Monday, December 30, 2013

Got Faith?

To every thing there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.

Why would a good God allow this? Why can't we just have the times of healing? Laughing? Dancing? Peace? Forget that other stuff. That stuff must be from Satan. Or better yet, that stuff must come from a very mean God.

I can't pretend that I have this all figured out. In fact, as I have shared before, the more I grow in knowledge, the more I come to realize how much I really don't know. But I do know MY story. My experience with God and my faith.

From the time I was a very young girl, I experienced many trials. My mother was sixteen years old when she had me and was experiencing her own major life struggles. After a failed, abusive marriage and giving it her best attempt, she came to the point where she was not able to provide for my sister and me and we were placed in a foster home. Several months later we were placed with my great aunt and uncle and cousins, and this unit became my family.

Now growing up, I felt loved and cared for. However, I often fought the "demons" of feeling abandoned, unloveable, and fatherless. This was not a reflection of my wonderful family unit, as they took my sister and me in and often sacrificed so that we could feel a part of the family. They were not particularly religious, Christian or otherwise at the time (though that changed dramatically in the future). However, while fighting my "demons," I often felt a presence with me. I somehow knew that no matter how bad things got, I was going to be alright. I knew this to be true even of the earliest experiences I could recall from my life. In fact, I knew as a four-year-old, crouched in fear and hiding under my bed as my stepfather was in another rage, that something or someone would look after me. And that something or someone would help me, in turn, look after my sister.

I didn't really know what this "something or someone" was until I was in 2nd grade. Every Sunday I rode a church bus to First Baptist Church. Here, while I was fighting with that "unloveable" demon, some really amazing people reached out to my sister and me and made us feel loved and cared for. Do you see a pattern here? Another group of people made us feel "loved and cared for." Then I was sitting in the pew listening to the preacher talk about Jesus. He said that everybody made mistakes in life and those mistakes kept us from being in full communion with God. But God still loved us and his son Jesus still loved us. In fact, Jesus loved us so much that he gave up his own life so that we might be forgiven and reunited with God the Father. Now my 8-year-old mind was spinning, I did not understand all the dynamics at play. But in that moment, I knew ~ so very far, down deep in my soul ~  I loved God and Jesus right back. Tears welled up in my blue-green eyes and I felt full and whole in my heart. I finally knew what that "something" was that had been watching over me!

Despite my struggles, unfortunate circumstances, and certainly in my sweetest moments, God ministered to me as Love. I felt Love with my family. I felt Love with my church family. I felt Love through the story of Jesus. I FELT LOVE. God is Love.

So many things have happened since that day. I grew up. A marriage. Children's ministry. An adoption. Motherhood. A divorce. Questioning of my faith. Redefining my faith. Another marriage. A band. A principalship. More redefining my faith. Two moms and cancer. A Ph.D. And while I certainly don't believe in an "old man in the sky" playing favorites with people who have the best prayers (and of course we know the best prayers come from America…pffttt), I still believe in Love. I still believe in that something or someone who is bigger than me. I still believe in how awesome Jesus was at extending Love and showing us The Way to do so. To explain the suffering in the world and God's role in the suffering is a post for another day. But I can emphatically say that without my faith ~ Love ~ I could never have defeated the "demons" that haunted me. Today it is still as true as it was that day I sat in the pew at First Baptist Church ~ so very far, down deep in my soul ~  I love God and Jesus right back. God is Love. ~ Namaste'