Following those thoughts of my relatively young age, an even heavier burden started to weigh on my mind: "I'm no Bible scholar either. I don't know who begot who, or the dates to the prophecies. I'm terrified of reading in public, let alone praying up the front of church during a Communion service. Surely I'm not qualified enough to take this honoured role."
However, among this barrage of thoughts, leading me to a potential "you have to be kidding" response, came a realisation of the opportunity to contribute positively to my church as an elder and serve God in this way. I did feel I had a love for the people of my church and an eagerness to participate.
Within seconds of hearing the request, all this had raced through my mind. Fortunately my pastor spoke before I could give any sort of response, and suggested I spend some time in prayer about my decision. I agreed this was a most appropriate course of action.
When I found a quiet moment, I prayed. I declared my thoughts of inadequacy for the position, but also my desire to be a servant for God and to follow His will.
Previously I had taken matters I considered "very important" in my life, and possibly to the Lord's service, to God for approval or guidance. Never being able to distinguish between the over-chatty voice of my mind and God's prompting voice, I used the method of flicking to a Bible verse at random to hear God's advice.
I don't do this often, but the few times I have done it, a truly miraculous answer usually comes to my attention.
I prayed sincerely that as I opened my Bible, I would turn immediately to a verse that would show me what His will was for me and whether I should become and elder or not. I also declared that if I didn't get an obvious directive to take up the position, I would decline due to my doubts concerning my capabilities.
And so, with that, I opened up my NIV Bible and placed my finger on a page, ending up at Ezekiel 2:6, 7.
"And you, son of man, do not be afraid of them or their words. Do not be afraid, though briers and thorns are all around you and you live among scorpions. Do not be afraid of what they say or be terrified by them, though they are a rebellious people. You must speak my words to them, whether they listen or fail to listen, for they are rebellious."
On reading this, I didn't know if that passage was encouraging or intimidating. There were three occasions where it stated, "don't be afraid," which meant one thing to me: there would be a lot to be afraid of!
After reading it a few times, I felt the general gist was "yes, I should be an elder." I really wasn't 100 per cent sure. Maybe I had interpreted it incorrectly. I wanted to be certain.
Just like Gideon, I sincerely asked for sign number two as confirmation.
After another prayer, also thanking Him for His patience and guidance, I turned in my Bible once more.
Proverbs 31:23 was my landing point:
"Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land."
It's a good thing I was sitting down, as this verse really made my eyes bulge, and then water with tears of amazement that God should take the time to answer my request.
I took this verse as an overwhelming yes. To be any more obvious the verse would have had to state my name, address and year of birth.
With this confirmation, I was at peace with taking on the role and serving the Lord as an elder, even though I still felt inadequate to fulfill the role.
Thinking back, God could have given me that verse, mentioning being an elder, on the first occasion. However, this has given me another insight into God's thoughtfulness. If I had been given the "elders" verse first, I would not have looked for another verse. And now, that supposedly inconclusive first passage is what I rely on the most in my role as an elder. Any time I am fearful of some sort of elder's responsibility, I think back to those words, "don't be afraid," and it comforts me to know God intends me to survive the situation.
A few years on now, I still don't feel I am really good enough or knowledgeable enough to meet my perception of what an elder should be. But God has never let me down. He has seen me through every situation so far.
I praise Him for His interest in me, a tiny part of this immense universe. The least I can do in gratitude is to find the time to serve Him in any way I can.
Published in Ordinary People, Extraordinary God, 2005.