My first recognized thoughts about God began when I was around eight or nine years old. It was at that age that I would lie in the grass and stare at the sky and clouds, thinking to myself how beautiful they were and how God had made such a wonderful world. My family did not attend church together. So, besides the yearly Vacation Bible Schools and the occasional Easter service we attended at different area churches, I had no great knowledge about God. Other than the occasional thought about Him, I didn’t consider Him a factor in my life much at all. I knew He existed, but I had no idea of the magnitude of the great I AM.
Yet even though my knowledge and understanding of God was limited, He knew everything about me. Even then, He was watching over my life and preparing me for future ministry for Him.
He had a plan.
My husband has said that some things in our lives just don’t fit neatly with our expectations of God. Suffering is one of the biggies. I don’t have all the answers to the pain in this world, and I have stopped trying to explain why God lets life happen the way it does. When you are a kid, and fear, heartache, emotional abandonment, and shame are your closest friends, it’s just hard to understand or believe that there is a God and that He loves me. Because I didn’t know much about God, I didn’t sit and pound my pillow and question God’s motives (that happened later, when I’d been a Christian for many years and should have known better).
But inside of me, in the inner me that God “knit together,” there was a stubbornness—a firm decision that I was not going to let the dysfunction that existed around me label me or hold me down. I was determined that I would not be backed up and cemented into a corner. I set my will to not only survive, but to overcome. God put all that inside of me. I didn’t know that it was Him; I just knew that what was happening in my life was not going to define me. I would be something more than my circumstances; I would not be a victim.
There was an empty space inside of me. I longed for something to make me whole, and at times it was almost like the Bible verse, “As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul longs for You” (Psalm 42:1). For years I filled that void with temporary stuff—records I just knew I’d “die” if I didn’t have; trinkets I “needed,” books, and other things. I never experimented with drugs, and was an enemy of all things alcohol, having lived the effects brought to me by those who loved it. I knew my life was missing something and was desperate to move beyond the angst I felt on an almost constant basis. I just didn’t know how to access it; I didn’t know how to fill the “void.”
The summer after my high school graduation a friend returning from their church youth camp event set about witnessing to me in hopes of leading me to Christ. When that friend told me what it meant to be a believer in Christ, my heart nearly burst inside of me. This was IT, this was exactly what I was searching for to fill that empty space inside of me, that longing I had for something “more!” That day, as my friend witnessed to me, I asked Christ to save me. I tell you now–without reservation–no matter the circumstances of my life beyond that day, I have never regretted the decision to follow Christ for one moment.
So, how can God use a girl who grew up in a non-Christian, badly dysfunctional home life? Basically, any way He wants. Because God takes the life we live and makes it a story that we share with others, at least for a couple of reasons I can think of:
- to help others in similar life situations; and
- to glorify God with the testimony of His working in our lives.
In the important ways, my life changed when Christ became the center of my existence. I was at peace inside; the world was even more beautiful, and many of my younger observations about God were clarified. I could feel the Holy Spirit working inside me, growing me.
On a family level, however, life did not change much. The dysfunction was still present, a dysfunction that continued well into my adult years and even intruded into my marriage.