I was introduced to Jesus when I was 9. I was baptized at 39. I have had moments in the interim where I felt God right by my side, seasons where I pursued him more deeply and seasons when I was pushing him away, or hoping that he didn’t have his eyes on me. But whether I honored him or not; he never forgot me.
I didn’t take to church life right away, mainly because it conflicted with the sleeping in that I wanted to do, and I hated driving to town for any reason; but I quickly became ensnared by Elder Craig’s Sunday school teaching on the book of Romans. To this day Romans is one of my favorite books to read; which I know is due to the interest that was developed in those early years.
I have great memories of worship, both with my family and with my peers. Growing up on 10 acres we often contributed to outdoor chores, and I can clearly remember weeding the bank as a family, while singing His praises. I don’t know if this happened once, or frequently, but the contentment of that moment is a strong memory for me. In high school I took a youth missions trip to Mexico. I remember falling in love with Jesus as I felt passionately about those songs that we were singing. It is still during worship that I most deeply feel a connection to God. The song “So Will I” by Hillsong has been known to reduce me to a pile of blubber.
Unfortunately adolescence took over my life, and throughout my late teens and early 20s I wandered from the kind of life that I know He would want from me. I made lots of immature and selfish choices. I never stopped believing, but I acted as if I did.
In my mid-20s I felt him calling me back to him, and it was at this time that my new husband and I began seeking out a church to call our own. He too knew that God needed a bigger role in his life.
I don’t have a major salvation moment that would make for a good story; I just have the faithful assurance of someone who knows that He is real. I cannot look at the creation of the world and doubt. I have felt the whispering of the Holy Spirit within my soul. I have known God’s great love for me clearly. I have heard a literal whisper in my ear at two times in my life- both announcing a pregnancy that I had no clue to expect. The reality of a creator who is coming back to make the world right again is not something that I am willing to risk.
I feel like the God of my youth got a bad wrap. I was mostly afraid of him. There were times after I sinned that I clearly remember feeling scared that God would send a lightning bolt from the sky to take me out. I don’t know if the church intentionally sent this message to me; I just know that for me at that time, being a Christian was only about saving myself from Hell.
After the birth of my first daughter I was blown away by the depth of God’s love. I marveled at the details with which he designed her. I felt his love for me so deeply; how else could he have entrusted me with such a gift? Could it be possible that there was more to my relationship with Him than preserving myself? Could life be about love?
The older I grow the more and more enamored I am with Jesus. I love that he came along and just flipped things upside down. Jesus didn’t hang out with the wealthy. He didn’t spend all of his time with the saved. He didn’t teach to look out for ourselves; that we deserve what is best. He didn’t confirm the haughty Pharisees. Jesus did new things. Jesus saved people who were sick. He fed those who were hungry. He spent his time with the marginalized. He commanded us to do the same. His message was love. And not just love, but radical love.
I know I fall short of that kind of love in my life. But Jesus is my guiding post. When I make decisions, big or small, I am seeking to honor the kind of life that he lived; because he called me to do the same. Talking and talking and talking about what kind of person I want to be is just not enough; I need to take action. I need to see Jesus in the faces of those on the street. I need to seek Jesus in the face of the poor, the widow, the sick, the imprisoned, the refugee. I love this message so much. It sits so well with my soul.
Even as I have been continually walking with the Lord for a decade and a half; I mess up. I push him away. I am angry in my waiting on prayers fulfilled, and I rage. I ignore people who need my help. I say something rude to my husband. I talk badly about someone to someone else. I yell at my kids. I don’t reach out to those I love dearly enough. I break promises to myself.
I so admire the faith of my mother; who never seems to waver in her assurance. I covet the faith of my husband, who never doubts in the waiting. I love to watch how my sister has developed such faith in her life in the last few years. But I am not like that. I struggle with the violence of the old testament, or with the way that the Israelites repeatedly messed up when they had God right there with them! I question God’s plans for my life continuously, as I don’t have the things I think that I should have. I get mad and I tell him about it. But now that I am more mature, even in my anger I don’t push Him away. I continue to pray, read the word, and seek Him in my life. Having a relationship with God will never make me perfect. Having a relationship with God means that I lean on him with my sorrows and frustrations. That I worship him with the gratefulness that is in my heart. That I seek to serve him when I address needs in this world.
My God story is not full of the miracles of the Old or New Testaments, but it is a story of radical grace. Though I continually fluctuate in my faith, though I error on a daily basis in one way or another, that I will continue to get it wrong- still He pursues me. Still he whispers that I am enough. That I am loved. That I am a treasured creation. That he loves me with a Father’s love.
And my God story is not unique. For he offers us all this radical grace. He pursues us all. He designed us all with the intricate eye of a creator. He loves and treasures us all. So I will continue in my life depending on Him, and becoming the person He call me to be; knowing that I don’t deserve his blessings, nor can I earn his blessings – it’s all about His scandalous grace.