A child grows into a pastor

Recently Cindy de Jong, our daughter, was ordained as a minister of the Gospel.
It impelled me to write the following.

Dear Cindy,

I think you began this journey early in life.
Even as an infant, you seemed to know who you were.
When sisters and brother joined you, you organized and entertained their little lives with quiet confidence and goodwill.

As you grew, so did your gift.
You shared it as a counselor at Camp Tall Turf, learning and leading, walking closely with those with troubled lives.
You shared it in your classroom when you became a teacher.
You shared it as Chapel Coordinator with students and apprentices, still learning and leading, all the while moving closer to the spiritual nature of the human journey – God’s purpose and meaning for our lives.

Something more began to grow within you: the desire for a greater immersion in the Word.
God’s gift had flourished, and now grew into a calling.
It was like a trickle from a well of living water that turned into a stream.
It was like a faint whisper that slowly drew closer till it became a voice that settled in the soul.
You listened, and you embraced the one that was embracing you.

You studied Greek, Hebrew, Systematics, Apologetics.
The work was hard; the days too short.
We prayed for you.
You persevered, and learned, and grew.

And one summer you were back at Tall Turf, as chaplain now.
And it felt right.
You practice preached; and you were affirmed.
Graduation came; you walked across the platform for the degree in divinity.
Hearts flowed with gratitude.

When Synod came, I thought of the Synod years ago where I vainly pleaded for allowing women to preach.
I did not know then that I was pleading for my daughter too.
But now Synod welcomed and embraced you.
My tears were not the same as at the Synod of my memory.

Then the waiting and the wondering began.
Would the inner call connect to an outer one?
Weeks passed, then months.  
More prayers, and pleas.
And doubts, but not despair.
You made sermons, you preached, and you were praised.

When your own church needed you, you were ready.
You had a heart for pastoral care; you exercised your gifts; and you were loved.
Great was our gratitude.

Meanwhile, some sporadic signals grew into one steady sound, the outer call:
the call to Lakeside Church.
You sustained the classical exam.
Their warm acceptance confirmed to you the rightness of your path.

At Neland CRC your pastoral ministry ended with pastors and elders encircling you,
laying their hands on you, and sending you out with their love and blessings.
In that circle, your father’s soul filled with the Spirit’s joy.

Then came your ordination service at Lakeside Church.
Holy excitement filled the church.
It was a spirit of celebration, a celebration of the “Light that Goes Before Us,” the theme you chose for this service.
A celebration of your spiritual trajectory that led at last to these people longing for a pastor.

There was much in that service that moved us profoundly.  
Yes, the singing, voices swelling on “Love divine, all loves excelling, Joy of heaven, to earth come down.”
Yes, the ringing affirmation of your calling in Dale Cooper’s memorable message “Sent to Bear Witness to the Light.”
Yes, hearing the congregation promise to “welcome Cindy as their minister and pastor, to take to heart the Word of God as she proclaims it, to promise to pray for her . . . to encourage her, and to respond to her work with obedience, love and respect.”

But especially your face as you took your place before us.  
Your face spoke the feelings that words cannot express: your whole being’s participation in the weight and the glory of the moment – sometimes stirred by emotions arising from deep within, sometimes radiating a heavenly joy.

When we stood at the end, joining hands, and sang “My friends, may you grow in grace . . . to God be the glory, now and forever, . . . I choked on the words sometimes, overcome by God’s glorious presence among us.

And I fought tears again when you spoke at the end, thanking God and others who had blessed and shaped you in what “I am becoming.”
By God’s grace, you are becoming what you began when you were but a little child.

Watching that little-child-become-pastor for the first time raise her hands over the congregation in the closing benediction was a blessing my heart could hardly contain.

May your gifts bless Lakeside, dear Cindy, as you continue to learn and to lead! 

Much love,
Dad
 

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