There’s been a whole lot of reflecting going on in the blogosphere the past few weeks. The majority of people are assessing and good-byeing 2011, and outlining all the ways that 2012 will be different. I briefly entertained the idea of jumping on that bandwagon and giving you my year in review. But then I thought, Why stop there?
So here, in a nutshell, is a life in review.
I knew He was there before I knew what to call Him. In deep pockets of memory, I hold visions that are hard to put to words; fleeting moments when I first heard those whispers, first understood that Something I couldn’t see or place knew me, and was calling my name. We didn’t talk about God at my house, but that didn’t daunt Him.
“Normal” didn’t live in my home, or even stop to visit. I existed, for the most part, in a whirlwind of stormy encounters, raised voices, and drunken outbursts. I switched homes and states and fathers, observed the late sixties and early seventies, said good-bye to Father Two (a man I loved very much) and a home in the South, scowled when my mother traded in Father Three for a motorcycle, love beads and go-go boots, and kept reaching for the owner of that nameless voice.
My mother joined a Wiccan coven, and our home became filled with odd implements and books, and people who made me feel uncomfortable. I didn’t like her coven members, but I did like the hippies who came and went through the always-open door of our small house. One of them, a homeless seventeen-year old girl named Vicky, moved into my bedroom one summer, and brought me my first glimpse of God. Through her witness, I met Him on Thanksgiving night, the year I turned twelve, just as the clock reached midnight. She shared the cross with me, and told me what it cost God to let His Son hang upon it. She told me He had made a way for me, and I took it.
We attended a church that wasn’t much interested in things of God. I joined a carnal youth group, where flesh was enthroned and Jesus was allowed nothing more than a brief reference or two once a year at the annual youth retreat. My flickering faith barely survived those malnourished years.
I entered high school, and though everything on the outside looked fine — I played tennis, joined the debate team, honor society, and girls club — to a knowing eye, I was just another sheep so starved you could count my ribs. No God-life flowed through me. His hand was ever-extended to take mine, but I was too busy looking for love with skin on it to bother accepting that divine invitation.
At graduation, I stood at a podium and addressed my class of 400+, then threw my hat to the sky with the rest of my peers and asked God to give me my privacy while I turned and ran head-on into rebellion. He said no. While I was busy sinning, I’d sense that He was near, watching me, waiting. The feeling never failed to unsettle me.
It wasn’t until I turned twenty, after enduring two years of stark ugliness, that I met a couple who had the peace I longed for. I knew they knew Him. I could feel Him whenever they spoke to me, and I found excuses to be near them, just so I could be near Him, if only for brief moments. One night, they invited me to dinner, and when we sat down and they began to pray for our meal, I burst into tears at the sound of His name. I gave up and reached, finally, for that outstretched hand. And when I did, I discovered that everything I’d ever looked for in skin-covered form had been waiting for me in His touch. I began to walk. I began to understand God’s heart in the pages of a book that had been there all along, waiting for my eyes. I began to fall in love with the Savior who had watched me so patiently and never stopped whispering, even when I’d been determined to ignore the sound.
We didn’t walk into the sunset. That part is yet to come. Instead, I made mistake after mistake. I willfully sinned. I can’t even count the number of dreadful mistakes I’ve made since I placed my hand in His. And yet … He has never once made me pay. Whenever I come to Him with my head down and my heart heavy, He lifts my chin with a tender touch and reminds me of the length of His love. He has never denied forgiveness. He has never once demanded a pound of flesh for my infractions. Though I could easily rival Paul as the “chief of sinners” — and I mean that down to my toes — I’ve never received any other response from God but kindness. Despite my lengthy list of faults, He has poured repeated blessings on me, covered my flaws and errors and blatant sins, opened the door of Grace wide and beckoned me, time after time and again, to come inside and warm myself. When I have least deserved it, He’s held me close and calmed my heart and bandaged all my self-inflicted wounds. And all that without a single angry or disappointed word. It seems His rebuke, His disgust, His wrath was all spent on Jesus.
So there you have my life in review. I am a sinner saved by grace — loved, held, protected, encouraged, nurtured. I have failed God a hundred thousand times this year, and the year before, and the years before that. But He’s never failed me once. Not once.
Here’s to a new year. May God have His place of honor in our lives; may He be glorified in all we do.