As I come closer and closer to the year that marks my 4 decades of life in this messy little thing we call life, I feel more peace than I’ve ever known in my entire life, and yet I feel an uncanny sense of urgency growing and persisting with each day as well. How can that be? About 3 years ago, for the first time in nearly 2 decades, my life and reality would begin to make a massive shift.
This life-change and heart-shift would begin one evening when my mother who was visiting me from my hometown, a suburb of Atlanta, GA, said these words which will be forever etched into my fickle memory. She said, “I’ve been coming to visit you here in Miami for nearly 20 years and you’ve never taken me to church. For my birthday present I would like for you to take me to church”. I was flooded with an array of feelings ranging from annoyance to defensiveness, but ultimately guilt. I began to “google” churches in the area as I knew my neighborhood, which I had recently moved to, had a lot of Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses regularly canvasing the area, so needless to say I was nervous that I would pick a place that was not quite what my mother had in mind… and quite frankly, I had no idea where a Christian church was!
Let’s rewind quite a bit… I grew up going to church–a Methodist church in Atlanta, GA. I was the youngest to ever be allowed in the youth choir which rehearsed weekly. My mother also sang in one of the choirs and she would often ask me for help in learning her music–but even then, I was not a child of patience. How it must have pained my mother, as I often showed my impatience with a harsh tongue and berating tone.
Nevertheless, we went to church every Sunday, and yet I can honestly say that neither of us ever had the Holy Spirit alive and living within us; and yet, I don’t even think we knew what that meant. We sang hymns every Sunday, heard sermons that quickly became worldly and yet we didn’t know any better. Prior to me leaving Georgia for college, I was emotionally hurt and disappointed by one of the Reverends, and sadly, I didn’t have enough truth in THE WORD and I put my faith in humans, instead of Christ.
“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Colossians 3:2
I didn’t understand that there was a difference. EventuallynI moved away from home for college at the naive age of 17 and I never once sought a new church home.
Slowly many of my personal morals and standards began to decay. I eventually became a stranger to who I was raised to be… and yet in my head, I was growing up. I was becoming “my own” woman.
“Through our tongues we have power; our lips are our own– who can be our master?” Psalm 12:4
As I raged forward into my twenties and thirties, I thought I had to do everything on my own–you know, an Independent Woman. I had to be this strong woman, trusting no one and certainly dependent on no one. Over the next 2 decades I would fall into a life of unruliness, extreme promiscuity, alcohol abuse, anger, bitterness–and all stemmed from extreme depression and anxiety. The wicked had eyes of hunger and thirst for me…
“My enemy will say “I have triumphed over her,” and my foes will rejoice because I am shaken.” Psalm 13:4 And yes, I was shaken to my very core, time and time again.
The diagnosis of my father’s pancreatic cancer, which would take him from us 11 months later, sent me into a self-destructive, angry downward spiral and that was in my mid-twenties… you do the math. Over the next decade, I would experience several unhealthy relationships, tragic losses, unexpected betrayals, massive career changes, and major health battles… I surely should have been dead several times, and yet I’m still here.
“Let their way be dark and slippery, And the angel of the Lord pursuing then.” Psalm 35:6
I could continue with my own personal accounts, but fast forward back to that visit from my mother when she asked me to take her to church…
As we were walking home from dinner that night, we passed a church that I had passed daily, yet never noticed it. Although it was this nearly the shade of Pepto Bismol, I never even took notice of it.
“I will bring the blind by a way they did not know; I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will make darkness light before them, and crooked places straight. These things I will do for them, and not forsake them.” Isaiah 42:16
My mother pointed it out and so we approached it and took a flyer with the service times out of the box on the front door. The next morning we went. Quite honestly, I’m not sure what my mother was doing or how she was responding, but I know something began working in me. The following week, a few days after my mother left, I found myself drawn back to this quant little pink church, and week after week, month after month I would return. In another blog, I will tell you more about my transformation, but for purposes of staying on course, I want to share with you the moment I knew the Holy Spirit took up residence in my life…
About 2 1/2 years ago, unexpectedly I lost one of my best friends… she died in her sleep. Only a month after she turned 40. I often thought of her as an angel from heaven… Although surrounded by filth, she somehow hovered above it. Thank GOD I was already attending my church regularly, but I in my immediate shock and pain, returned to my “vomit”. I tried to numb the unbearable pain and shock with whiskey upon whiskey.
“Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.” 2 Peter 2:22
After a near 36-hour disappearance from everyone and everything, when I came up for air I realized none of that worked and I knew I needed to be in one place. It happened to be a Sunday when I “came up for air”, and despite my sleep deprived state, with whiskey seeping out of my pores, I ran to church. Through the service I cried and cried for my friend. I couldn’t understand and yet somehow I finally knew the thing I couldn’t understand for the past 20 years… GOD was with me, He was not the enemy, and He was holding on to me… despicable little me!
After that service one of the ladies who little by little I had come to know stopped me and asked me what pained me so… and I began to pour out all my brokenness to this woman I had only recently began to know. She asked if she could pray for me… I said yes. By the end of the prayer I realized that I was surrounded by warmth and love. When I opened my eyes, I was surrounded by my sister in Christ, my Pastor, and his wife. I didn’t understand in that moment, but a shift in my heart occurred in that moment.
“Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God and you are not your own?” 1 Corinthians 6:19
In that very broken, vulnerable moment, even in my disgraceful behavior, God saw me and met me in my despair. It was then, that I welcomed the floodgates to open up and truly take up my cross. This is not to say I became a perfect saint over night! That only happens when HE brings us home, but the good in work in me had begun. Months later, I would get baptized in the Atlantic Ocean, shepherded and encouraged by those very people.
I know now, in my heart of all hearts that if I were taken from this life right now, my name is written in His book. I am God’s Daughter and I have eternity waiting for me beyond this vapor of a life. I’ve lost so many people, and sadly I know many never knew God, much less even considered what lies beyond this existence. My question to you is simply this, if your life came to an end tomorrow, have you truly considered what is next? People love to joke about the party in hell, in fact I was one of those people when I was lost and broken, but the truth is, hell is a never-ending state of torture, unquenchable thirst, painful distress and agony, full of bitterness and utter chaos for eternity. Are you ready for that? I know so many who say “I’m spiritual, but not religious” in fact, once again, that was me for a long time… but do you understand that there are both good and evil spirits. So for you to say that you are spiritual is not necessarily a good or safe thing.
I am not writing this from a “holier than though” stance. I am still messed up, sinning every day (and repenting everyday), desperate to be perfected, and yet I know in my heart of all hearts I am covered by His grace and I have His mercy, day in and day out, because I said YES! The moment I said yes, God placed the Holy Spirit into me and a great work began in me. In 3 years, my entire existence has massively be recreated and not on my own works or merits… only through my surrender.
“Through the tender mercy of our God, with which the Dayspring from on high has visited us; to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. So the child grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his manifestation to Israel.” Luke 1:78-80
I’m not asking you to do the work yourself. I’m not asking you to pretend you aren’t angry, hurt, damaged or broken. But I am pleading with you to start THAT conversation with GOD. Ask Him your questions. Read the Bible. Visit some churches. Listen to some sermons online. Talk to HIM. Pray to HIM. Everything begins there…
I sincerely pray that I plant a mustard seed in your heart at this very moment. Tomorrow isn’t promised, but even more so, NEITHER IS TODAY! Blessings unto you dear friends…