“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report.” –Hebrews 11:1-2 KJV
I often asked my grandmother—especially after a week of struggling to make ends meet, fighting systemic racism and other barriers—how she could show up to church each week and be so cheerful, giving her all. How could any of the adults lead such powerful worship services and facilitate such meaningful learning opportunities when we were all fighting some kind of battle? Her answer was always, “We walk by faith.”
I was raised by my grandmother, and as a socially awkward child who was uncomfortable around kids my own age, it was more natural for me to gravitate toward my grandmother’s friends—the elders of our church. They were always so kind and full of information that they shared with me excitedly.
At weekly Bible studies, conferences, workshops and revivals, I learned about church and learned about life. My grandmother was kind of a big deal in the National Baptist Congress—she was one of the charter members of our church, she built the church’s prayer room, she was director of Christian Education and held state and national leadership positions. I accompanied her to every event I could and because I was there, I always had a special task or role in the event because we both wanted to hone my leadership skills.
I spent a lot of time listening to the elders at these events and studying them. They spoke openly about their life struggles and they spoke freely about their love for God. They were also impressed with my ability to be deeply engaged in content that was for adults when there was adequate children’s programming available. I became a lover of wisdom because of all the stories and information they shared.
I saw the vantage point of faith from the platform where church services lasted for hours, people debated in Bible studies, and people dressed in their Sunday best for weeklong prayer gatherings.
Each person arrived in the fullness of who they were and made their contributions to our experience of church together divine. We weren’t our ages, or genders, how much money we made, or even the color of our skin—although we were all Black people.
We were divine creations of the Most High God, there to give of ourselves with the promise of receiving something so much greater.
The elders knew something that I would come to learn over time.
When we worship God in fullness and in truth, our faith is what carries us through every circumstance.
Ultimately, we know life is much bigger than our immediate circumstances.
I learned a lot about eternity from my grandmother and her friends, and it is by watching them that I was able to see glimpses of what it truly means to live life to the fullest.
Tomorrow is not promised to any of us, but by faith, we are able to enjoy God’s realm here and now.
Rev. Lawrence T. Richardson is a United Church of Christ pastor, digital evangelist, and transgender rights advocate. You can find him online at LTRichardson.com.
Instagram & Twitter: @Larry2_0