Church, my saving grace – a refuge from the storm. A young girl with no foundation, tearing at the roots – eager to know structure and stability. Faith and fellowship. Forgiveness. A Father.
I never went searching for God – I don’t remember crying out for Him. There may have been a time in the earliest years of my life, but I doubt it. I never understood God. I had no inclination of grace, beauty, or goodness. I saw the world as broken and Godless. I saw love as an illusion, something only those who have it all were lucky enough to experience. In my world, there was no such thing as a loving and forgiving God.
Church, where I thought God found me, sitting on the fourth row at the end of the pew. Quietly keeping to myself. Hidden away in my castle of comfort. Hidden, yet never lost. I couldn’t see that six years ago; I could only imagine a God who abandoned me in my youth. There could be no other explanation for the pain and suffering some children endure. If there is a God, then why?
No, this was not a game of hide-and-seek; this was a moment of veils being lifted. Never did I seek God, nor did He seek me. Through it all, every step of the way, He was always there – I just couldn’t see.
Church, where God touched my hand and eased my pain. Whispering in my ear ‘Rest.’ My gentle Father leading me to the alter, and teaching me what it is to surrender. The Holy Spirit stirring within me – fighting off shame and fear. Allowing for a moments peace, a silent refuge in the sounds of worship.
Church, where I was baptized thrice. The first through no choice of my own. A moment in infancy directed by my well-meaning parents. I know nothing of this moment, other than it happened. I was baptized/christened as a baby, but I never saw the significance in it…
The second, came months after my accident in 2013. I had already been saved, once by grace, and once by the hand of God on January 16th. I imagined it an appropriate time to experience the outward declaration of my sins being washed away. But I also had an agenda. I was angry. I was confused. I was drowning in the pain of feeling. I wanted to forgive. I wanted to move on. I wanted to change.
I also wanted an audience. Not a large audience; I wanted my two closest friends (at the time) there with me. See, I attend church on my own; my family does not attend with me. Something I have struggled with for years. On this night, I knew deep inside I needed to do this, and I was desperate to share the moment with someone I loved. As it is with life, circumstances created obstacles, and I was left standing alone at the edge of the pool. Phone in hand, text messages of disappointment flashing bright.
I laid my belongings down, swallowed my sadness and stepped into the pool. Are you ready to accept Jesus into your heart, as your Lord and Savior? The Holy Spirit overtook me – showed me – embraced me. Forgiveness washed over me – His and mine. A sense of release as the water swallowed me. I took a moment, I needed to pause, I was anxious to understand. I took my time climbing out of the pool – loving hands helping me along the way. I gathered my things, and I began to cry.
The third and final – there was no announcement, no invitations, and no agenda. Shyly… quietly I met You there. Stripped of all labels, titles, and expectations. Friendless and alone. The one-year anniversary of my darkest day (the third time You saved me). Plunged into a river of love and understanding. ‘I AM all you need!’ You held my head, cradling me gently as you placed me into the water. You washed away my pain and replaced it with Faith and a promise. Like a rushing wave you freed me of the weight of it all, pulling me from the depths. There we stood, You and me – me and my family of Three.
No need for an audience. No need for announcements. You held my hand, walked me to my car, and whispered once again ‘I AM all you need.’
Church, where I fell in love with God and Life and Love!
…….. To be continued