So we have this homegroups, right? A smallish group of people from our church that get together every Sunday evening and go over what we learned that morning. It’s great. It helps me to process information that might have otherwise made my brain explode and flow out my eyeballs. I love homegroups. For sure.
For the past couple Sundays we’ve been taking turns giving our testimonies–our “stories”, if you will–how we came to be where we are, spiritually speaking. Some people would wonder, “Why would you even talk about that? Shouldn’t that be private?” And here’s what I would say: “What is this privacy that you speak of?” Because nothing is off-limits for me. Case in point: this blog.
Last night was my turn to give my testimony. I spent a good bit of time on the early stages of my walk and inadvertently skimmed over an important chunk of my development that would have perfectly illustrated God’s perfect timing.
I mentioned in my story (edited-but-still-super-long) of the time I quit church. Just quit. I wasn’t angry at God–I was angry at people. I was angry at me. I felt betrayed and disappointed and I wanted nothing more to do with church-goers who talked a big game until it came to actually applying their so-called “beliefs”.
But the really bad thing? I became just like them. Instead of surrounding myself with people who sought to truly follow Jesus, I ran the opposite way–toward people who didn’t care one way or another what I thought about…anything. I worked, went to school and went to clubs, but I was a part-time parent and a no-time Christian.
I became addicted to partying and crowds and lights and blaring music and of course, to drinking, which continued well into marriage and mommy-hood. I’d like to say I didn’t reject God and everything I had learned up until that point, but the truth is, though nobody’s perfect, if you’re not striving to follow it, you’re rejecting it. It’s hard to imagine a middle ground. When God asks us why we did or didn’t do what he commanded, I don’t think “eh,” is an appropriate answer. Our lives either glorify God, or they don’t. Mine so didn’t.
I’ve struggled with this fact over the last couple weeks. How, then, did God get me to this place? To Oklahoma, with three beautiful children and a devoted husband and a supportive caring group of friends? Was he watching out for me, even in my rebellion? After much studying and praying and reading and finally just asking one of my more knowledgeable friends for the easy answer, I’ve concluded that yes–He was.
When our circumstances in 2008-2009 undeniably pointed to divine intervention, Caleb and I were moved to get our butts back in a church–but the decision to go to this one or that one didn’t come easy. I was dead-set against stepping foot in another Baptist church; the nearest Catholic church was too far for us to fathom on lazy Sunday morning when we would have been looking for any excuse to stay in our jammies. But my friend Anne had the right words to soften my heart: “God’s people are not perfect, not by a long shot. But God’s love is perfect.” She might not have realized how impactful our short conversation was, but it gently pushed me in a direction I was clearly meant to go.
“We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.” –Romans 8:28
Does that verse not give you hope? I’ve been in such dark terrible places, by my own doing, and I’ve truly thought in those instances that God could not possibly be interested in rescuing me or even listening to me–but He does. Because He loves us; He made us and He wants us. He wants the best for us–because the best for us glorifies Him.
We are not meant to be wandering around by ourselves without guidance. It is not humanly possible to live a “good enough” life here, on this Earth, where evil lurks around every corner. We will always succumb to it because it’s our nature–but where I saw a hopeless situation, God saw the opportunity to make good again. I was not even thirty years old, and I could only imagine a miserable life, where my husband and I drank and fought constantly, and we were always worried and stressed, and where my children grew up disrespecting and resenting me. I felt unlovable and unforgivable, but God loved and forgave. He arranged things and people so that His ultimate plans would be fulfilled.
My addictions? Still going to have to worry about them. (Maybe not so much the staying up til 4:00 a.m. in a loud, smoky environment, but binge drinking yes.) My husband? Still going to have our problems. My kids? I’ll probably end up ripping out my own hair during their teenage years, if not earlier. God wants to carry us through our struggles; there’s a point and a plan to our lives, and God so wants a close relationship with every person.
“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, ever! No one will snatch them out of my hand.” –John 10:27-28