The mountain breeze was early-autumn crisp and clear, light was scarce, except for that blanket of stars winking above me in the night sky.
I was 8 or 9 years old and I had a secret: a calm and steady Voice inside my head somehow held things together inside of me even as the adult world around me was falling apart.
It held me when parents were fighting and the police would come, when bullies were mean and friends were scarce. It held me together all through days I seemed invisible to everyone around me. It sheltered and protected me even when those who should have, did not.
Looking out the window, I struggled to think past the angry voices rising, falling and crashing in the other room. Fixing my eyes on the starry sky above and the stars, I relaxed and an inner dialogue began:
“Where did I come from?”
“Mother.” I heard.
” And where did she come from?”
“Many mothers before.”
“Heaven.” came the answer.
“Yes, and Mary and Joseph and Jesus came from God.” I thought.
“God is in heaven too.”
“Those stars came from God too. And all the planets…the entire universe….everything!”
Suddenly, panic seized in my chest. Earth shaking awareness came over me so terrifying because my next question… somehow, even in my child-like, barely-churched existence… I knew…would not have an answer:
“Where did God come from?”.
No answer….not then. I cried myself to sleep that night.
A few years , a nasty divorce and an abusive stepmother later, an early morning escape on a Greyhound headed south would deliver me to Georgia and although I didn’t know it then, it would lead me one step closer to the answer I’d stopped seeking. The Answer, however, never stopped seeking me.
Places inside of me were hardening while Something else struggled to take root in the softer parts left of my soul.
Still, there’s very little love to be found for an awkward Yankee transplant in the heart of the deep South and I soon felt myself sliding sideways into my early teens with little to hold on to and the dirty weight of gravity pulling me down. Parts of me contemplated selling out to the “status quo” even while that Something inside encouraged me to hold on. Why or what, I really did not know.
An invitation outside of the norm of my deeply abnormal existence would change the tenor of my life. A neighbor, a concert…a group going from their “church”, a rock band was playing for the youth that night…did I want to go? Sure… why not?
You need to understand, “church” was not at all a part of my family’s history. They wore the label “Catholic” which was about as meaningful as ” 100% Cotton” or “Dry Clean Only” on their shirt tags. Nothing more.
Until that point, my recollection of “church things” was shaped by time spent with a childhood neighbor, Elsie and shrouded in vague memories of a Sunday bus ride to a Big Place of juice, cookies, happy Ladies, flannelgraph stories and crayons. While I didn’t get to stay in these places for very long, Something met me there and seeds were planted.
So off I went with the neighbors to “church” that night.
but whoa…the place was PACKED!
These people were HAPPY!
These people were LOUD!
The band, “Mylon LeFevre and Broken Heart”, kicked in playing the most amazing music (to my highly sophisticated, Journey, Styx and Billy Joel lovin’ 13-year old ears!). I was trans-FIXED…in awe of this energy…this music…these happy people and those words. The combination was overwhelming. OK, honestly…. I was confused as hell.
Things settled down and the lead singer, Mylon started telling a story. It was his story… his messed up and broken, sold-out to the world, rebellion, pain, drug and alcohol story. The story of a man from a successful family who’d hit bottom nearly killing himself….until Something clicked inside of him. “It was Jesus.” he explained.
This Something is Jesus?
Then Mylon sang a love song and… I can’t explain it any other way but that Something came alive inside of me. A connection was made and a million pieces of me came together. It wasn’t weird or cosmic or all that spiritual… just a growing warmth of love, peace and acceptance for the first time ever and suddenly, the answer to my question of long ago rang out loud and clear;
“I am…. and I always have been and I always will be …. for you. Come.”
I did. I walked straight into that place…towards the Voice I now knew was Jesus. Salvation was mine and the restoration had begun.
I’d like to put the finishing touches on this story, cue the cheesy inspirational music and call forth the “Happily Ever After ” but there isn’t one. Life didn’t get easier after that night; in fact it got much harder almost immediately. Many things still didn’t make sense.
I walked wide circles of misunderstanding God and floundered without discipleship. Further home disintegration would place me in foster care where, in low self-esteem and quiet rebellion, I chased after other lovers and wandered in enemy territory for a time. Too long.
was faithful …
even then …
even when …
I am not.
- God was there before I was born, knitting me in my mother’s womb and whispering to me even then. I knew His voice.
- He met with me through the darkness of my world, at my window and showed me how to fix my eyes on Him…long before I ever knew His name.
- He guided me safely through each moment of pain and confusion, guiding me to Elsie, and the happy Big Church Ladies, caring teachers at school and just loving me through the years of abuse and onto that Greyhound bound for Georgia.
In every moment, God was plowing my life and allowing seeds to be planted…His deep Gospel seeds. They would begin to sprout at a concert that night where I’d learn the name of the One who put them there. Although the growth was painfully slow and for many years, largely unseen…God was still at work. I’m thankful to say, He still is!!
Of course there are many details from that point forward shuttling back and forth weaving the tapestry I know as my life. Many good, wonderful, difficult and still happening God things.
Some argue it’s “not fair” what God allows in the lives of those He loves and calls according to His purpose. I disagree. Looking back, I agree with Paul that whatever I was for good or for evil…is garbage compared to the glory I know in Christ. It was worth it. It’s making me who I am and making me wholly His.
Some who read this are today struggling to come to terms with life and what God is allowing to happen to you or a loved one. It’s no small thing. I am sorry. I only know He is faithful. I pray you’ll find ways to lean hard into God and learn of Him with the prayers of a faithful friend. Message me; I’d be honored to pray and walk with you.
Others need to know that time you spend inviting friends and neighbors to church and into your home, or ministering to “those” kids from crazy, fractured places; those of you who have taken the time to invest in broken lives, discipling a young mom, family or foster kid…it’s worth it.
You truly never know where you’ll find yourself the lineup of God’s grace in another person’s life. And since you may not hear it from them, allow me say…“Thank you.”
I have the privileged perspective of one who’s lived life on both sides –as one “sheltered” and now as one who can “shelter”. It’s a wondrous blessing.
This is my story. This is my song…praising my Savior, all the day long. Do you know it?