Wednesday, August 27, 2008

God In Motion

As you know if you have been following for awhile, I started this blog the day after I attended ROCKHARBOR (and church, for that matter!) for the first time, met God very directly, and was instantly changed. I knew after such a powerful experience that I needed to document my walk in a new faith and the incredible things that were taking place in my life. My friend who had been at church with me that night asked if he could share what I had written, and of course I agreed, without knowing who he intended to send it to. He had sent it to a few pastors, some of which he knows from earlier in his life (like his youth pastor), and some who call ROCKHARBOR home, including our teaching pastor, who had given the sermon that first night... You can imagine my surprise!

Out of that initial connection have come a great many things. I have developed a fellowship with his youth pastor online. We've had some great conversations and I'm so thankful for how generously he shares his wisdom and faith whenever I have questions! When one of the pastors from ROCKHARBOR read it, he said it would be a good story for Motion. Neither of us knew what Motion was so we read some of it online. It's a bi-monthy magazine our church produces, which is filled with first hand accounts of how God is moving through ROCKHARBOR. (Check out the online archive here.) I fell in love with the rawness and honesty of the stories and how inspiring it was to see God impacting lives in all kinds of circumstances.

I continued reading it over the next couple months, and felt called to get involved, but I didn't know how to go about that. I've always loved to write and as a loving and devoted follower of Christ, it seemed like a great fit. I flipped to the back page to find the email address of the editor, and sent him a quick note asking if he needed any help. He told me there would be an open enrollment for the writing team soon, and we kept in touch through email for a few months until the time came for the informational meeting and a try-out assignment.

The assignment was to write our own Motion Life-Story; is a time when God transformed our lives, and who we had been before and how we were changed after. Though the past five months have provided endless options, my choice was obvious. I retold the story of my first night at church, and included a lot more honest background of who I had been before and who I am today. (Find the final edit below.)

I submitted my assignment last week and am now just waiting to hear back.

It's something I've been wanting to be involved in since I first read it and have spent the past few months hoping it would happen. I spent some good hours and a lot of energy on my try-out, and have relived some difficult memories in the process. And as much as it's something I've wanted to do, I'm not praying that I make it on the team anymore. My prayers now just ask that his will be done and that I go where I will be most beneficial to him.

I smile when I recognize God revealing himself in surprising ways, even during those times when I think I have everything figured out, and it becomes clear I don't. Its humbling to remember that, but there is so much comfort in knowing that he can see far beyond what I can, and knows and wants the best for me.

I have peace on the subject. I'm not worried about whether or not I'll make the writing team. Life happens, and its far from predictable. I trust that if writing for Motion is his will, it will happen. And if that isn't his will, he has something else up ahead for me. I know he called me there, but only time will tell why. Its exciting to see what God is going to do next.

Faith is not about looking before you leap and then deciding if you feel like jumping, but simply saying, "yes, Lord." No one knows better than he does, is more trustworthy, or loves us more.

So, with my eyes closed I say yes, Lord! Only time will tell where I'm going to land. I can't wait to see!


And now, the story.

Looking Through God's Eyes

Growing up, I never knew God. I’m an only child of divorced parents, and while there was plenty of conflict between them, a lack of religion was one subject they agreed on. On one side I had my mom, a non-practicing Catholic, and on the other I had my dad, a non-practicing Jew.

I was raised to believe physical appearance the most important quality. It was clear from a young age that if there was something "wrong" with how you looked, you changed it, no matter what the cost. And I was far from of this idea of beauty. I was chubby. I had frizzy hair. I wasn't cute. I wasn't athletic. I wasn't popular. As I got older and became more aware of what I looked like versus what I was "supposed" to look like, my self-esteem plummeted. I came home in tears the day my first crush started dating my best friend. My consolation prize was getting my hair highlighted for the first time and new makeup. Whether it was intentional or not, the message was that if he hadn't picked me, I must not be pretty enough.

In high school my lack of confidence consumed me. I never had a boyfriend and it felt like I didn't deserve one. Despite education on eating disorders, at home I was told that it would be healthier for me to be anorexic than overweight. My mom promised she would quit smoking when I quit eating. By senior year, I was overcome by depression and severely limited what I ate. When I met my first boyfriend, it felt like a reward for my suffering. I was finally desirable to someone, and I made excuses for the way he treated me. So did my family.

When I got to college we broke up, and I started getting lots of attention I wasn't used to. It was a thrill to be found attractive, and I thrived on it. But no matter what, I still hated my appearance. Soon my craving for affection led me down a dark road. With everything I knew I couldn't distinguish the line between being wanted and being used. I convinced myself that my promiscuity was an expression of how free I was, when in reality it was a reflection of how broken my heart was. I ached for someone to love me, but I couldn't admit that to anyone, especially myself. Sex lost all meaning.

One summer, I moved next door to two guys who were best friends but polar opposites; Nick, the wild one who drank every night and slept around, and Peter, a sweet Christian guy who abstained from sex and alcohol all together. I fell for Peter instantly. I knew he would never want a girl like me, and I quickly cleaned up my act. I know it was God who was trying to pull me out of my emptiness, but I didn’t know it then.

Peter and I hung out all summer, but he didn’t how I felt about him. When he and my roommate started dating, I was crushed. At a party one night, and his best friend Nick started coming on to me. After too many drinks I went home with him, relieved to be wanted again. As the alcohol wore off I realized what I was doing and practically ran home. I tried to brush my teeth but I couldn’t even look in the mirror. I couldn’t fool myself anymore. I didn’t leave the house for three days, afraid that I’d see one of them.

A friend finally talked me into going out for lunch, but we didn’t get far. A few blocks from my house, another car ran through an intersection and hit me, totaling my car. We were relatively unharmed, although my face and chest were cut and burned from the airbag. In shock, we pushed the car to the side of the road and walked home, where I saw Nick washing his car outside. He looked at me, bleeding, and said nothing. The accident had shaken me, but that hurt much worse.

I’ve heard it said that car accidents are a wakeup call from God, but I didn’t see it like that. Not yet.

It was that afternoon that I made the choice to be abstinent until I was in a serious relationship. I told my friends, and they joked about it, thinking it would never last. But it did, and after two years of renewing my sense of what sex meant, I met someone who valued me far beyond how I valued myself. I poured my heart into it, but being unable to love myself also meant I didn’t know how to be loved by someone else. I never felt worthy of the way he felt about me, and after a few years it finally pushed us apart. I felt my world was crumbling all over again.

I knew I was missing something, though I wasn’t sure what it was. I casually dated some great guys but it never became serious. I was emotionally shut off. It felt good to be more independent but there was still an emptiness that I couldn’t explain. I still didn’t like anything about myself, and hoped for the day that someone would love me enough to fix that.

In the early Spring of 2008, I met someone different from anyone I had ever met. His relationship with God is the biggest part of his life. I had never wanted anything to do with that, but as he would talk something started stirring in me that I couldn’t explain. Having never been to church, I was too nervous to go, but I started listening to sermons on the ROCKHARBOR website. Any time I would read or talk or think about God, I would get this anxious, excited feeling in my heart, though I wouldn’t admit that it was having any effect on me. The relationship was short, but he left a lasting impression.

It was a Sunday afternoon in April when I realized I wasn’t apprehensive about going to church anymore. I asked a friend if I could go with him to the service at ROCKHARBOR that night, but I played it cool. I was afraid I wouldn’t feel anything, and I didn’t want to let anyone down.

The message that night was called Sex is Powerful. It was about how huge of an emotional connection sex is, why God calls us to wait until marriage, and no matter where we’ve been we have the opportunity to start fresh. God can redeem us. It helped me understand that even with the mistakes I had made, all the scars could be healed. I realized that it wasn’t enough to wait for a relationship to be serious, and I knew then I would wait until marriage.

Although I had felt good about being there, I was still so foreign to me. As we were shuffling out, my friend spotted a pastor he knows and I told him I would meet him in the lobby. As I walked out I caught a glimpse of Peter and Nick, the two friends I had lived next door to. Five years ago. 200 miles away from where I stood. The ones I hadn’t spoken to since.

I rushed back in to find my friend. Trembling, I gave him a 30 second synopsis of everything that happened years ago and since then. Shaking, we walked back into the lobby. They saw me and said hello, looking almost as surprised as I was. My heart raced. At that second everything clicked. I had no idea how I had ever been able to see the world and not see God in it. After a few minutes we went our separate ways. I didn’t say much the rest of the night, and as soon as I got home I wept for all the years I had felt lost and alone, because I wasn’t.

They say that the moment you die, your life flashes before your eyes. In those moments my old life ended, and it did. I saw God in everything. Every painful step of my journey made sense, and it didn’t hurt anymore. He was there with me in the lobby at ROCKHARBOR and He had always been, faithfully waiting until the moment I would realize that His love is the only love I need. He led me there to show me I had been redeemed. We can change our own minds, but only God is capable of changing our hearts.

The following Sunday on the way to ROCKHARBOR, my friend and I were going through an intersection a few blocks from his house when we were hit hard. It was almost identical to the accident I had been in five years before. But this time, as we stood on the sidewalk, relatively unharmed and watching the emergency vehicles swarm the scene, I had to keep myself from smiling. Because this time, I knew why I had made it out safely. I was overcome with peace and gratefulness.

God is continuously molding my heart and revealing to me the things that hold me back. As I gain greater understanding on what it means for my whole life to be an act of worship, I’ve realized that hating myself, one of God’s creations, is far from worshipful.

On the outside I’m the same person I was five months ago, but for the first time I can see myself through God’s eyes. I’ve finally learned to love myself just as He created me.


Jane Doe said...

hi there. i used to read your a date in the life blog. i had no idea you had another talking about your faith.

that's a quite a story you shared with us and im glad i found it.

im actually struggling with my faith right now and god always find some way to reach me.

my mother says, "once he has you, you may try to stray away but he always finds a way to bring you back" so far it's held true

The Girl in the Mirror said...

God will always find some way to reach you. So many times we think that he's distant, but it's really us making ourselves distant. He'll always faithfully wait for you, and do what he can to get your attention. That's what unconditional love is.

I heard a startling statistic last night at a prayer meeting where we focused on the local college campuses. Somewhere between 67-80% of college students abandon their faith at some point before they graduate.

With everything that comes at you from all angles in college (and trust me, TRUST ME, I've seen it all), our spirits aren't nearly strong enough without God. I would do anything to be able to go back and meet God first.

-eve- said...

It's a good article. Stuff like this reminds me of the reality of God, 'cos I periodically put him aside *wry smile*. but as you say, life is wasted without God.