what. a. ride.
That’s how I feel about my relationship with Jesus. It has been the craziest ride I’ve ever been on, full of twists and turns, ups and downs, moments of total abandon and times of desperate fear. There have been places where I’ve clutched onto the railing not sure if I would ever make it out alive, and times when I’ve laughed so hard the tears came streaming down my face.
I have the most incredible family, not many people can say that but I can. My dad, mom, and brother loved me well and we didn’t grow up too fast. Our parents instilled truth into my life at an early age, whispering Bible verses and prayers over us as we fell asleep. Life wasn’t easy but it was good.
But then I got to high school and a tiny rebellious seed grew in my heart. It sprouted into bitterness and pride. I was athletic and threw my identity into my competitive success. I wanted to play sports in college so I worked hard and my success grew. Unfortunately, it led to me thinking I was better than everyone else. What a shame. It turned me into a bully, into someone with a cold heart and clinched fists.
In college that rebellious spirit turned into a rebellious lifestyle. I ended up playing a Division 1 sport. I made it! Right? I felt empty, I felt unsatisfied even after accomplishing my dream of collegiate athletics. I decided to become life of the party girl- surely that would do the trick. So I partied hard. I spent many nights on the bathroom floor full of regrets and alcohol. I would stumble home from a walk of shame with a pounding headache and a broken heart. Nothing seemed to work- I had the grades, the boys, the parties, and the playing time. Yet guilt, shame, loneliness, and emptiness were the only things I had at the end of the day.
All that hard work didn’t pay off. I ended up breaking my hand the day before our conference championships. God has a sense of humor like that. It made me ask the hard questions- what am I doing here? Who have I become? Out of fear I pushed them to the back of my mind as I moved into a summer-long counselors position at a Christian sports camp. I wasn’t even a Christian, but I had a Bible and I wanted to get paid so I lied my way in and got the job (three cheers for the girl to work at Christian camp!)
That camp showed me Jesus. I saw Christian community, real living Christian community for the first time. The counselors loved in each other so much, they all had so much joy. I didn’t know what it was exactly but I did want it. I wanted it so much that I transferred a week before class started. I couldn’t go back. When Jesus told Peter to drop his nets to follow Him I took that literally. I lived at home for a semester and plugged into a Christian community. It was weird. It didn’t feel very “successful” or “big” by the world’s standards, but I did feel full.
Eventually I transferred yet again to a big college to be with the people who knew me and loved me best. It was so fulfilling and I found my stride. I became a Young Life leader and loved telling my high school friends about Jesus. I loved loving people. I loved being loved. I loved figuring out just how much Jesus loved me. Everything about it was a perfect fit, worth the frustration and depravation to get to where I finally felt alive and free.
Funny how just when you think your story is over, just when you think Jesus is finished writing new things that He rocks your world. Everything I knew as “normal” changed the day my dad died. He just died. He didn’t wake up and I was undone. He was my best friend, my biggest cheerleader, and the rock on which our family was built. I remember bargaining with God in the hospital “If you just save my dad I promise I’ll tell everyone how good you are.” The truth is, I wouldn’t have. I don’t even think it would have been a part of my story. God knows me better than I know myself.
He let my dad die and He let me become undone. He let me curse at Him and shake my fists. He let me throw my temper tantrums. You know what’s funny? He didn’t save my dad, and here I am still saying how good He is. C.S. Lewis was right:
“He isn’t safe, but he is good. He’s the king I tell you.”
The money from my dad’s funeral paid for 5 girls to go to Young Life camp. One of them met Jesus and the story was so perfect that I know I don’t deserve to be a part of it. One man died so she could find life, another man died so she could find it too. You can’t write this stuff.
I’m still angry sometimes. I actually work for Young Life now, and Jesus and I still duke it out. I still feel robbed, even though I know my dad wasn’t mine in the first place. I still get sad when I think about how he won’t be there to walk me down the aisle. I feel jealous when my friends have missed calls from their dads. And yet the Lord is so good, my friends. He has written redemption, grace, and kindness on my arms where those scars used to be. He has melted my heart, pulled back the pieces, and taken what could make it hard and softened it towards Him and others. He has shown me where to find real life- full abundant life with reckless abandon. He continues to be my Father and remind me that there is a special place in His heart for the orphan.
What. A. Ride. And I wouldn’t change it for the world.