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Perspectives: Sacred Ground

By By Becky Memmelaar

My Daddy’s been quite ill. Recently, I flew to Illinois to just sit with him, to tend to him a bit. In case I haven’t mentioned it, I’ve always been a Daddy’s girl. I’m next to the youngest of seven children. I’ve always thought it wasn’t an illustrious position — you know not quite the youngest and a long way away from being the oldest. I wasn’t the smartest one, or the prettiest one, in actuality, just the most mischievous one. My Momma and Daddy had a deal when it came to raising children. She took care of the baby and he took care of the toddler. Since I was the last toddler, I got a few extra years of Daddy’s time and attention.

Some girls follow their mommas, and I did learn some important things from her, like how to cook. (Lately, I’ve learned a lot about strength and faith from her). However as a child, I followed my Daddy around. I sat near him while he was working on cars and handed him the tools that he needed. He took me on pastoral calls with him, probably to get that mischievous little girl out of her Momma’s hair for a minute. I remember locking up the church with him at night; it was a big, creaky church. I always felt so safe while my Daddy was there. I knew he would always protect me from all that went “bump in the night.”

It’s funny what strikes you when you sit in hospital rooms, the things of faith that come to your mind. As I was sitting there holding my Daddy’s hand, I began to think about God and Moses. You know, the story of the burning bush where God says: “you are standing on holy ground.” Some people find sitting in the hospital boring. They worry about saying the wrong thing, (which admittedly I do regularly). Yet at that particular moment, I couldn’t think of any place where I’d rather be. I loved sitting beside my Daddy’s bed and hearing his reassuring snore — the same snore that I used to find so maddening. I loved holding Daddy’s hand and praying with him. I sat and studied for my sermons. When I found something interesting I’d read it to him. Our roles reversed, hopefully for a short time, but you even when Daddy was physically quite ill he continued to teach me about God. It was a tender time. My burning bush moment came when I was realized I was not standing, but sitting on sacred ground. I realized that the most sacred, holy work that I could do for God that day was to sit beside my sweet Daddy and protect him from the things that went “bump in the night.”

I think sometimes we want burning bush moments, or a signpost that says: “Slow down sacred work ahead.” Or we think that sacred, holy work has to do with feeding 5000, great reforms, or evangelism. Of course those things are important and sacred work too, but sometimes doing the little things, just being there for people, tending to them is the most sacred work we’ll do on any given day. Perhaps loving people is the most sacred work we’re ever called to do.

Becky is pastor of First Friends Whittier, California. Her dad passed away last year and was well known and loved among FUM Friends