The first time I ever prayed, I was 8. One of my friends had parents who were divorced. She still got to see her parents, but they didn't live together anymore. As a little girl that was living in constant fear of conflict and explosive anger, that seemed like the only solution for my home life. So, I closed my door, sat on the floor of my bedroom in front of my bookshelf and closed my eyes. I started crying uncontrollably as I prayed over and over, "God, if you're there, please divorce my parents." I wasn't even sure if I believed in God, but I knew I needed help.
The first time I felt God tug at my heart, I was 14. I was at a youth conference. I heard the gospel for the first time in my life. The man described the death of Jesus in great and horrific detail. Then he asked, "Now, how can you reject a Savior that did that for you?" I wasn't sure what Jesus did for me, exactly, but my empathetic heart certainly didn't want to reject a man that was brutally attacked.
The first time God saved my life was a year later. I was a freshman in high school, and had come to a point in my young life that I felt like I couldn't do it anymore. My family hated each other, I felt rejected and ridiculed by them constantly. I had just entered high school, and was facing new people, new classes, and felt the old friendships I attempted to maintain slipping away. One night I grabbed two bottles of prescription pills and a glass of water and set out to end my pathetic life. I wrote one last time in my journal and laid in bed, waiting to die. Darkness took over, but I didn't die. I woke up the next morning feeling no effects of the medicine, and like even more of a failure.
The first time I felt God's Hope was when I was almost 17. My parents had finally separated after a terrifying conflict at our home. In fear for our lives, my mom, my siblings and I packed our things and left my father. As dysfunctional as my family was, I had still grown used to the chaos. Being uprooted completely tore my life in half and I felt myself slipping into an empty well of despair. The youth pastor of the church I had been attending with a friend called me and shared with me that I had an opportunity to go to heaven when I died. Needing something, anything that would help want to keep living, I prayed along with my pastor to assure that I would go to heaven.
The first time I felt God's Pursuit of me was when I sprinted as far from Him as I could get and dove into a life full of alcohol, irresponsibility, anger, and destructive behavior. He sent a coworker to me that walked me through the process of figuring out how to fix myself and eventually walked me back to Christian community. It was there that I realized that God was all I had. And all I needed.
The first time I felt God's Grace was when, after all I done and said and how far I had run away from Him, He saw fit to lead me gently "back to where we left off" with no shame, no guilt. Just love and guidance and His hand holding mine the entire way. I was met with people who were willing to take me back up into their arms and hearts. I was met with people that wanted to see me living a life of surrender to God, and not one where I did it all myself.
The first time I felt God's Shield was when my father suddenly passed away. I felt Him protect me from the weight of the grief, and every now and then, He would lift His protection and allow me to be burdened by the sadness, grief, and anger. Then, He would shower me with His love and healing.
The first time I felt God's Mercy the night when He showed me just how ugly and diseased my heart is. And instead of abandoning me, like I thought He would and expected Him to do, He whispered gently, "Look at your heart. It is so very ugly, Lindsay. Look at it. And look at me: I'm still here." He had never abandoned me like I convinced myself He would. He never rejected me, like others before Him had. He never manipulated me, or guilted me into loving Him.
All of that, each and every moment of it, leads to August 27, 2012.
That was the first time in my whole life that I surrendered myself to the Lord. My whole life. Not my money, my worries, my family, relationships... but me. Because He has made it abundantly clear that all this time, it wasn't my service, or songs, or tasks, or prayers that He wanted. But, he wanted just me. And all of me.
The first time I felt God's acceptance in it's fullest was that night that I finally surrendered to Him. I wondered if after 14 years of knowing all the right things to say and do, if I would feel any different. I knew what people said they felt, had read books, and had even had a taste of it myself. But, although I called God mine, I never let Him call me His. I was an adopted child that wouldn't let herself live in God's house, eat God's food, sleep in God's bed, or drive God's car. I was missing out on the blessing of belonging to Him. That night, I had my answer. In the quietest moment before I fell asleep, God said to me for the first time in my life, "You are the daughter of The Most High King." And I knew I finally belonged to Him.
It has been a long race, a long journey, a long hike.
With many tears and sleepless nights and anxious break-downs.
But I'm done.
I've thrown in the towel.
I'm done running.
Since 1999, when we left my father, I have lived in 27 different places. 27.
I have finally put my roots down. Here in Lynchburg, VA. And here with God.
Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Sunday, August 5, 2012
|Late 80's hair aside, this was a great family picture.|
The day before, I went to a brunch to meet a group of girls that I planned attending a Bible study with. I laughed. I talked. I made new facebook friends.
Being the new girl in town, I had no plans for New Year's Eve. I watched a movie and wrote on my blog some of the deeper things that God had been teaching me.
I made plans with a potential new friend to have lunch the next day.
And then I went to sleep.
I never thought that I would get a phone call. And then another phone call. And then another one. With each phone call, I felt myself more and more confused and scared. And I felt like my heart was breaking in two and three and four pieces. And then it was smashed.
It is now a little more than seven months since my father suddenly passed away, without me saying my goodbyes. No chance to smooth out unresolved issues. No chance to hear my father say, "I didn't mean what I called you. I didn't mean what I said to you. I don't really think that about you." No chance for me to apologize for cutting him out of my life.
He died still being cut out.
And what comfort is there in a situation where you know that the person didn't believe in Christ? Jesus says that He is The Way, The Truth and The Life and that none can come to The Father but through Him (John 14:6). As long as I knew my father, he never proclaimed Christ. Church was never his thing.
Yes, there is a small chance. Only God Himself knows if my father was able to see The Truth for what it is as he was dying.
But I don't have that hope to hold onto that some have. I can't hold onto the knowledge that I will see my father again in heaven. Chances are, the last time I will ever see my father is a bad memory that I try to forget about, but can't help replaying like a tape. Because it is the last thing I had of him. It's all I have.
The truth is that I feel robbed and cheated. That is the truth.
So, my question to God is why? Why not wait until after my father knew Him? Why allow his death to happen knowing that he did not believe? Why?
I'm not sure.
But, here is what I know...
God is speaking to me. As I cry out to Him with my messy crying and loud yelling, He whispers to my heart.
God is moving in me. As I try to pull farther and farther away from God, He latches Himself onto me and won't let me go. Won't let me run. Again.
God is comforting me. There are people. They know things. They have experienced things. He is sending them to me.
God is healing me. He is ensuring that I am not taking steps back, but steps forward. Into His forgiveness. Into His redemption. Into His perfect Love that casts out all fear.
God is giving me a specific type of Hope that cannot compare to anything I have ever felt before. He is telling me to place my hope in Him and Him alone.
And I don't want it to stop.