“Remember this day little brother. Today, life is good.”Boromir, Son of Denethor II
June the 1st is an interesting day in the life of Christiaan Funkhouser.
June 1st is Bilbo in the shire; it’s coronation day in Arendelle; it’s exploring Diagon Alley for the first time; seeing the brachiosaurus from the Jeep; it’s Frodo arriving in Rivendell. It’s simultaneously both the end of a hard-pressed journey but also the start of something new. It’s exciting and nerve-wrecking. There is hope and optimism at what lies ahead but it’s mostly unknown.
Everyone has their own June 1st.
It’s just probably not on June 1st.
It might be April 15th
or November 23rd.
Or May 2nd.
You may not even know you have a June 1st. The date itself, as much as I am making a big deal of it doesn’t really matter either – It’s more about what it signifies. Maybe for you, it’s a time of your life, not a specific date.
As an example, I’d like to highlight two of the things that happened to me on June 1st, the first is that I gave my first sermon at a church I wasn’t attending as the final step in an interview to be a youth pastor. The second thing that happened on June 1st, was I had my first day on staff as a youth pastor.
Technically I had the role of a Next-Gen pastor.
My Pastor called me his associate pastor.
I oversaw Birth through College.
These things happened nine years apart.
If you’ve never been to seminary or had a class on preaching, you’ve probably never been faced with the question. It goes something like this, “If you had the opportunity to teach one sermon to a group of strangers, what would it be?”
I was terrible at answering this question. I’m a lifelong learner and always questioning things; I’m always learning new things and one of the things that I’ve learned is that someone who is excited about what they’re teaching is so much better than someone who isn’t. This has affected the way I teach, by being a guide on a journey with the students, as well as the fact that I tend to take a conversational approach to teaching.
So, when I was asked this question, I didn’t have a good answer, because it would all depend on where I was, who my students were, and what I felt led to share with them. I’d always respond with, “I don’t know, I’d probably share something that I feel God was showing me at that time.”
As it turns out, I would find out on June 1st, 2011.
June 1st, 2011.
A pastor friend of mine, whom I had worked with numerous times in the past approached me one day and asked me to apply to replace the youth pastor they currently had who was about to be deployed. I went through the process, I knew the youth and had worked with them many times before, and the final step was to teach a sermon of my choosing. This was merely a formality to make sure we followed the process.
IT WAS MY TIME TO ANSWER THE QUESTION.
I’m a Christian. I believe that prayer is communication with God. I believe that God answers prayers – even if that answer is no. I believe that God can communicate with us as we pray.
The problem with my prayer time, is that I am not good at focusing on praying after a certain amount of time. I either hear noises or my mind wanders. One of the best ways I’ve learned to combat this is by playing soft worship music during my prayer time. The music blocks out background noise, and when/if there are words: I can either sing along, pray the lyrics, or they may inspire a new prayer from me.
Mayhaps, I’ll write a blog one day as to why.
I wanted to share with the students, and I did.
The night went amazing. I prepared three songs, printed out the lyrics on a paper with room for notes, provided each student one and a pen, and encouraged them to pray and ask God to show them something. Afterwards, I gave them the opportunity to share if they felt inclined to.
I was on top of the world.
I couldn’t have asked for a better response, every student came up and thanked me in some way, and some of the students felt inclined to share some things.
June 1st, 2020.
I had lost my corporate job about eleven months before and had decided to pursue my calling to be a pastor. I had applied to dozens of positions, I got to the top three of candidates in about six of them but was beat out by other candidates for one reason or another. I finally had been offered a job as a full time pastor in the foothills of Georgia. I was elated.
During my onboarding meeting, I knew there was a lot of work to be done – both as an educator and in terms of physical labor. My family and I rallied and completely renovated the education wing.
The pastor and I both under the guidance of Holy Spirit got to see God move in some of the most miraculous ways, we got to see a place where the outcasts, failures, broken, hurt, and the vulnerable found a place to be accepted where they were, but loved too much to stay there. A place for the neglected, accepted, holy, and the wretched to find family and community.
The victories are too numerous to list.
It doesn’t stay June 1st.
It doesn’t always stay June 1st and I won’t list all the suffering that my family and I have gone through, they, like the victories are too numerous to list at this time. It’s not been my experience that the June 1st stays around. For example, after June 1st, 2011, I was ghosted by the pastor and church. The Pastor a few years afterwards apologized to me and told me he owed me an explanation, but we never got a chance to connect. And some of those who witnessed the mighty works of God after June 1st, 2020 decided that it was more important to gain/retain power to the point that they actively subverted what God was doing and I was threatened on multiple occasions. The Pastor and I got out of there safely, but not unharmed.
Why Remember June 1st?
The world can be a cruel place. You will be failed by those who aren’t supposed to fail you. The rain falls on the righteous and the wicked. Those who profit at your expense will prosper. There won’t always be answers. In fact, it’s extremely likely that at some point in our lives we will find ourselves in a seemingly unending struggle against ourselves, the world, and mankind. We’ll continue to amass burdens that push us deeper into the depths that we struggle to even wade in while staring at the insurmountable mountain we must scale. The sheer pressure of life suffocates us. Our struggles will be a constant reminder of all the ways we lack the wisdom that we need.
That’s when we have to choose. We have the choice whether or not to become Miss Havisham. There are plenty of things that can make us bitter, hateful, and angry, and more than a few reasons to drown ourselves in them.
But we must choose life…
that we might live.
We have no choice. We must remember the June 1sts as they speak to the potential of how things could be instead of how things are. They can inspire us to keep pushing on when all seems lost. They can remind us that there is good in this world, that life isn’t pain, and that no matter where we are now, there is a time where things can be different, when we’ll be free of cruel twists of fate.
I’m thankful for my June 1sts. I’m thankful for the experiences I’ve had that have allowed me glimpses into how life can and should be. They’ve taught me that no matter how dark the night is, the sun will eventually rise, and the bitter chill that the nefarious schemes of pretender kings and queens have in motion will be exposed and burned away as I walk the path set before me basking in the light of grace.
Thanks for reading, you’ve got this!