Sometime at 1:00 am
Family is a tricky thing, you are bound to love people you don’t always get along with and so often we miss the joy that is family. Family has been downplayed and thrown away, convincing us that a relationship with the people that should matter the most isn’t really that important. We are a selfish society, caught up in what we can get. We don’t like that family requires love without something in return, at least I didn’t. My family gave me nothing in my eyes except a rule book to follow and brothers that annoyed me. I spent years abusing their love but when I changed they were waiting with open arms, they loved me even though they got nothing in return. After we mended our relationships I spent years trying to make up for lost time. I would come home from college for every birthday party, sick day, and family event I could. When my mom was hurting I rushed to her aid and when my family was in trouble I rallied the troops to fight through it. When my husband and I got married I had a hard time leaving a cleaving because I was so invested in repairing the damage. My family became my world and I couldn’t believe I had missed out on these relationships for so long.
When I was in the midst of my rebellion Satan had me convinced that my parents were the problem. I had to have a scapegoat because if I could see reality, if I could see that I was the problem then I might stop self destructing. I was the problem though. My parents did nothing but parent and for that I hated them. I wanted my freedom which I’m sad to say at sixteen isn’t yours to grasp. I wanted them to let me make my mistakes and stay out of my life. I wanted them to let me drown. I was one of the lucky ones though, my parents cared. Most of my friends parents knew we drank, they knew we were having sex, they knew we did drugs, but they didn’t care. The weird thing about being a teen is that you want someone to give you boundaries because you know deep down that you are hurting yourself, you know that this hurts and if you parents care enough to discipline then they love you. If they love you enough to make the hard decision then they care about your well being. If they punish you even when you kick and scream then you mean something to them. Parents like to think they are doing kids a favor by giving them “room to make mistakes” but that is selfishness with a fancy title. My friends whose parents wanted to be “cool”, the houses we’d drink at, the parents who smoked with us, I’m sad to say their kids never came out of it. Their parents sent a clear message early on that they didn’t care. They sent the message that your life is not worth the headache that it takes to parent.
I was lucky, my parents cared. My parents tried desperately to parent in any way that they could. They did everything to send the message that my life was worth more than this. I deserved more than I was allowing myself. My friends could see that. They often joked that they wanted my parents to adopt them, they loved being at my house and I couldn’t see it. I was so deceived that I couldn’t see the greatest gift God had given me.
One of the many times that I got caught having a party at my house my parents were looking for a unique way to punish me, grounding me for months on end wasn’t working and I can only guess they were tired of me being around the house. They decided to give church camp a go, my brother was leading worship at the camp so they figured, what’s the worst that could happen? They really underestimated me.
The camp is in Panama City so I conned one of my best friends into going with me. We were placed with some other girls who were labeled “wild” and I quickly made friends with the girls. We would skip the sessions and get in constant arguments with our small group leader on why we had to wear one piece bathing suits. Whenever my small group leader tried to get me to answer questions I would spout off some smart answer about why I didn’t need God. During the worship sessions they had security guards around the hotel so none of the kids would leave, my youth pastor found me yelling at a security guard about why I should be allowed to go up to my room. I finally ran past him and dropped the F bomb. My small group leaders and youth pastors were left shaking their head and praying the worships leaders little sister would straighten up.
Four years later I was setting up for the youth leader meetings when I heard a voice I barely recognized call my name. I turned around to find my small group leader from so many years ago standing at the door, mouth open. “What are you doing here” was all she could manage. “I am an intern”, I said with a smile. She laughed; there wasn’t much else to do. The camp that I fought so hard to leave made an impact I didn’t even know about. I dedicated a summer of my sweat and tears into the camp and the best part is at the start of every week I got to share my stories of so many years ago when I was a rebellious camper who refused to wear a one piece.
God really does have a sense of humor. He asked me to go back to the camp to show everyone what miraculous things God can do. I promise that if you ever knew me during this phase of my life you would agree that it was a miraculous change.
Its been six days since I last sat down and wrote. Partly because of our thirty hour road trip to my youngest brothers engagement party and partly because too much has been running through my head to write. I have been in one of those places where I start a million things and only finish about one. I run around the house like I am in a huge hurry only to forget what I was doing. I blame it on ADHD although on my better days I claim to have outgrown that.
I was lonely and begging God for new friendships and he listened and came through. Heather was my youngest brothers best friends, she was also the girl he loved. They had bonded over a spring break mission trip and since she was two years older than him they were waiting to date. I had met her a few times but because I was so self involved we had never really bonded. Then she decided to come to Auburn and because she was a year younger than me she showed up around the time I was making huge lifestyle changes. We bonded over one long car ride back to Auburn and became fast friends. She was everything I had prayed for and I learned more from her than I ever thought I could. She helped me navigate through the bible and I kept her entertained with stories from my crazy past. I taught her to give grace and she taught me to be a Godly woman.
It is stories like these that make God so great, I could have never orchestrated that on my own but God could. He knew when I would need heather and he knew she would be a part of my life forever. God does what no one else can do, he works things out according to his plan to prosper your future. I could have fumbled my way through college and come out slightly bruised but instead I let him lead and I came out with a loving husband, great friends, and a family I would do anything for. God did that, not me. I had tried to live my life how I saw fit and it had ended up in shambles.
My first Christmas home was a great one, I had just started changing my life and had asked for a bible. Low in behold there was a tiny red bible sticking out of my stocking when I came down on Christmas morning. I skimmed through it and read the Christmas story while our whole family gathered around the fire in our living room. We had the first peaceful Christmas in years. Our family has a tradition that we do on all major holidays, we go around and say what we are thankful for. When it got to me my eyes filled with tears and I told them. I was thankful for their unconditional love. My dad was the first one to stand and he wrapped me in a huge hug and whispered, “you were easy to love”.
I promised my mom I would go with her to hear my brother at our church’s good Friday service as long as she would let me go to a party right afterward. I was suddenly regretting that decision as we pulled up at the church. It was already seven o clock and I knew most of my friends would be drunk with out me. As we made our way into the candle soaked sanctuary something came over me like a wave of relief, I could almost feel God in this place. I quickly pushed it out of my mind, God had no place in my life.
They had set up the stage in the middle of the sanctuary with chairs surrounding it, I saw my brother playing the guitar by the cross they had set up in the middle of the stage. We sat in right in front of him and I gave a tiny wave. He was the only reason I ever went to church, my pride in his talent outweighed my hatred of church.
He starts to sing and I try to ignore the words as they seem to wash over me, “Jesus paid it all, all to him I owe, Sin had left a crimson stain, he washed it white as snow”. I couldn’t help but wonder if he could really wash my sin away? I knew my sin was more of a black cloak rather than a crimson stain but for a second I wondered.. Could he set me free? Could he take this broken heart and fill it? Could he forgive the horrible things I have done to my family and friends? What about drinking? Well I have to drink, I don’t know how to be fun with out it and i’m in love, or am I? More words I try to ignore, “Oh praise the one who paid my debt, and raised this life up from the dead”. I knew I had a debt, that I knew. I knew I had too much sin for one man to take on. I needed my own cross. I needed my own Jesus and just like most men couldn’t I told myself Jesus could never help me.
I tried to stay strong and keep my thoughts on what I was doing after this but for some reason the tiny voice I had been trying so hard to destroy came to life. My heart began to quicken and I could almost feel forgiveness, I just had to ask. I didn’t want it though, I wasn’t ready to change so instead I let the tears fill my eyes and overflow down my cheeks. I cried for my broken heart and for the shame of my sins. I cried because I knew I needed Jesus but I wasn’t ready to give it up. I cried because I wanted to stay in this place forever, sheltered from the pain of the outside world. Sheltered from yesterdays broken promises and tomorrows failure. I cried because I wasn’t strong enough to make the right choice.
My mom reached her hand over and placed it in mine, a quiet reminder that she was there for me. I knew she was. I knew that one day I would cry because God had redeemed me. I knew one day we might be great friends.
When I was little my brothers and I had a game we would play with my dad on our family trampoline. I was, of course, the princess and my three brothers were the villans trying to capture me. I would sit in the middle of the trampoline while my dad circled around me knocking all my brothers away. We would play for hours, my brothers trying desperately to get through my dads barrier but he was always stronger (although now I bet that game would go much differently). I was never worried, I always knew that even though my brothers out numbered my dad they couldn’t beat his strength. If they would start to come too close all I had to do was call out to my dad and he would come to rescue the princess.
I imagine life isn’t a whole lot different, God standing in front of me protecting me from the evil in this world with his strength. He may be out numbered but he can never be outsmarted or over come. All I have to do is call out his name and he will come running to my aid. He won’t leave me stranded to fight alone. He knows things will try to attack but with the power of his hand I will not fall. He places me, like a princess, in the middle of his binding love and tells the evil things in this world that I have a place at the foot of the cross. I have a place where nothing can harm me. I have a place in my fathers arms. I may not be eight anymore but the principle is still the same.
The Lord will fight for you: you need only to be still.