The fourteen year old fresh-faced teen got ready for church like she always did, crisp ironed dress, dressy shoes, hair combed and clipped to keep out of her eyes. It was a normal Sunday morning as she began the short walk to the little church on the hill. She couldn’t wait to see her friends in Sunday School followed by church. She loved her pastor, he seemed more like a grandfather to her or at least what she envisioned a grandfather to be. He was gentle and kind and had a way of telling stories that made you feel you were there, in the moment, living out the story with him. She scooted into the pew, sitting with friends and their parents, quickly grabbed the Hymnal and marked the pages listed in the bulletin. She then settled for the next hour of worship, song and feeling happy at being a part of this group of people. They were adults that taught her in Sunday School, chaperoned camp in the summer, led Training Union and anything and everything that was needed for the youth in the church.
As the service came to a close and the final hymn was started, she felt a push forward. That was odd she thought as she looked over her shoulder and saw nothing there. It happened again and she began to feel pulled toward the front of the church. People were going forward to accept Jesus and while she had been thinking about it, she wasn’t quite sure what that meant or even if she was ready. She felt it again, but more forceful this time. It was as if she couldn’t hold back and she slid out of the pew and walked the aisle to the waiting arms of her beloved pastor. Her life would change forever.
This young teen was, of course, me. This is a story I have only told to my closest family, probably 4 total people, until recently when I shared it with my Sunday School class. Why did it feel that the time was right? Why now? Why them?
Religion and faith have always been a very private thing for me. I don’t know what made me feel that way or was I afraid to share with others? The world is a tough place and I learned very young not to discuss religion or politics unless you wanted to see unrest. These subjects can become so passionate that it can destroy families and friendships. I don’t think I was afraid, but I just didn’t feel it was their business and frankly, I didn’t want their opinion. I was my own person and didn’t feel the need to broach the subject.
Today, I feel like I want to tell you about how I feel God has worked in my life. It’s totally ok if you don’t agree and I respect that, but I want to share my journey. If you don’t believe or are skeptical, please humor me, and read anyway.
That young girl grew up in a simpler time or so she thought. Her mother was something special and she knew it from the beginning. She had no idea how hard her mom’s life had been or how she persevered. She just saw goodness in her and in how she helped others. I believe God gave me this mom to show me love and compassion for others, love of family and loyalty to all who helped you on the journey. She gave me an incredible work ethic and a respect for the wisdom of the ones who walked before us. She taught us to take care of each other and to always remember to live life with purpose and intention. My mom taught me “God is great” to say before meals and “ Now I lay me down to sleep” to say as my head hit the pillow. She was truly my hero. I still say that prayer to this day, because everything she told me was true.
In 1970, the phone rang and informed my mom that the Marshall University football team had been killed in a plane crash. My brother was on that team. It was discovered in the next few hours that he had left the team the week prior and was not on the plane with his beloved teammates. I remember the shock and sadness that surrounded that time. I remember my beloved pastor showing up at our door, even though mom wasn’t attending his church at that time. I’m sure there was grief everywhere, but I don’t remember that part. What I do remember is praying my brother was safe and praying for all the families of his teammates and the little baby that was at our house that Sunday before who in an instant lost his daddy.
Throughout my life, I remember good times and tough times and in those tough times, I remember praying for whatever the need was. Sometimes I may have prayed selfishly for what I wanted or wanted to happen. I know I didn’t say enough thank you’s for all the good things in my life. I, like many, resorted to prayer and looked to God when I needed him the most. Now I know I should have been more diligent when things were good to show my appreciation. See, I know He is there, I know He cares for me and I know He will never let me down, but it falls to me to do the right thing, to make the right decisions and to depend on Him all the time, not just the lean times.
I have never been great at letting go and placing things in His hands. I am working on that. My husband always joked about me being “controlling” “Type A” he said. He was right about that and in the last few years I have learned a lot. Here are a few things I’ve learned.
I have learned you can’t control what happens to you, just how you respond to it.
I’ve learned that a long healthy life is not promised and you need to live each day to the fullest.
I’ve learned that no matter how bad things are, there is a silver lining somewhere, you just have to look for it.
I’ve learned that being a Christian is a life style, not just on Sunday, but everyday.
I’ve learned you don’t have to tell everyone you are a Christian, because your behavior is obvious to others.
I’ve learned that while I don’t want to make waves, it’s important to say how I feel.
I’ve learned to pray for the outcome I hope for, along with being able to handle a different outcome with grace and acceptance.
I’ve learned to say “Thank you” for my many, many blessings in what seems like a challenging life at times.
Most of all I’ve learned that no matter what happens, the world goes on. There are bumps on every highway and as time passes, they often get more treacherous and dangerous. Sometimes they cause you to run off the road, maybe have an accident. You couldn’t always see the road ahead, maybe you didn’t see the danger, or maybe you did and drove it anyway. Maybe, just maybe, you thought you were in control.
I’ve learned I’m not.