Recently I was asked a tough question, or rather questions:
You quote the Lord many times in your writing. Have you always had a good relationship with your faith? To be honest, after I was diagnosed I didn’t want to hear about God, I was really angry. What would you say to [others] about reestablishing their faith?
A long question, kind of requires a long answer. I grew up in church, but wouldn’t say I had a relationship with Jesus other than the occasional “God, please don’t let me fail this test.” or “Please let us have a snow day tomorrow.” My dad abused me. I won’t get in to all of that now, but I just couldn’t seem to view God as a “Father” because I didn’t even understand what a father was supposed to be like. God was more like a DJ and I was just calling in my requests. I was baptized at age 9 and liked participating in church activities, but didn’t really establish a relationship with Jesus until I was in my 20s. My teen years were relatively wild. I gave birth to a little boy at the age of 16, but still managed to get A’s and B’s and graduate with honors and get into college.
Get ready. I remember driving home one spring day and hearing these words in my head. I was a single mom, a college student, and a cashier at Cracker Barrel. I felt like a no body with a bleak future. What in the world did I have to get ready for? What?!? Am I losing my mind? I thought. I heard it again. Get ready. Something about the voice or the experience led me to say a meek little prayer. Um, hi God. Remember me? *Ahem. If You are talking to me, can You maybe explain what it is specifically You would like me to do? Maybe with charts and graphs and a carefully written out plan? Okay, I didn’t really pray it like that, but God knows my heart. I’m very detail oriented. I wanted more details. What was this all about and what in the world was I supposed to get ready for? I didn’t get any other kind of clarity that day.
I did the only thing I knew to do, I started going back to church. Before long, I found myself joining my mother’s Sunday School class because our small church did not have classes for college age kids. The class consisted of about 20 ladies, all over the age of 55. And me. A 21-year-old, naive, baby Christian. God grew my faith in that little room with those precious ladies like you wouldn’t believe. They poured their love and wisdom into me and my mother and I grew so much closer. Before long, they asked me to join the teaching roster. Say what?!? I knew NOTHING. Less than nothing. But, I think they knew that if I were going to teach I would need to study my Bible like crazy and that’s exactly what happened. Transformation began. One Sunday morning, I found myself at the alter, weeping, begging for prayer as I made the decision to rededicate my life to Christ. Mom called it “being baptized in the spirit”. I just knew God was calling me to something and I couldn’t wait to pick up my cross and follow Him.
I took two years off from dating. I focused on Jesus and I remember being so happy and focused on Him I didn’t care if I ever got married. Then a brown-eyed rock star stole my heart and we fell crazy in-love. I truly believe if I had not gone through my “dating cleanse”, as I like to call it, my heart would not have been ready for him. He was (and still is) way too cool for me and funny and generous and sweet, but more than anything, He loved God and that was and still is so apparent to all who know him. We got married and had a little girl and we lived happily ever after…
Well, sorta. Marriage is hard. If you’re not married, know this–marriage is just plain hard work. Yes, there are easy times, but lots of it is hard. People are not perfect. Even your dreamy, brown-eyed, rock star husband will let you down. You will let him down. If you want to get married, you have to choose to let things go, forgive, make-up, forgive, walk away until you can calm down and can speak without sounding like a crazy person, and did I mention forgive? And then you start the process all over again the next day. Love is a choice. And you have to choose it daily if you want your marriage to survive. My husband and I could write books for you about what we’ve been through in our short 14 years. But, to sum it up, years 3 through 10 were rough. Year 10, we hit a turning point. We had battled through some pretty dark days and came out on the other side more in-love than ever. We celebrated our 10 year anniversary on the beach. We renewed our vows before God at sunrise and promised to be there for each other no matter what. Year 11 is when I was diagnosed with MS.
On the night that I was given the diagnosis, it was almost as if I could see God’s hand in my entire history up until that moment. All the best moments, God had been there. And through my darkest of days, God had been there. All the answered prayers. It felt like all of it had led to that moment. And as scared to death as I was, I knew in my heart that God could and WOULD use this for His glory and I would get to be a part of something great. In my faith we talk about “peace beyond all understanding.” The peace that washed over me was absolutely not of this world. I felt tightly gripped in God’s mighty hand like never before. Things were less than perfect. The hospital did a horrible job with my care, they botched tests and forgot to feed me and left me in a holding room for two hours because they forgot where I was… but I don’t really tell people that part o the story because all I truly remember and reflect on was the presence of God. That’s what a relationship with God is like folks… as a dear friend said recently, “It doesn’t mean you won’t go through hard things–but it makes the hard things possible to go through.” There was no panic. There was peace. Yes, we were scared and grieving, but the peace was overwhelming. I cannot imagine going through anything like that without God.
Was God telling me to get ready for the diagnosis that would change the course of my life? Or something else? I honestly have no idea. But I’m so thankful He called out to my heart that day.
So, what would I say to others about reestablishing their faith? Oh folks… you don’t know what you’re missing. Joy. Hope. Peace. Comfort. Purpose. Focusing on something bigger and greater than yourself! God is there with you whether you realize it or not… He created you. He knows more about you than you could ever know about yourself. He adores every tiny thing about you. And He wants you back. He wants you to run to His mighty arms and let Him walk you through this life. He doesn’t want you to feel lonely, to be full of fear. He wants you to have life and live it to the full (John 10:10). He wants you to live BOLD and courageously (Joshua 1:9). He wants you to have peace (John 14:27). Want to talk more? Shoot me a message. I would love to pray for you. The enemy is real. He has a name and he wants you to think no one cares about you. I care about you. Jesus cares about you. Don’t go through one more second of one more day believing the lie that you are alone.