***Maybe you come here to read parenting posts. And I am thrilled about that. I want you find words of encouragement that will impact the good work you do with and for your kids. But for me, today is an important day. Today I remember how my life was utterly transformed 35 years ago. Today, I want to grab hold of my kids, two who worked at a Christian camp all summer, two attended, and remind them that those experiences can create lasting and powerful change in their lives. I know this because it happened to me. On this day, so long ago, I found out that there was another path I could take. I could live a life transformed by grace. I could share this with others. So, if you came for parenting ideas, I promise I will return to that soon. For today, I want to tell this story. Today, I want to remember what happens when you discover and accept grace. Please read on. ***
We were at a Christian camp in Indiana and it was a brand new experience for me. I remember the room being hot and crowded. It was evening and after a day of swimming and hanging out together, we gathered for a concert to be put on by a Christian college band. I remember there were three people in that group… that they could sing… and that I was seated in the front row with my friends, Laura and Lisa.
For months before that night, Laura had seen the need for what would soon occur. I did not. I will always be grateful to her for spending a year talking to me, teaching me, leading me gently toward truth. As a 16-year-old girl, my life was about my boyfriend and whatever fun event we would next attend. Laura lived a different life… nicer, kinder, more closely aligned with that which was good (as I saw it then)… and slowly, as we became friends, she expected the same from me. I knew there was something different about her but the details of what that could be were lost on me.
At Christmas, 8 months before the night of the concert, Laura gave me a gift. As I pulled back the holiday wrapping paper, I held in my hands something I had never touched before. The book was black and in the lower right-hand corner of the cover, embossed in silver, was my name. It was a Bible. A Bible of my very own.
When Laura invited me to go to camp with her that summer, I really had no idea what to expect. I had never been to camp and certainly never a Christian camp but something in me tugged. Something in me knew I needed to go. Or maybe that was God, present before I knew Him, pushing me to a place that would help me to draw near.
I don’t honestly remember most of that week. I know that we went swimming and spent time outside. I know there were a couple of cold days… odd for early August. I know there was singing and chapel and a camp ditty that I remember clear as a bell even today.
Yes, there were camp-y things that week. But in the end, those things meant very little because as I sat in that front row, friends on either side, my life was about to change in a way that would alter everything that I would do or think or hope for from that day on.
The concert was good… and the lyrics were significant. They were connecting for me in ways I would not be able to describe, even now. Then came one song by David Meece, that would hit me hard and clarify for me what true need was… clarify for me what I needed. The chorus went something like this…
As I sat there listening, all these little pieces of my life became clear. I understood something about what made Laura’s life different from mine. I could see how badly I needed help to pull my life together into something beautiful… usable. But suddenly, I could also see how I was fully unable to do that alone. Fully unable to help myself. Fully unable to save myself. Just plain fully unable.
As I listened to that concert, I did not hear the voices of three college-aged men singing a David Meece song from 1978. I heard God. I heard His very voice saying to me… “It’s okay. You’re a mess. Everybody needs help. I WANT to help you. I can. Let me.”
And then, I started to cry. Now, if you know me at all, you know this is not something I am very comfortable with, crying in public. But, it was not a choice, it was a response. It was an overflowing expression of my deepest need; to know my God and to let Him love me. To love Him back. And so I sat, in the front row at a church camp concert, weeping my 16-year-old heart out and getting it for the first time ever.
I became a Christian on August 9, 1983, and Laura baptized me in the pool the next morning. On that day, I stood up and accepted a gift that God had given to me centuries before I was even born. I am not sure what day in my life could ever be more important than that because all days before and after August 9th have been affected by my choosing Jesus that night, and by His unfailing love for me. My wedding. The birth of my children. Everything. The entire direction of my life changed that day and while it has not, in any way, been easy… it has been right.
I have been on this journey of faith, walking with my God, for 35 years. I am humbled by that length of time… humbled by how badly I have needed Jesus during those years… humbled by how loved and tended to I have felt along the way. When I stood that night, tears on my cheeks, and professed aloud what I was learning to believe, I had no idea the change that would come. But, standing here today, I can tell you that the change of direction and the change of habit in my life are NOTHING in comparison to the change of heart. Knowing the Creator of all that is and calling Jesus my friend has offered a peace in the midst of so many violent storms. I have been given a foundation on which to stand when the world around me shakes. And even more importantly… I have hope. I am not alone in these difficult times and I am not abandoned to these troubles. I have hope, my dear friends, that the One who loves me best is at work in ways I cannot see, and He will be next to me throughout the times that are too hard. And when all of this life ceases to be… then I will know in a brand new way what hope TRULY is. When my days on this earth are done, you will find me in Heaven, where my faith will become sight.
I have been a Christian for 35 years. It has not been easy. It has not been without doubt. But, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for the courage of my friend, Laura and for the grace that has shaped me. I am deeply thankful that in the midst of whatever might arise, I have hope. It is something worth sharing and it is for you, too.
Blessings on your day.