I consider myself to be very average. I grew up in a middle class, suburban household, received average grades in school, went to Sunday school and attended mass each week. We never got involved with the functions of the parish and after confirmation, I became a Christmas/Easter attendee. Over time I moved to Pennsylvania, got married and started a family. I felt it was time to find a local church and have my children baptized, because that is what the average person did. Living in Sharon, I found St. John’s to be a good fit and soon named it as my church.
When the baptism date was set, I informed my family who were going to be coming up for the occasion (because that is what you are supposed to do). I also told my, then, in-laws, about the date thinking they too would want to be present. I was surprised when my ex-father-in-law replied, “Why even bother, you won’t go back to church again after you do it.” To me that sounded like a challenge and when someone tells me I can’t or won’t, I have to prove that I can and will. This man was not on my Top Ten list of favorite people, and I would be darned if I were to prove him right. God, who knit me together in my mother’s womb, knew this. I have met and read of people who have a sudden transformation, a “road to Damascus” moment, that changed their life. Not so with me, this is the day my life began to slowly change.
Please don’t get the impression this is about an ordinary person doing extraordinary things. My guess is I will never do anything extraordinary. While I wasn’t looking and didn’t notice, God was drawing me nearer to Him. I don’t think He wants me to do something big and dramatic, just love Him and love others a little more each day. Many times I fail but when I tell Him I am sorry, I can almost see Him grin and say, “It’s okay, keep trying.”
What is extraordinary in my life is that God knew me so well before I met Him. He knew that no sermon, or pastor or priest could move me to action quicker than a naysayer. He knows I have an extra layer of peskiness that I struggle to keep in check. He knows I am just an average person.
I few months ago I was volunteering at St. John’s Episcopal Community Services. Twenty or so volunteers help with the food pantry, clothes closet, blood screenings, etc., twice a month. Many of the volunteers are not from the parish but all are united in their commitment to help those less fortunate. Before the doors are opened for the clients, everyone gathers in a circle and a prayer is said. As I stood in the circle that day I noticed one hand was holding the hand of a person in a same gender marriage and the other the hand of a person who had been incarcerated. He was holding the hand of an elderly white woman who was holding the hand of a large man of color. Just average people, in all their beautiful diversity, drawn closer to God by serving others.
I am so grateful to be average, the company is extraordinary.
Barb Lipinski is a member of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Sharon, PA.