My husband was asked to be the interim preacher for First Baptist Midland in 1988. I remember the first weekend I decided to go with him.
Ryan was two and Craig was three months old. I packed clothes, diapers, bottles, toys, the portable crib, and plenty of snacks for the six-hour road trip to West Texas. After we passed Fort Worth, the landscape flattened into an unending panorama of dirt and mesquite bushes. Abilene came and went, and then the big question became, “How many miles until the next Dairy Queen?”
Six hours later, in the middle of the almost-nothingness of West Texas, a city skyline arose on the horizon. I use that term loosely. I grew up in the Los Angeles area. For the most part, one city just ran into the next with no gap in between.
Let’s just say West Texas was a new experience for me.
I remember distinctly saying, “Why would anyone want to live here?”
About eight months later, the moving van, filled with our household furniture and “stuff,” pulled up to our new home—in Midland, Texas.
It’s the people, more than the place
It’s a long story, but I chose to travel to Midland with Jim almost every weekend of his interim time there. The boys were great travelers, and the six-hour trip was actually pretty good time together. (With a few exceptions, of course!)
So, every weekend we made the six-hour trip on Friday afternoon and returned late Sunday night.
Why would we pack a toddler and a baby into the car like that? To summarize: we fell in love with the people of First Baptist Church in Midland, Texas. They quickly became friends. The city quickly became familiar. And, a year later, Jim became the pastor of FBC, and Midland became our home.
When we heard the news . . .
Jim and I watched the news of the crazy man with a gun randomly shooting people in Midland and Odessa. He didn’t know them and he didn’t care to know them. He just picked up a gun and shot people who could have been our friends. They might have been friends to him, if he had just given them a chance.
Jim and I sat stunned, scared, angry, shocked, and saddened, wondering if we knew any of the people.
Then we realized it didn’t matter if we knew them. We still grieved for all those families.
Paul’s words, Midland’s hope
I have a lot of blog readers who live in Midland. But, for all of us, this is Paul’s truth and encouragement to be the people we are called to be, even when others choose crazy.
Paul was wrapping up his letter to the Thessalonians when he wrote a message I think he would write to Christians in Midland and Odessa today. He said, “Since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:8–11).
How do Christians “stand” firm in the craziness?
- Be sober-minded. We often think of “sober” as not under the influence of alcohol or drugs. But, maybe it means more. We shouldn’t be controlled by an influence that isn’t of God. We shouldn’t be controlled by our anger, our frustrations, or even our desire for justice in this world. How do we achieve “sober”?
- Protect your hearts. It will be difficult not to “feel” anger, rage, and even fear. Paul advises we protect our lives by a “breastplate” of Christian faith and love. We protect our hearts (this meant the source of our motivations in Paul’s day) with God’s armor. Christians should be motivated and outwardly covered by our faith and love, not something less.
- Protect your minds with a helmet. Our hope of salvation is the way we protect our thoughts. This will be so important going forward. Causing fear is a weapon in our world today. Choosing not to fear is how Christians fight back. We have hope, every day. The point of our lives isn’t earth; it is heaven. Your eternity is guaranteed. So, as the hymn says, “Whom then shall I fear?”
- Strengthen your community of faith. I know a lot of the Christians in Midland, Texas. God will redeem the awful for his greater good. People who fear will be watching the people who are able to stand firm. As Paul said, “Encourage one another and build each other up.” I know these Christians in Midland, and I know Paul would say, “Just as in fact you are doing.”
Christian amidst craziness
Craziness. There is never a time that Christians have a greater opportunity to stand out. Sadly, there is never a time that Christians have as much permission or temptation from the world to stand with the world.
Be part of the redemption, and even the revival, that God plans to bring out of the horrible craziness that happens in our world. That is how we can live in this world but not of it.
“Encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” Midland and Odessa have some of the best and strongest Christian people I know. I’m so, so sorry there was a shooting and innocent lives were lost. It wasn’t fair or even comprehensible to a normal mind.
Let’s pray for our brothers and sisters in Christ who will be God’s workmanship, wearing God’s armor as their witness. I know them—and they are some of God’s finest soldiers.
Dear friends in Midland: We are praying for you while the world is watching you be the people God has equipped you to be. Stand firm. As my husband and your former pastor Jim would say, “God will redeem what he allowed, for his greater good.”