"God Loves You" used to be a popular t-shirt slogan back in the day.
Hey, I was in my forties before I realized that God even liked me.
From my earliest memory, God was a big, gruff, white-haired, bearded, scowling man, watching every move I made, ready without any hesitation to mete out the appropriate punishment. Kind of like the Whack-a-Mole game and I was the mole.
From bits and pieces I had picked up in church, I worried when I went to bed at night, scared that Jesus could return while I was sleeping and I would be found wanting.
“How terrible,” you may say. “Was this woman raised by wolves?”
I was not. My family was stable – mom, dad, sister and brother. I loved my mom and dad and even loved my rascal of a brother. My dad was a very hard worker and my mom took a teacher’s aide position once my brother and I started school. Also with us was my maternal grandma, who I adored.
Our home was peaceful. Grandma was deaf, so anytime you talked to her you had to speak really loudly. And my dad's booming voice could be heard whenever we made too much noise, or sneaked an animal indoors without permission.
We ate dinner together. We watched tv together. There were no family meetings. We all shared one bathroom.
Mom took my brother and me to church on Sundays. Spiritual matters weren't discussed in our home that I remember, except for one conversation I overhead when I was six years old that changed my life.
My mom and my Aunt Bina were sitting at the kitchen table, discussing verses from the Book of Revelation. I was in the next room, hanging on every word.
What I heard was more terrifying than any scary movie. The images were frightening: wild horses, angels zooming through the air, a man eating a scroll that tasted bitter! That very night I struggled to get to sleep, unable to stop thinking about the galloping horses and the out-of-control angels, even adding hoof beats, snorting and screaming to the soundtrack in my brain.
Again, you may think, “That poor child. Adults should never have such a conversation where a child can overhear.”
I totally agree, but I was stealth. Still as a mouse and barely breathing. They had no idea I was in the next room.
“Poor kid. Someone should have talked to her about it,” you say.
I agree and I believe they would have had they realized what I had heard. But they never knew.
You see, I was not a child who asked a lot of questions. I simply listened. I observed. I processed. Mostly, I kept things to myself. It’s the kind of child I was.
Because of my nature or personality, the spirit of fear entered into my life that day. To this day, I can still recall those images.
Through adolescence, my teens and into adulthood, I continued to fear God. Although I would never admit it because I was so scared of Him, I may even have felt resentment.
No way could I picture God as a loving Heavenly Father. Nor could I grasp the sacrifice of Jesus.
My ears cringed at the words of the salvation message. I avoided churches and “church people” whenever possible.
Eventually, there came a point where you might say I had a "come to Jesus"experience, where the rubber met the road for me spiritually. Now, I understand God's Love. I wrap It around me like a cashmere blanket and snuggle in.
Every one of us is on a journey, aren't we?
One might suggest that there are two – the life journey and the faith journey. But I think God sees them as intertwined to the point of being inseparable.
You may have begun your journey of faith as a small child. Or, like me, your faith journey may not have commenced in earnest until you were older. Or, you may still have questions, unable to get past the past. Your questions, your hurts are all of great value to your spiritually.
I love the saying, "God can turn our scars into stars." To paraphrase Paul in Romans, everything can be used by God for our benefit and His glory. (Romans 8:28)
I don’t blame anyone for what I overheard. My mom and my aunt were two sisters having a private conversation. Like a lot of kids, I was nosy and should not have been eavesdropping. It's unfortunate that it happened that way, but it did.
At the end of the day, I am thankful for what I have been through, for now I am specially equipped to share my message with others who struggle with fear, to tell them they are not the only one. What a comfort it is to know that you are not alone!
When you reflect on your own journey, can you see how God has equipped you for service through the tough times you have endured?
You may need to take a step back to get some perspective.
Rest assured, however, in God’s economy, nothing is wasted.
Lord, show me where You were present during the hard and scary times. Those years and tears are not wasted. Thank You for my life and my journey. I give You the praise for it all. Amen.