My first memory as a child was of my mother crying beside our back door. I had toddled my way into the kitchen way past bedtime and was met with the ugly truth that my father wasn’t coming home. Again.
My mother had finally had enough and divorce was looming. The next 15 years were spent shuttling back and forth between my parents and the people they were dating.
While I was often the center of attention, it was a childhood spent mostly with adults, around adult activities and with little boundaries or guidance. I sensed that I was at times tolerated but not always wanted at certain occasions.
I stuffed feelings and tried to keep the peace the best way I knew how: people please, perform, be polite, and look pretty. But deep down, it made me anxious and angry.
I had my first anxiety attack at six years old.
My grandmother, who lived with us at the time, was late picking me up from school one day. I was accustomed to seeing her sedan idling in the parking lot at dismissal. When I didn’t see her, panic set in. I immediately began to cry, refusing to go to the school’s after care program. What if no one ever picked me up?
Insecurity had already taken deep root within my young heart.
My teacher, Mrs. King, brought me back to her classroom to calm me down. In sobbing fits, I proceeded to throw up all over her carpet. I'll never forget the simple kindness of that dear woman. Surely exhausted from a day of wrangling first graders, she gave me a warm Sprite from her desk and let me stay in her room until my grandmother arrived.
Mrs. King served the King of kings that day when she served the least of these, a confused and broken-hearted child.
When I was nine years old, my fourth grade teacher - who just "happened to be" Mrs. King’s daughter - invited me (and a few other fellow mean girls) to a church Christmas play. That wise teacher saw past the hardened tween that I was to a little girl who desperately needed Jesus.
God had so clearly gone before me, pursuing, protecting and providing for me in ways I couldn’t imagine.
At that play, I watched Jesus be born, grow up, and lead a flawless life where He wove the law and love together perfectly. I saw Him do mundane things like eat and drink and carve wood with His earthly father. And I saw Him do majestic things like infuse hope to the hopeless, lay hands on the lame, embrace the rejected and give life to the dead, all for the glory of His heavenly Father.
On that stage Scripture came alive and for the first time, I felt the Holy Spirit stir my soul. Jesus became so real to me that night. It was as if He touched my innermost places with every miracle He performed.
I was falling in love with this God Man, the One who never faltered, never disappointed and was always faithful.
Then I watched horrified as Jesus was arrested and whipped and hanged on a criminal’s cross to die. I saw the sin of the world weigh heavy on His holy shoulders.
The realization of my own sin pierced deep within my soul. I had seen and done things that defiled me. I'd been ripped from His hand like the skin torn from His body. I had done this to Him, too, somehow - nailed Him right to that cross and watched until He drew His final breath.
I was deader than He was and needed His holy breath to fill my heart.
Then, like the dawn of a new day, I saw Him rise from the tomb and watched as He defeated death, shame and sin - my sin and your sin - through His resurrection.
Glory, I wanted to be on His team.
I knew with certainty that I could not do it on my own.
That night, alone in my room, I wrote a simple letter asking Him for forgiveness and for the saving of my soul. Immediately, He breathed life into my spirit, like a newborn baby’s first breath outside the womb.
I had been born again, adopted into His family, and risen to live in victory with my Creator.
Even though my heart had changed, the world around me had not. It was confusing to live in the tension of role models who were not walking with Jesus. I am grateful that while my family did not attend church, they did the next best thing and sent me to Christian schools from elementary to college. They loved me enough to want that for me, even when they weren’t giving it to themselves.
Within the walls of my schools, I learned about God but I didn’t come to truly know Him. Insecurity had hardened my heart, and I clung to religion to fit in but not to be transformed.
My interaction with Him was cold and mechanical. I sought what He could give me more than I sought Him.
Jesus was often forgotten or called upon only when I felt empty or shaken by sin. He was a last resort. Our relationship, and subsequently my life, suffered for it. Mine was a transactional type of faith. If you give me this, I’ll do that. I deprived myself of His Word, even though I studied it at school.
Yet praise Jesus His Word does not return void. God used all the Scripture memory and mandatory chapels and zealous teachers and coaches and church leaders to plant seeds in my heart that are still being harvested today.
My late teens and twenties were marked by a series of poor choices. I looked for love in the wrong places, I denied myself food, and I sought substances and status as a salve for my soul.
Like the apostle Peter denying Christ, my actions did not bear witness to my beliefs.
Yet, it was in the aftermath of those grievances that I experienced the wild and reckless grace that Jesus died to give. It was there that I came to truly know Him and understand the mercy and grace of Scripture, the only effective prescription for my pain.
My faith was stubborn and fragile. I had lived detached from His Word and, therefore, detached from His heart. The Holy Spirit never let go – and never will – but I was hanging on by the thread of His promise: “I will never leave you or forsake you.”
I hadn’t learned to trust Him with everything, to surrender and truly abide in Jesus.
Because of this neglect, I spent many years walking in the shadow of my old self, with rays of God light piercing through, reviving and beckoning me back to Him, again and again and again.
Finally, in my late twenties, I heard Jesus say with undeniable clarity, “abide in me, dear daughter, and live your life to the fullest.”
I began to grasp what it meant to make Jesus Lord of my life and to take hold of the blessings of Him that were available to me all along. I’ve been abiding in Jesus and living connected to His heart ever since. I still struggle and forget and fail at times, but I can’t imagine ever living apart from Him.
The scars of sin still exist in my life, but they make my heart tender toward those who have wandered and forgotten who they are in Him. They enable me to empathize with single parents and children caught in the mess of divorce. They make me soberly aware of how the enemy wants to kill, steal and destroy marriages. They make me cautious to not parent out of my own sin and brokenness. And they keep pointing me back to God and God alone as my eternal Husband, Father, Savior and Reconciler.
By His wounds we are healed!
I am forever grateful to this faithful God who relentlessly pursues us despite our worst days. I don’t have a seminary degree or any fancy titles. I’m not a pastor’s wife or a preacher’s kid, and I’m about as far from perfect as you’ll find.
But more than a denomination or distinction, I earnestly seek the Divine.
I yearn for the pure, unadulterated intimacy that comes from abiding in and experiencing the real, living Jesus through His Word and His people. I rest in the Lord’s blessed assurance that if we seek Him with all our hearts, we will find Him.
Because of Jesus, I am a daughter of the Most High God, co-heir with Christ, redeemed and qualified by His precious lifeblood, and commissioned to proclaim His redemption plan for us all.