~Colossians 1:11 (CEV)~
It’s true. God has shown me this time and time again. His glorious power will, indeed make you patient and strong enough to endure anything. Without the mercy and the grace of God, I would not be able to look back on the things that have happened in my life and feel joy at having had the opportunity to learn the lessons God sent for me to learn so that I might do His work. There really is no way to explain to someone who has no faith in God just what they are missing. Maybe they have been hurt by church or religion and are still healing from that pain. Maybe they are convinced that all religion is just a bunch of crap. Maybe they don’t care whether or not they really experience peace, joy, or true love in this life. Maybe they feel that there is another life that they can look forward to and so they don’t have to try so hard to make this one the best it can be. But what if they’re wrong? What if this is all there is? What if this is our only chance to show that we are worthy of reward? What if instead of getting to start over in another body or another form, we find ourselves trapped in a prison of regret and being consumed by the misery that often accompanies disbelief? God, what if what we don’t believe is exactly what we should be living for? What then?
I’m not throwing stones at anyone here, I’m just asking the question. I’m not one of those flaky types that sits around singing peace, joy and love songs all day while looking for feet to wash. It’s just not my thing. As a matter of fact, I can’t stand feet. What I am, however; is one of those people who want so badly to get this right that I’m constantly talking to God and asking Him to guide me to the people who need His word. I am always surprised by how many people just don’t believe in or care about God. I’m even more surprised by why I seem to be one of only a few who are so concerned for the many, many people I have encountered who openly and freely state that they just don’t believe in Jesus or even in God.
I will not apply pressure to someone who tells me that they just don’t understand the whole “God thing” and I will not run after them waving my Bible in the air and screaming, “Aw, come on!” If they don’t want to understand it or for some reason feel that there is no need to believe, there is absolutely no way I can change their mind. But what of those who are on the fence? What about those who maybe once believed, but were hurt (as I was) by the church? What about those who want to know more, but are afraid that it will mean giving up the wonderfully happy life they already have? If no one ever speaks up and tells others why they believe or why they profess their love for God, then they have absolutely no reason to care one way or the other. So, I’m taking a moment to share a few things here.
Many years ago, I attended a small Baptist church. I was knee deep in the Spirit and felt like I was so lucky to be in a place where people loved to hear me sing and where I could fellowship with others who also loved God. Though I didn’t understand what I was doing, it felt okay to be there and so, I stuck with it. After a while, there were some issues that came up in the church. For whatever reason, my cousin and I were basically caught up in a bunch of adolescent gossip and the end result was that both of us left the church and never went back.
Twenty-something years later, I found myself in a marriage that was losing ground and having gone through years of depression, anxiety, and self-loathing, the only common theme running through it all is that I have absolutely no spiritual connection to anything. I had cut off my relationship with God after the third of five miscarriages. And as I walked back through the many miserable memories of my life, it was just ridiculous to me that I would be put through so much misery if God truly loved me. My sister tried for years to get me to come to church and I would come up with reason after reason why I couldn’t or didn’t want to. I never really told her that I was so angry at God that there was no way I would take the time to worship Him. It made more sense to me to just put my faith in my daily horoscope and the occasional Tarot reading. At least these things were open to interpretation. And so, this is what I did. I tried meditation, drumming, and many other things to calm my spirit. I looked to numerology, life path studies, and any other thing I could use to build a foundation that would make it okay to be where I was without ever having to explain why I had been where I had been. And so, I grew to ignore what hurt instead of dealing with it. At the time, I thought I had figured everything out. I occasionally sent up a prayer to God, but never really put much stock in His answering or even hearing them for that matter. I just did it to say I had done it. There was little meaning behind it or anything else I was doing in my life.
At one point, after suffering my fifth miscarriage at sixteen weeks I just broke down. “God, why would you do this to me again?” I cried over and over. “Why would you let me believe that everything was okay and then just take it all away…again?” I didn’t understand. I thought it had to be some kind of punishment for not being a Christian. Surely, this was God’s way of getting back at me for not acknowledging Him. I struggled with this for a while and finally decided that since the issue kept coming up, I should try to go back to church. It took everything I had to just walk into a church after having felt so much anger toward God. The God I’d learned about in my youth was an angry God, He was a jealous God and He was not approachable. He didn’t cut you any slack and He didn’t want to hear your complaints and grievances. Sadly, I knew very little about God that made me want to have relationship with Him and so going to church seemed like my last attempt to show everyone that I just didn’t need to be bothered with Him or anything He had to offer.
I was definitely not going to fall for the whole” Christian” thing. It hadn’t been worth my trouble before and it wouldn’t be worth it now. It’s amazing how much we don’t know when we are so certain that we are right. I figured I’d go a few times, I would listen to see how full of crap the preacher was, and I would tolerate the music (because if there was anything I hated, it was contemporary Christian music). But the strangest thing happened. As I listened to the “crappy” music, I felt something stirring in my soul. I couldn’t stop crying. I couldn’t make the feeling go away. And as I sat listening to the “crappy” preacher, I couldn’t stop agreeing with what he was saying. I couldn’t find anything wrong with his message. And later, I couldn’t stop God’s voice from ringing in my ears. I’d be sitting in a service and He’d whisper verses to me. When I would look them up after the service, I often found that there was a direct correlation between the word He was giving me and the struggles I’d been having in my life at that time. If it hadn’t been so supernatural, I’d never have believed it. I’m guessing my years of believing in horoscopes and tarot played a huge role in what truly attracted me to the way God chose to communicate with me once I had the courage to come back to Him. It doesn’t really matter how I got back to Him, the point is that I found Him again.
In truth, I’m pretty sure that no one who is reading this is going to agree with everything I’ve said here. Those who aren’t Christians will think I’m full of it. Those who are Christians may say that my mention of things such as tarot are proof that I am not truly understanding what it means to follow God. I assure you, I understand. I may not subscribe to the exact same set of traditions and rituals that seem to draw you near to Him, but I can tell you that when I call on Him, He answers. And it doesn’t matter to Him if I choose to read my horoscope or if I spend hours reading over Bible verses that I am drawn to at His prompting. He answers. He knows that I believe in Him with everything I am and that I trust Him with my life. He knows that I learned something from all of the craziness I have been through and that I’m hoping to use those experiences to help others understand the various challenges they encounter in their lives. Being a follower of God doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be happy all of the time. What it does guarantee is that the life you live will have meaning and that when there is joy, it will be the kind that sinks into your soul and wipes out all fear and pain. The kind of joy that you can only get from going through pain and reaching out to a God who is willing to put your broken pieces back together. Though it took many years to be strong enough to put aside my anger and my belief that God didn’t care what happened to me, I am so glad that I finally came to a place where He makes sense and where I can believe that He really does have a plan for my life and that He will help me follow it. All I have to do is ask.
He said, “The time has come! God’s kingdom will soon be here. Turn back to God and believe the good news!”