Sunday, September 25, 2016
Sunday Afternoon Tea - God uses every part of our story
Recently I plugged my ear phones into the iPad, located the app for the radio show, and chose the program I wanted to listen to that evening. I somehow feel safer, listening to alarming news of doom and gloom... while wearing ear phones... stretched out on the sofa with my eyes closed as the last light of the day is escaping below the horizon.
God made me two very different people within one person. On one hand, my husband says he doesn't know anyone more like a refined lady who always goes by the rules. He thinks if I were the last person on earth, I'd still stop at every stop sign. This is the part of me that loves British novels, everything tea time, and fine china. The side of my personality that is afraid of the dark.
There is another part, one who adores Finding Bigfoot and Babylon 5. Who was thrilled when Survivorman started making Bigfoot additions of his show. The me that wrote for a preparedness website and loves to listen to alternative radio and watch disaster movies. Even though that part of me is still afraid of the dark.
God makes each one of us unique and some of us more ummm... different... than others. But He uses every single part of our story, down to the jot and tittle of the most obscure pages in the book of our life. He uses the bad stuff. He uses the good stuff. When we give our life to Him, He makes it all... gold.
It sounds odd but I didn't realize how desperately unhappy my childhood and teen years were until I was in my 20s. My world changed overnight. Literally. Really. When my father died suddenly of a heart attack. I came home from school one afternoon in 5th grade and the house was locked. He was on a seasonal layoff from work and he was always there when I walked home. But this time he wasn't. I didn't know he was dead.
I'm the "ours" of a "yours, mine, and ours" midlife marriage. While my parents were thrilled with my birth and I'm sure my siblings were happy, I was only really close to my sisters nearest my age and they were married and moved away from home not too long after I was born. So there was never a close bond one would have if growing up together.
I was always... different.
I grew up surrounded by the dark side of life, knowing it was around me while protected from it by my parents. Mom always tried to keep me from turning toward the lifestyles of some of my siblings while making decisions which brought further separation, in its' own way. Two stepfathers, the first who was absolutely crazy and the second... the one to whom she stayed married until his death late in their years... was fine at first but he became darker and darker as the years progressed.
The event which brought about the great chasm was when an acquaintance at school took on the challenge of her pastor to invite the "least likely person she knew who would become a Christian" to a revival meeting at their church. I was that person.
When I became a Christian, I was not even invited to most family events. Where before there had just been an age difference, now the darkness did not welcome the Light and I didn't understand as a new Christian that just the presence of the Holy Spirit in a person's life left those in darkness highly uncomfortable.
I was "saved" in the age of the Jesus Movement, when God was calling "the least, the likely, the little, and the lost" to Himself. The church ladies were aghast when these unlikely souls were saved, boys with long hair and girls with short skirts. They (we) brought new kinds of music and a different way of worship into the mix.
We were... different.
God blessed me with mentors who taught me how to speak with good English and how to communicate to crowds clearly, who introduced me to great authors and literary teachers, who helped the girl from a dark background to become a lady, who accepted where I came from but showed me the way to that which is far better.
I remember sitting in a board room of a major corporation where I worked and thinking of the girl who was the "least of those". Thinking of the older friends who would correct my speech and taught me to communicate clearly... and mentally thanking them.
I still have memories such as sitting in the backseat of a car in my pajamas as my mother drove the streets of town to find a drunk family member and take him to his house. Remembering who I was taught to stay away from and who was safe. So far away from the childhood of those raised in the church.
But it was the early years that made me strong, that gave me the gift of the gritty side of my personality. It's why I like the idea of searching for an unknown species and I love stories that take place out in another galaxy. It is why I have no problem communicating with the girl with the chip on her shoulder or my early days of working in ministry to teenage gang members.
It is why there are two sides of me that come together because God wove the story of my life. He brought teachers and mentors both in person and in books. But it is also why I can remain married to someone with extreme mood swings. Been there. Seen it before.
God weaves all of our days together if we let Him. When we can lay the past at His feet, then He takes what was once not so good and makes it lovely as we use our story to help others know His. While never fitting into the family as did my siblings, I became closer to a few of them. There were still those who hated me and the God I love. But they were prayed for, anyway.
Are there scars from the early days? There always will be. I still deal with abandonment issues, as do I think all children who lost a parent very young. I began to understand my mother's decisions as I grew older but I sometimes wonder what life would had been like if she had made different decisions. If she had not turned against the church in her younger years, before returning to Christ after I found Him.
But the past is just that... it is the past. The past cannot be changed but it can be redeemed. When we lay the dark memories at His feet and He works that precious alchemy only He can do by turning the dark into a beautiful golden path of sharing His love to those who are still in darkness. When we forgive even if we can't forget.
When we trust His writing of our story.
Artist: Thomas Carr