Sunday, October 28, 2012
This Spiritual Journey...part 2
Yes things changed. They began to change that very evening.
When my husband came in that night he decided to open the mail that had been stacked by his seat for weeks. I heard him gasp and utter a curse. I got up from the bed and asked him what was wrong. He handed me a letter which read, "Greetings from the U.S. Army..." or something to that nature. He'd just been called up to serve in the Gulf War and his day to report was in three days...
As it happened, he didn't serve any time in the war. His time was spent in a military camp in Missouri and I struggled alone with a number of issues at home that I won't go into. When he returned we both realized how broken our marriage had become and I left two days later. And before that week was out I was hit by a drunk driver on my way to work one morning. I went through my own sort of hell for the next two or three years. I 'lost' the little non-denominational church during that time. Second verse, not quite the same as the first, but it hurt all the same. I was asked to leave since my husband had joined the church during my 3 month hospital stay and I was the one requesting the divorce.
During this time there had been changes on my job. A woman came to work in the office who had a God centered life. We didn't work closely but it was obvious in all she said when we chanced to meet that she had a relationship with Him. I, on the other hand, remained on a bare nodding acquaintance with Him.
One week we all worked especially hard. We were to give a special dinner that evening and as it usually happens those who had worked hardest during the week had to work to set up the dinner, too. We were all there grumbling about having to work all evening after such a long week when this woman arrived to help. She came down the sidewalk, face aglow, wearing a huge smile. I remember looking up from my work and seeing her. "I've just heard the most wonderful sermon!" she said and I felt something akin to jealousy well up inside. "God! I want what she has!" I prayed inside. But I didn't know how to get it.
It wasn't all bad in those two years. I had a decent home and something almost like peace in my life with my oldest two children and I had Katie. I had a good job. Co-workers often spoke with me about spiritual matters and about their relationship with God. We had lots of discussions when we could. One morning I was in my office and an aide stopped by. "I just wanted to tell you that I've been talking about you to my aunt. She told me to tell you something. She said that God is pruning you down for new growth." I had hung my head when she said she'd been talking about me, but I felt encouraged when she told me the words her aunt spoke. It gave me hope. I had some really wonderful co-workers at that time. They'll likely never know how they helped me through the difficult years.
It was a time of deeper struggle than ever from the moment I saw that vision until October or November of 1993. In late 1992, I met John and we became a couple. In 1993, I was unemployed and John had taken us all in hand and was 'raising' us, in more ways than one. It was my habit at 11am each day to put Katie down for a nap and then to watch The 700 Club. John had long since given me his mother's Bible to study, a New Living translation to replace my King James bible and had spoken to me about spiritual matters many times. He, by his own confession, was not walking a Christian walk, but he'd had a deeper grounding than I'd had and he understood scripture better than I did. His mother had been a woman who walked closely with God and I discovered in her underlining and notes a God who was loving and kind and merciful. I'd also discovered Kenneth Copeland, Joyce Meyer and the 700 Club in those days of unemployment.
Back to the 700 club... I'd put Katie down for a nap and was watching the program. At the end of every program, they asked those who wanted to accept salvation to pray the sinner's prayer with them. I was still reluctant, despite my growing hunger for Christ. I thought often of answering that petition to prayer but didn't. On this day as they prayed I heard my name called. Three times I heard my name called, by a man, who used both my first and middle name. I walked all through the house, stepped outside to check the yard, looking for this man who'd called me and found no one. It happened again the next day at the same time and in the same way.
I was a little spooked. We lived in a small town on a dead end street and we never locked the doors. No one on the street did. But the third day, I locked the doors on my way back to the den after I put Katie down for her nap. And just before the sinner's prayer started, for the third day in a row, I heard my name called three times again. This day, I fell on my knees and cried out to Christ to take control over my life. I resigned from trying to run my own life, told him He knew just what I was and what I'd been and if He wanted me, I'd follow Him. I cried hard that day. But I didn't tell John what had happened to me. I felt it was a private thing. John found me on my knees praying one morning when he came home a bit early. We were both embarrassed but I told him before he went back to work that day what had happened.
I confess to you here and now that from the day I went down on my knees until now I've never experienced another moment of depression. I've been blue now and then, but it's just blue for a day and then it passes. It's not that all encompassing dark despair I lived with daily for years and years. And I had a hunger and thirst for Christ that was unquenchable. I read my Bible daily, pouring over the New Testament and listened to televised sermons each morning and at night John and I found a radio station that had several sermons each evening. I went to work at a new job and one of my co-workers was in a place of seeking. She asked me all sorts of questions and I'd pray that God would give me the answers, the right answers, and sure enough in a day or so I'd have heard a sermon or read scripture that would allow me to tell her what I'd learned. I spent morning breaks in the chapel each morning (I worked at a hospital) and prayed and I began to learn about God the Father.
Not easy years, those first years of being a Christian. It took many years more before I found a church. I healed from my wounding experiences with the churches of my past. I briefly attended one or two churches but never really settled into one. I went to the local Methodist church here in town. It filled me with peace when I entered the big double doors each Sunday. Eventually I began to attend a rather awesome Sunday school class and it was filled with people who had a real relationship with God and Christ and we all deeply enjoyed that discussion.
One morning someone in the congregation hurt my feelings badly. I was still mistrustful of churches as a whole and I stayed away for a few months. When I returned the pastor was preaching about baptism and I found myself crying. He met me on the front steps of the church and asked what I needed. I told him I needed to be baptized. I told him about my childhood baptism and the two churches I'd been asked to leave and he told me that he'd be happy to baptize me. I was very adamant that I only wanted to be baptized but not to become a member of the church.
Pastor Bill Woodson came out to the house to talk over the baptism with myself and John (even though John refused to attend there or anywhere). Mr. Woodson told me at the end of that talk that he wanted me to seriously consider joining the church. "I don't want you to join and stay. I want you to join because God needs you to put that trust in Him. You need to join with the idea that you are to go out and look for a church where you can truly belong. This is just a step of faith on your part." I did consider his words and prayed about it and when I was baptized, I became a member of the Methodist church.
For five years I attended church alone (except for the children), praying the whole while that John would eventually come too. He steadfastly refused and I'm cautious about being a nagging wife. When Samuel graduated we attended his baccalaureate service. A young man spoke that evening and we discovered that he was a teacher in the school system, but also a pastor of a local church. John told me "I like him. If we could find out where he preached I'd go to church myself." God had heard my prayers...