Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. Jeremiah 29:12-13
Month after month, insomnia permeated my early morning hours. Too many twilight hours had been wasted sitting in despair wondering how I’d ended up in this place in my life. At the age of ten, I’d sunk into a life-long depression that almost destroyed me and which tainted every moment of my life. Now I was twenty-five and trapped in an abusive environment with no hope or expectation of love, safety, stability, or escape. My only reason for even bothering to live was my five-year-old who needed me to be there for him. I’d spent years trying to fix my life: to be happy, to make my abusive husband love me more, to make enough money to afford to pay both the electric bill and the gas bill in the same month. Many times in that last year, I’d found myself awake in the middle of the night crying out to a God I didn’t know or understand and had denied since childhood – “Where are you? Why can’t I find you?” He never answered.
Then on one of those dreary nights, a seemingly insignificant memory from childhood came to mind. “If you get lost while we’re here – stay right where you are! Don’t move! Don’t walk around trying to find me. Just stay right where you are and I will come find you!” It was my mother’s ‘as-we-walk-into-every-store’ speech. I’d heard it many times as a child.
What made me think of that now? It was then that the light bulb went on over my head – Maybe, I shouldn’t try to find God. Maybe I should let him find me! Maybe, me trying to fix all the stuff that’s wrong in my life is like walking around trying to find him instead of staying put and letting him take care of things – letting him find me.
I remember staring at the ceiling and saying, “I’ve done everything I can to try to fix my life. There’s nothing left for me to try. So God, it’s up to you now. You can’t possibly screw up my life anymore than I already have. Do whatever you want with it. I’m lost and I’m just going to stay right here and wait for you to find me.”
I went on with my life as usual, completely unaware of the big thing that had just happened or that God had heard and accepted my offer. Over time, my life began to change in many ways. God worked behind the scenes of my life to help me overcome nicotine addiction, leave behind my abusive marriage, and weave a network of people into my life who helped me through that first year after my son’s death.
Several years after that late-night prayer, Jesus delighted to introduce himself to me at a Kmart magazine rack. I love to read and as I was browsing through the books that day, I saw a paperback entitled The Book. I was unable to flip through the pages because it was shrink-wrapped, but the back cover promised that this book would speak the Bible to me in my own everyday language. Something inside of me said, “Buy this book.”
That evening, I began reading in Acts and was drawn back to it every night, reading about all of the different kinds of people who came to faith in story after story after story. The striking difference in Paul’s life before and after his encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus helped me realize that even though I had done some horrible things in my life, I wasn’t too awful for God to love. A few weeks later, I read Romans 5:6-8: “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, no one is likely to die for a good person, though someone might be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed his love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.”
Wow! God doesn’t love me for what I’ll do for him or give to him – He just loves me! Is it possible that someone could love me for who I am, just as I am? And if he loves me for me unconditionally, then there’s nothing I can do that will cause him to love me any less. He’ll just ALWAYS LOVE ME! He loves me enough to take the punishment for my sins and he’s alive right now – loving me whether I love him or not.
It was at that moment that I first loved Jesus back and gave him my heart and my life because without him, both were empty. With Jesus as my focus, my life has become quite an adventure. There have been some great times and some very bad times. With God’s help, I’ve faced incredible challenges and have been amazed at how God never fails to bring me through those times with grace, healing, and exraordinary blessing.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
2 Corinthians 5:17
About the pictures:
North Park (October 2012)