“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”
“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
Leading up to Easter, which is a very important day in my life, I wanted to share some things with you all. I’ve never hidden my spiritual struggles (and victories) from you all. As a child of God, I have to share them, because in all of them, God is to get the glory. There are some things leading up to me giving my life back to God that I haven’t shared, and today, I will. I’ve tried to keep it as brief as possible, but it is hard.
When I was little, I was brought up in a very strict Christian household. Being a spirited kid, I rebelled. From the ages of about 12 until my early 20’s, I kept up with a lifestyle that was a bit too fast for my age, a bit illegal at times, and very much not within God’s will. As a result, I was pretty miserable.
It was during those years, at about age 15, that I announced I’d be quitting high school at some point, and when I was 16, I warned everyone that I’d be moving to Los Angeles when I turned 18.
Well, my mom wouldn’t “let” me quit when I was 16, but I did quit when I was 18…around this time of the school year. On the same day I quit, I hopped on a Greyhound bus to Los Angeles to live with my boyfriend’s band (he was in his late 20’s by the way). My best friend was the girlfriend of the singer, so I wasn’t alone in making a youthful, idiotic decision. But, yeah…I was young.
I clearly remember one day, as the morning was making way into my eyes, as we were going through Texas, the thoughts that were going through my head: 1. “This bus smells,” and 2. “What am I thinking? California? I probably just ruined my life.”
And I did…for a while. I couldn’t find work, things went very wrong and very bad with the guy, and my mom was back home with lung cancer. Seven month later, I returned home. The guilt of those seven months remains with me today. I try to not allow it, as I was young and stupid (and I’m not going into great detail here, but ages 13-22 were rough on my family).
But, my mom took me back. She never asked questions and she never made me feel bad about the things I did as a teenager. She just prayed for me, a lot.
When I came back, I got my GED and tried several types of vocational training. My plans never panned out, despite good grades and great skills. I could never find a job. I always ended up at the same bank job. It paid pretty well, though. I was content to keep my life as it was. Then, in an effort to improve my life, I started looking at college. One day, after I took some entrance tests, I was leaving the school where I tested, and I screwed up my ankle bad enough to require a cast for a month. I wasn’t even able to work. So, there I was, sitting, watching television all of the time. One night a church-like thing came one and I flipped the channel as fast as I could. Mom asked, “What are you afraid of?”
Well, that angered me. Me? The spunkmeister, afraid? NEVER! She touched a nerve, though. At this same time, my uncle was dying a horrible death from cancer. I was a mess, and I was starting to quietly pray. I still ignored God, though.
A few months later, I was sitting in a bar, hanging out with my friends. Over the course of a few weeks, I recall sitting and seeing things differently. Yeah, I was having fun, but I started to think about my future and asking God to move in my life. God was speaking to me in a bar…wonders never cease.
Shortly thereafter, I ended up at church for my mom’s choir’s Easter cantata. It was one I remembered from my childhood, so I went. I hadn’t set foot in my church in almost seven years by that point. I remember during it, just looking up at the ceiling (too keep the tears in my eyes) and asking God to just take control of my life…I had finally, truly given my life to God. That was Easter 1992…almost to the date of this year’s Easter holiday.
Have I been perfect since then? NOPE! A huge NOPE! I struggle; I sin; I have my ups and downs, and as any child is…I constantly ask WHY???? I make dumb decisions, and I probably have the record on asking for forgiveness. But God is so faithful, and He is so patient. I need those two things in major quantities, because I am who I am. I try to change. I am getting better at navigating things and trying to do them as God would have me, but I fail quite often, too.
However, life is a long road with many paths to follow. Some of the paths have tight turns that almost cause us to go over the edge and down a steep cliff. Other paths are the flat open-road types where we just fly through.
So, as imperfect as I am, I am trying to do what God wills. It isn’t always easy, and I do not always make the right choices. But, so far, He has allowed me to stay on the road and I am grateful. He has also blessed me with an education, many memberships to honors societies, and a great career. To be honest, before I gave my life back to God, I was thinking life was so low that I didn’t want to live. My life was so empty. And while I battle loneliness, my life is anything but empty. God has filled it greatly, and I am living a blessed life that would not have happened had I not given my life back to God.
So…sometimes you have to get off the beaten path and get lost, so that you end back on the right road to the right destination.
This song really punctuates everything I have just said. Please listen to it. Have a blessed Sunday! (Thanks for reading this very long entry.)