Hope (A Candle in the Wind)
Between 1989 and 1992 my family lived in Manchester, Georgia. Zec was seven and Lydia was three. Melissa and I were…younger. We had heard God’s call to ministry and left our world behind to follow Jesus. I served the St. James and Chalybeate Springs United Methodist churches as pastor. These were hard times. We had no children in our congregation but our own and in three years we celebrated no births and mourned thirty deaths. We received two new members in 1990 and they quit. We had another new family come with lots of energy in 1991. They quit too. It was depressing. I served as the Youth Director for First United Methodist Church Manchester on Sunday evenings to help make ends meet. I took a full seminary load at Emory University in Atlanta for three years and navigated a three-hour round trip to get to and from school. I coached Zec’s Dixie League Baseball team and played competitive softball throughout Georgia with Charlie Will Rowe and the Senoia Express.
When exhaustion settled into my bones after a couple of years, I began to wonder if it was worth it on one hand and if I was going to make it on the other. We were living off of student loans and it cost more to attend Emory each year than I made from the churches. Once a month on payday we went to Pizza Hut with the kids and ordered a large cheese pizza, a pitcher of water and played three songs on the juke box. It was as good as it got. My last year I became ill with a series of kidney stones, and as we neared the home stretch, we were running on faith, painkillers and fumes. Many nights I would not get home from school until 11:00 and I could not remember making the drive, but when I turned the final corner into the Manchester mill village that led to the parsonage at 16 Johnson Avenue, Melissa always had a burning candle in the window of our home. It reminded me that I was supported, loved and this weary season would not last forever. I couldn’t wait to see that candle. Some nights I would pull into the driveway and watch that flame dance in the warm Georgia breezes and tears would come to my eyes. There was hope, God was in control and I was loved. God had a plan for my life and I was reminded of this as the tiny flame danced when there was no dancing left in me.
Hope is a powerful thing and sometimes just a flicker is all you need.
-Rev. Shane L. Bishop is the Sr. Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois.