolled up into my issues of perfectionism and a tendency to put on a happy face and lie to save my skin, I was mired in the quicksand of a faith that simply didn’t work – and a complete inability to discern what to do next.
Jamie patiently and carefully showed me the error of my interpretation, and he helped cracked open the door for a necessary deconstruction of my faith. Unfortunately, parts of what I was learning were too little, too late; did I mention that everything blew up?
It did. I made some terrible decisions.
But Jamie taught me well; it was under his instruction that I began to understand that life-changing power of Romans 8.28:
Or, as it reads so beautifully in The Voice translation:
Oh, how I needed this to be true. Thanks be to God and His people, I discovered the depth and breadth of this beautiful mercy.
Jamie Rasmussen didn’t just teach this; he lived it, and he help his church to live it, as well. In the midst of a mess, in the barrage of baggage, in the stink of sin, there was still grace.
Everyone who shouted, You should have known better! was right; I should have.
But oh, the things we end up doing that we know we shouldn’t; these things still happen, every day, don’t they? To you, and to me. And so what are we left to do?
Unclench our fists. Humbly admit our faults. Walk in the way of truth. Offer mercy; welcome kindness. And let yourself be changed.
I learned this from a pastor who truly carved out a way that was right, who went before me and all the people and said, Here is where we can extend grace.
I am eternally grateful and forever changed for the man who will always be my pastor, Jamie Rasmussen – who held the door for far longer than he should have, who propped it open and promised me that God wold lead me through in good time.
Which he did.
I’m so grateful.
A few years ago, I wrote in more detail about Jamie and Fellowship Bible Church in this post. It’s one of my favorite things I’ve ever written; I still cry every time I re-read it.
I’m crying now…gratefully.