It was my grandmother who first introduced me to Jesus. I was eight years old. She led me through a simple prayer to invite Jesus into my heart. At the time, I had no idea what this meant.
Although my mom would attend church sporadically in later years, my parents were not church-goers. My childhood could be a bit unstable. My father struggled with alcohol and gaps in employment. My mom battled chronic illness and depression her whole life.
It wasn't that my parents didn't love me. They did and I knew that. It was that they weren't always available. At times, I felt very alone.
My grandma starting taking my sister, brother and I to church with her. My grandparents attended a very charismatic Pentecostal church. The congregation was small and older. It was the kind of church where a lot of people shouted out during the sermons. Very legalistic, very fire and brimstone; a lot of passionate loudly preached sermons. In short, it scared the crap out of me.
I was told that if I didn't believe in Jesus with my whole heart, I would go to hell. I became so fearful that I didn't believe enough. I continue to struggle with this today.
As soon as my parents determined I was old enough to say so, I stopped attending church.
I had a very idealized version of what a family should be in my head and it wasn't what I had at home. So I started looking elsewhere. I found a nice picture of it through a friend of mine. She was mormon and had 8 brothers and sisters. They ate their meals together, they practiced things like family games night and family meetings. I was smitten and started spending more and more time with them.
It wasn't long before they started inviting me to their young women's group and church on Sunday's. Since I was attending for social reasons, this did little for the fearful, confused idea of God I had in my head. Nevertheless, I am convinced that my friendship with this girl and her family kept me out of trouble. Highschool was an incredibly lonely time. I could have gone in any direction.
One day I was completing an exercise for the young women's class that involved looking up passages in the book of Mormon. As much as I loved the friends I had, as I was doing the exercise I realized that I had no connection to what I was reading. More than that, I didn't believe what I was reading. So I stopped attending.
Shortly after that I went to University and became a student of science. Whatever poorly conceived notions of God and Jesus I had in my head became even more muddled. Out of the fear I picked up attending my grandma's church, I had continued to pray to God every night before I went to sleep. But that was the extent of my relationship. And that was where I was at when I met the man who would later become my husband.
The two of us moved to northern Alberta for the job opportunities and I started working shift work in a chemical lab. I became instant friends with a very lively, outgoing co-worker. Night-shifts could be long, and we started having conversations about God and church. She ended up inviting me to her Baptist church. I went, and enjoyed it! Instead of being yelled at for over an hour, we primarily sang songs! It was there that I met her mom, who happened to run a women's small group. My own mom and sister were very sick at this point, and I found myself really struggling so when I was invited to attend the small group I went.
I found myself interested and excited about what I was learning. And sharing my troubles with other women who had their own battles, was immensely therapeutic. But I didn't know what it meant for my boyfriend who was not a Christian, so I broke things off.
That was a really difficult time. He couldn't understand why we couldn't be together when we loved each other and shared the same goals. Truthfully, I didn't really understand either. But I had picked up the notion that if I wanted to be a true Christian, I couldn't marry a non-Christian.
A couple of months later, his parents invited me over to celebrate a birthday and as we were sitting outside I felt myself struggling with the feelings I had not only for my ex-boyfriend, but also for his family. In my head, I suddenly heard the words, "Lucy - here is the family I have for you". I'm not kidding. As the girl who had longed to feel some family ties, I didn't need to think twice about getting back together with my boyfriend. As for the Christian-non-Christian thing, I figured that would work out some way or another. We got married shortly after.
We then found ourselves transferred to Southern Alberta for work and not long after we moved down, we got pregnant with our daughter. We didn't know a lot of people, and we certainly didn't know anyone else having babies. I was terrified. The same friend who invited me to church with her, had moved to the same city the year before and once again invited me to her church. My husband and I both liked this church!
When I was six months pregnant, we were sitting in the congregation and a couple roughly our age sat down next to us. The woman looked to be about as pregnant as I was. This led to a conversation. Turned out they led a couple's small group. My husband and I started going.
I can't tell you how much this saved me. I was ridiculously insecure about becoming a parent and felt totally alone in it. And now here was this girl who was going through the same thing. Not only that, but she knew what it was like to have a critically ill mother. In fact, on the day of her mother's funeral, my mother passed away.
This event could have devastated me. It devastated my dad and my sister. Three years later, and they are still not coping well. Instead, I felt myself surrounded my an incredible amount of sympathy and support. The peace that exceeds understanding talked about in Philippians 4:7? I experienced that peace after my mother died.
Not long after that we became pregnant with our son and my husband lost his job. For perhaps only the second time in my life, I trusted God to work out the details. We needed to sell our house and fast! In a flooded housing market our house sold in 36 hours. One day later my son was born. Two weeks after that we found ourselves relocated back to northern Alberta (just not quite as far north as last time). A couple of years later and we have settled into a new life, a new church and recently new small groups.
My husband and I still have a lot of growing to do in our relationship with God. "Not worrying", is not a concept associated with me. I still struggle with deep insecurities. Trusting God is something I have to work on every day. But if my story has taught me anything, it's that God doesn't leave us alone. You can interpret this story any number of ways, but they way I see it is that God could have let me walk away. Instead he used people to draw me back. Again and again. God knows that I am vulnerable to loneliness and feelings of despair. Circumstances that could easily leave me feeling alone and defeated, instead were buffeted by the right people at the right time.
You will have ins and outs with your relationship with God. But God never leaves you.
|Philippians 4:6-7||Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God's peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.|