31 Days: Brian Hughes

I’m running out of #31days days; it’s close to the end. There are a couple of door-holder posts that I’ve known I had to write ever since I began this project.

In a perfect segue to the last few pieces about influential pastors and godly men, I’ll offer up a few words about a unique individual; one I thank God for, because without his influence, inspiration and guidance, I’m not really which direction the middle season of my would have gone.

Not that it would have been awful; I trust God too much for that. But when I look around at everything in my comings and goings, and most importantly at the path that opened up to me in ministry, there is one person who has held more personal and professional doors than anybody else in my life.

We fight, a lot. We fuss at each other. He makes me cry, sometimes – and he says he enjoys it, but secretly I know it breaks his heart. He can’t stand it if I’m mad at him, although sometimes he gets so mad at me that his blood pressure rises and his face gets all puffy.

He’s the first person who ever heard my whole story – the entire, sordid, lousy truth from beginning to end – and, continuing the thread of grace first extended by Pastor Jamie Rasmussen – said, God can use that.

He’s the first person who witnessed my jacked-up, emotionally charged outbursts and had the guts to say, You’re not being rational. 

Which we still joke about today; I get to say it to him, sometimes. Thank God for paybacks.

(insert wink face emoji)

He took a risk when he invited me to be part of what God was doing in the mission at PCC. He knew my scars and the ugly part of all that I’d done, and yet he invited me – me! – to be part of his church staff. I’ve never gotten over it – to this day, I remember him looking me in the eye over cheese sticks at Rosa’s in Powhatan, saying, You’re the kind of person Jesus died for. You’e the kind of person we’re trying to reach. Come work alongside me.

I know now that he practiced on me what he does when he feels God nudging him to make “A Big Ask”; he waited for the right time, and he leaned in and cast vision and tossed in the God card about ‘making a difference for eternity’ and he asked me to work for him and I took the bait and off we went. I know how it works and yet never once have I felt manipulated or coerced or cornered.

It was the most potent decision I ever made.

He took a risk, and he told me once, You’re more than just a piano player, you know…

And with every passing year I explored more and more of my gifts and there were times he didn’t know what to do with me. I’d fall apart and he’d patiently – though not without some measure of frustration – wait for me to pull myself together, give me a pep talk and remind me that what we do matters.

He has been my counselor, my coach and my confidant. I’ve trusted him with things I couldn’t say out loud in other settings. He has encouraged me to believe more about myself than I ever imagined.

He’s my boss, but he calls me ‘boss’. He knows what makes me tick because I’m so much like him that it’s ridiculous.

He’s taught me that a good friendship with a decent man can be life-giving; along with his wife and my husband, we’ve made some great memories celebrating and traveling and raising our families.

A decade into this work partnership, I look at Brian Hughes and know that my life bears the imprint of God’s call because Brian was willing to see more in me than I saw in myself. It was a risk that could have backfired; it certainly has come with no small amount of stress and strain. But this pastor took the time to see what could be in the mess of a broken, single mom – and he put his money on grace. Brian held the door open – but he did more than that.

He walked through it with me.

And time and time again, with every new venture that arises out of the mission of PCC, we link arms and walk – or run madly – through door after door, often times unable to see beyond the threshold; but willing to walk all the same, trusting in the One who called us.

Brian was the friend and counselor who sat with me as I processed the divorce from my kids’ dad. He watched me come undone and begin the long process of becoming real again. He spoke into my healing with powerful, grace filled words of truth.

When I began to talk about the man who is now my husband, he listened carefully and pushed me to consider the heart of the matter; the role of grace and love and restoration. And on the day I married again, Brian stood in a place that not many would have been willing to stand; he put himself between us and helped put words to the new covenant that called Tony and I to join our lives together. He was willing to stand for us, and with us – and all of the kids as well.

And he cried more than either of us did on that day.

There’s something about a man who will not only hold open doors, but walk into the mystery with you as a friend and co-laborer; something that is rare indeed. I’m grateful for his presence in my life – past, present, and whatever is to come.

In the future, we’ll continue to hold doors – for the folks who need it most. Including each other.

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