Thursday, August 4, 2011

40 years--a chronology

For the word of the Lord is right and true, He is faithful in all He does.
...The eyes of the Lord are on those who fear Him, on those whose hope is in His unfailing love.  Psalm 33:4, 18

Forty years.  Some would say that anniversary marks the half-way point in a person's life.  Or life on this planet, I should say.  I have said those words myself a time or two, even when I didn't quite want to believe them.  But today marks the fortieth anniversary of the day I began my relationship with Jesus, so I can say with the authority of heaven above me and the Holy Spirit within me, that I'm just getting started.  There's more ahead than behind me, even if I leave this body tomorrow.  And some days, I wouldn't give a plug nickel for this crumbling body, anyway!

In honor of such an auspicious occasion, I lay in my bed this morning and mentally took a trip down memory lane with Jesus.  Thought I'd share some of the highlights with you.

My infancy as a believer coincided (or collided, depending on the moment and my adolescent, quixotic mood swings) with a rather horrible case of full-mouth herpes and mononucleosis.  My physical body was a mess.  Excruciating pain in my mouth, because I'm talking 200+ cold sores which went down my throat, preventing me from eating, and required some sort of surgical cement covering my braces to keep them from making the pain worse.  I was too young in my faith, too ignorant in scripture to recognize the 40 days of testing, but looking back I can see clearly the ugly hand of the enemy working to steal my new-found love for and joy in God.  Because of my infancy, however, the protection I needed came from the Holy Spirit.  I remember spending those days drinking in His word when I was unable to do more than drink my food.

I began high school that fall and, by His grace, plugged immediately into Young Life.  The milk most needed for the baby Christian was ready and available to me and I lapped it up like it was my job.  My prayers during the first decade of walking with Him were most often self-centered and outcome-based.  "Let him like me, Lord." "Help me pass this test (even when I've barely studied)."  Do, do, do for me.  I think God was patient and gentle with me, recognizing that children need affection and confidence to be raised up.  I often had the sense of sitting on His lap with His arms around me, of His presence like a cloak (which was something else I also asked for--cover me like a cloak, Lord!).  And worship--how I loved and needed the songs of worship.  Music was synonymous with worship to me in those years, and once I discovered contemporary worship music, I stayed there, singing hallelujah with gusto in the company of saints so like me we could have exchanged our very lives.

My second decade of being a believer began just about the time my college relationship was ending.  So that decade started in pain.  I had been certain that man was God's plan for my life and had prayed so hard for him that AC allowed my conviction to convince him for a while.  And God gave AC to me much like He gave the people of Israel Saul when they asked for a king, even knowing he wasn't right.  And it ended in pain, as such things are wont to do.  That pain created the darkest period in my life, when I tried to live my life without Christ.  For a whole school year, I tried.  Found it as impossible as flying.  He just plain loved me too much.  Snuck into the corners of my heart and brain when I was trying to turn my back.  And, in the end, I lay down my walls, knelt before Him and repented of my hard-hearted, pain-induced sin.  Not a year later, I was re-acquainted with my across-the-street neighbor, SW, who became my husband when I was 26.  God was in that, of course.  That painful break-up was the necessary step to the real love-story He intended. 
The rest of that decade was spent pleading His mercy and counting on His grace.  We had, 14 months after our wedding, our first child and two others in such quick succession it still stuns people when I speak of it. Three children in 3 1/2 years.  I didn't have time to take a shower alone, let alone pick up a Bible.  We lived in a sleep-deprived, diaper-changing haze where church was our food and fellowship our crucial thirst-quenching drink.  I remember no sermon, no study, barely a word of song from that time.  And count it good that He was in it and we all grew despite it.

By the third decade of my walk with Christ, Beve and I were part of a high school ministry leadership.  Leading trips on mission fields, teaching Sunday school.  I was involved in Bible studies, church committees, so deeply involved in that church that our elementary-aged children took off their shoes when they walked through the church doors, like they did in the entryway of our home. I learned to pray in a more selfless way during those years, more fully for His will.  Less for His gentleness and more for His likeness. More for Him to be met in all things and less for Him to do for me and mine.  It began to be clear that He had gifted me in teaching, studying and contemplative ways, in leadership and prayer.  And when our closest friend, a pastor who'd been handing me his books by the busload, told me of a seminary in Vancouver, BC, Beve and I looked into it.  I cried when I got the catelogue. Cried just knowing there was just a place on this planet, teaching such things, so wholly aligned with the very things I'd most want to study if I could dream them up in my deepest imagination. It was a no-brainer to Beve that God intended me to go to Regent College, though it meant pulling up stakes, moving our children, etc.  I felt like a little island of faith in a huge sea of doubts that spring and summer, but Beve believed the logistics were God's problem if God was calling, and he was right.  God was ahead of every decision. Sold the house, provided a house, a job, schools, finances for Regent.  It was breathtaking and a beautiful gift.  Since then, I've always felt that He gives in direct proportion to how much we're willing to risk for Him.

My fourth decade began while I was at Regent, in a world of academics and theologians, so stimulated I could hardly contain it.  Prayer grew, as did study.  I was growing up into an adult in the faith.  As I should have been.  Began to lead retreats, preach, be confident in both, love both.  Less afraid to preach in front of 500 than walk into a room of 50 strangers. Leading mission trips to Mexico, where I had to surrender myself because I felt so over my head.  If He didn't do it, it was doomed, and too many people's lives and faiths were at stake.  Writing the devotionals for such trips.  What fun but what a stretch.  And a women's prayer group deepened my prayer life in ways I cannot begin to express.  In the last decade I've learned to pray without ceasing at times.  Not always, but sometimes.  To give myself over to Him to prayer.  To allow Him to direct that praying so that I am hardly conscious of it, rather, He is praying to Himself, if that makes sense.  It is a privilege to be His vessel.  The deepest prayer of my heart has become not "glorify me," but "Glorify yourself in me."  The difference is enormous.  It is not I but He who lives in me.  NOT I.  And this blog, which has taught me to look at life and small moments always with an eye toward the holy. An eye toward His Kingdom.  The Holy Spirit does it about ninety percent of the time.  The other ten, my words fall flat. 

Growing in wisdom and stature, knowing there is more before me than behind me.  Certain that if He had not called and not been in every step, my life--which is not my own--would have falled as flat as that ten percent. 
Thank you, Lord Jesus, for the inexpressible gift of this life everlasting.  Go before me.  Subtract more and more of me from the equation of myself, and multiple (not add--I'm making no math error here) your Holiness, and your presence in my every dealing.

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