I’ve been content to keep things somewhat vague on here. In the .0001% chance that someone I know happened across this little blog, I wanted them to not have a real idea of who I was. But life’s been a little different recently, and I think this is a good story to tell at this point. For anyone who may be struggling to find hope, and wonder if God even cares, or if he sees your life: this is for you.
I grew up playing hide-and-seek in the church sanctuary on Wednesdays and singing in the children’s choir on Sundays. Our church was my second home, and the people in it my second family. When I was still in elementary school, my dad candidated there and began working as a pastor. In short order, it became our family’s world. I thrived.
That world shattered one day in late March 2011. Though my parents had had no way of knowing it, the church had been rotting from the inside for decades by the time my dad was on staff. In short, we got burned just like many, many families in that church had before us. We walked out of those doors and have never gone back.
I watched as my parents bore the brunt of slander from people who once claimed their friendship. I watched betrayal after betrayal from people who claimed the name of Christ. There is a filthy, disgusting underside to ministry and to the church, and I saw it under a magnifying glass.
I know now that the loss of relationships is a small price to pay for the sake of the gospel. People have given much more. Hebrews 11 records that “some were tortured, refusing to accept release… others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated– of whom the world was not worthy– wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.” (Hebrews 11:35-38)
Who am I to think that my price was too great? How arrogant.
But I did. I have. For many years, I have resented that cross with every fiber of my being. I was a freshman in high school when everything happened and I felt as though everything that made my life meaningful had been snatched away. Years went by, and I watched from afar as my former friends had fun and lived their high school, and then college, years. Mine felt empty by comparison. As years of loneliness marched by, I questioned everything I’d ever believed about God. I begged him for help and hope and mercy.
It’s been about six and a half years since we walked out of that church. In that time, I’ve wrestled with and been defeated by what C.S. Lewis termed “the problem of pain”. How could a good God allow something like that to happen to me… and still call it good? Why? And how could he possibly expect me to trust Him when this is how he treats his servants?
I say all of that not to get a pat on the back, because if you knew me at all you’d know I don’t deserve it. A slap in the face would be too good for me. I was angry at the God of the universe, who hangs the earth on nothing, for keeping silent in the face of my misery. I shook my fist at heaven and said, “All in vain have I kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence” (Psalm 73:13). If it were entirely up to me, I would have apostatized. But God…
He kept me. In his steadfast love, he kept me when I was the last thing that deserved keeping.
I did not persevere like I should have, and own this with regret. I wish I had been faithful like Joseph, or like any of the others mentioned in Hebrews 11.
As much as I’d like to, I cannot erase the past. I can only cling to the truth of Romans 8:1: “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Christ died for my faithlessness and rebellion and pride.
Anyway. I’m getting to the point, I promise.
Years ago, our family took a trip out to Colorado to visit a some friends of my dad’s. While there, he preached at their church on the story of the rich young ruler in Mark 10. The young man asks Jesus what he must do to be saved, and Jesus tells him to obey the commandments. “All these I have kept from my youth”, the young man responds, and Jesus tells him to go sell everything he has, to have treasure in heaven, and to follow him. The young man goes away sorrowful, not wanting to give away his possessions. What follows is a discussion between Jesus and his disciples about how hard it is to enter the kingdom for anyone to enter God’s kingdom. Having seen the rich young man walk away, Peter speaks up:
“See, we have left everything and followed you.”
Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come, eternal life.” (Mark 10:28-30)
There aren’t a lot of promises in the Bible whose certain fulfillment is in this life, but this is one. I prayed for it for five years and wondered if it would ever come to fruition.
But God heard. He knew. And he kept me.
So today, I’m sitting on my bed in Denver, Colorado, in the home of those same friends we visited all those years ago. The girl who prayed for the restoration of houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands now has all of those things in the form of belonging to a church that exalts Christ.
Elated doesn’t cover it. Grateful can’t contain it. I’m overwhelmed by my unworthiness and God’s mercy. He has provided everything and more than I even thought to ask or think. I don’t deserve any of it- not the kindness the people of this church have shown me, not the mountains I get to see on my drive to work every morning, and not even the crazy traffic that reminds me that I’m really alive and I’m really here.
All glory be to Christ.