Gretchen and God

By Reverend Bobbie McKay, Ph.D.  •  July 14, 2022

Gretchen is an amazing woman and a legend in our church. Businesswoman, wife, mother, sister, friend, actively engaged in the growth and the leadership of the church, she is known and trusted by everyone. But after 9/11’s horrifying attack on the U.S. she became an activist who felt a powerful call to restore relationships between adolescents from Palestine, Israel and the United States which drew me to want to get to know her a lot better.

A “chance” encounter at the coffee hour after church allowed us to meet. I suggested a time to continue our conversation later in the week. Gretchen agreed and we met at a local coffee shop and discovered a shared compatibility in our passions for life and people. The time spent together was easy and comfortable. But as we were getting ready to end our meeting, God suddenly entered the moment and God’s presence, unexpected, unrehearsed, and unplanned, became a life changing moment for both of us.

With absolutely no plans to do this and no hints that the next moments would entirely change our lives and our relationship, I spoke the words that God had suddenly introduced into our meeting.

“Would you like to pray?”

I was a bit startled by the question because I don’t normally ask a question like this when I have just met someone. But, clearly, I was not in charge of this occasion. God understood much more about who we were and what we were about to become than I did. And the invitation was made to both of us. Would we like to pray as we were ending our time together?

Gretchen looked appropriately startled by the change of subject and the suddenness of my question. We had not been talking about God; I had not been thinking about closing words to share or messages about God. God had unexpectedly entered our coffee time and the moment had suddenly become infused with the reality of God and the possibility of new life for both of us.

I held my breath, immediately recognizing the power of that question: “Would you like to pray?” It was a moment that could have gone any of three ways: “Yes, sure…that’s fine” - a sincere attempt from Gretchen to go along with this not too surprising question from a minister to a member of the congregation. An unexpected moment but one that held a connection of prayer between us without organizing the future.

Or, “Yes, sure.” from a person who just wanted to remove herself as quickly as possible from the unexpected moment and any discomfort she was feeling.

Or a third option: “Yes sure…” silently saying to herself: “I can either say ‘no’ - and get out of this uncomfortable situation or ‘yes’ and see what happens next.” And I, speaking directly to God said: “This is an amazing and breathtaking moment and You have clearly taken charge of both of our lives!”

And so we both prayed and said goodbye, sensing that God had given us a gift that could entirely change each of our lives. The coffee shop had been transformed into a sanctuary of trust and love and in that “innocent” question, “do you want to pray” the future of our relationship was being revealed.

From that moment forward, we always prayed whether we were actually together or on the telephone. We openly talked about the power of praying out loud with each other. We reminisced about that first time of prayer that instantly became a life changing moment for each of us.

God opened a door and we entered it. God offered a gift and we accepted it. God posed a question and we both answered “yes”!

And so it is with life. We are free to follow God’s directions or not. The freedom of choice is always ours. But when we allow God to enter our lives and redirect them; when we enter the Holy Ground of God’s territory we discover that God is always moving us into new unexpected directions of trust and connection if we are willing to let God be in charge of the present moment.

And the “Present Moment” is always the doorway into the future.

About the Author

Reverend Bobbie McKay, Ph.D.

The Reverend Bobbie McKay, Ph.D. is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and a licensed psychologist. She has completed a very large research study on “Spiritual Life in Mainstream Interfaith Congregations” with over 3000 participants in the study. From that extensive study, she created the “Spiritual Life Team Program” which enables people to identify and share their spiritual lives in a small group, non-psychologically oriented, setting. The groups have been 100% successful in enabling people to identify and share their spiritual lives. Dr. McKay is the minister of Spiritual Life at the Glenview Community Church. She celebrated her 50th anniversary of ordination in 2020. Dr. McKay was married to Lewis Musil who died in 2019. She has seven grandchildren and two great grandchildren!

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