by Tim Patterson
PLYMOUTH, MI – Here in Michigan the shift in temperatures has begun, and the fall toward the frigid climes that will embrace us for too many months has started in earnest. Whether we are ready or not, this inevitable change in our weather is upon us. Most of us “sun loving “people are not particularly prepared for the climatic shifts on the horizon. Yet, the changes will come, prepared or not.
The truth is that I love the winter months as much as basking in those warm and sunny ones. It really is a matter of choice. Embrace that which is inevitable and part of God’s grand scheme, and your attitude toward your station or place in life will improve remarkably. One sage said, “your attitude directly affects your altitude.” Whether you soar or are sore, depends on this.
Accompanying these coming autumnal days are other changes that can be very difficult to embrace. This is the time of returning or beginning the educational process for millions of American children and their families.
I know parents who will rejoice and throw a party as soon as their kids are out the door. Not all have that perspective. Some parents are sending their little ones off for the very first time. Those in this category can have the most difficult and emotionally traumatic experience. Especially those mothers who are sending their “babies” to school and this is their initial experience with releasing their children to the care of a stranger. It is also a severe shock to their psyche as this event signals a rite of passage from being a baby in their arms to “growing up” way too fast. In many ways it is a time of intense grief and profound loss.
When I was pastoring in Florida and in my inaugural year in a small rural community, I was made aware of this difficult rite of passage when the first day of school commenced. For no reason that I could understand, mothers from our church and the community who had just left their children at a school for the very first time started gathering on our church campus. They would huddle together as they cried and hugged one another. Honestly, I had no idea what was going on or how to handle the situation. I thought someone had died. The sobs and tears were so intense. Finally, after conversing with older mothers of my congregation I began to understand the matter. They were grieving the loss of innocence within their babies and the change in their own lives.
From that day forward my staff and I prepared for the first day of school each year. We set up our fellowship hall and publicized that we were the gathering place of mothers who were experiencing the loss and heartbreak this season in life delivers. It became common knowledge in our community that our church was the “Wailing Wall” for first time school moms.
We provided coffee, drinks, pastries and as much comfort and understanding we could supply.
Out of this simple act of kindness and concern for our community, many became part of our church family, and many relationships were built.
As a result of these open doors, many of those who did not identify with our church, came to a saving faith in Jesus in the months and years to come. The seed of compassion and understanding that were planted that one day a year, grew to produce the fruits of His Grace and Righteousness.
I would like to encourage all our churches and their leaders to be always sensitive to the needs of your community and especially during the days of this season. It is the small things and acts of kindness that can open the door for Gospel conversations and the building of life changing relationships.
Every church needs a “Wailing Wall.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Tim Patterson is Executive Director/Treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan. Elected unanimously in May of 2015, Patterson formerly served for 9 years as pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fla. He also served as trustee chair and national mobilizer for the North American Mission Board.