I was a typical little punk growing up in Michigan in the eighties. I was too smart for my own good. I was well organized so I could manage excellent grades in school, attend three dancing companies, and bus tables to buy a car to get me every where I needed to be.
When my parents divorced, my independence, self -reliance and stubbornness both kept me out of trouble as well as lonely. For all the good I could accomplish, I felt empty and utterly unknown, alone. Their divorce was horrible for me. Icould have slipped into the dark side of being a teen but whispers from a ballet teacher kept me tied by a thin thread to hope. Patsy Watson raised me nearly as much as my family because I danced for her from age three until I was in my mid teens. She would pull me aside with knowing worried eyes and ask me if I was alright. I had no way to know how to answer that. I think my eyes told the story even though my mouth clamped tight. She patted me, and told me, never forget that Jesus loves you and won’t leave you alone so you be a good girl and read your bible every day and it will all turn out right. The other girls at the studio would giggle about her old fashioned faith. The secretary of the school had tantrums about faith not saving the budget fast enough and she would lose everything if she kept giving free lessons to girls like me who’s parents could no longer afford it. I never gave her advice much thought as a teenager, but some where inside me the seed of truth was imbedded to stay.
Years later, though I wasn’t a church goer, and had no real use for God in a daily way, I did have a spiritual part of me that I didn’t know what to do with. That old empty spot still gaped within me. I had know idea what to do with it. I met Craig my sophomore year and though he’d been raised catholic, he was neutral like me about God. We got engaged my senior year and planned to marry the month after my college graduation. It was there at the ceremony while we were getting married that I was struck for the first time: I not only need God, but I want to know him and serve him. I was over come with emotion as I stood with Craig at the altar because for the first time in my life I couldn’t say I deserved what I was getting. I had always worked hard and believed what I earned was what I deserved. I was raised to be proud and stand tall. But I didn’t deserve the love I got from Craig, or the life we were going to have together. I saw it as a gift, and it could only have come from God. I needed to know him if he was that generous with me, I needed to give him thanks, and I wanted to do for him whatever I could to show my gratitude.
So as any natural woman would do, I manipulated my husband. I knew because he’s easy going and grew up going to church as a dutiful son that he’d go for me if I just asked him to do it. It was that easy. I said, “now that we are married, I think we should go to church because that’s what good people do. And we’ll definitely want to take our kids to church some day so we should look around and find one we like.” He had no problem with that. It was no coincidence that I was working in a needlepoint shop there in Roanoke Virginia for Rob and Linda Guiles. Rob was a deacon at Bonsack Baptist Church. So when I told them our plan to find a church, they invited us to theirs, and it felt good to go with a friend, so we went. And went. And went, and it turned out that it wasn’t just to be dutiful upright citizens, but we were listening and learning and our hearts were opening for God. We learned about Jesus. I learned that the pride I built my life on was a sin and it separated me from God. I was anxious to empty myself of all that separated me from God so I could be intimate with Him. I poured it all out and receieved forgiveness, a fresh start. We met with some elders in our home and together gave our hearts to Jesus as our Lord and Savior. They helped us learn more about the bible, we got baptized, and joined a study. That nagging, painful, gaping empty space inside me was finally filled by the Spirit of God. We grew our faith and our marriage with the instructions of the bible. We became parents with the instructions of the bible. We’ll be married July 28, 2010 for twenty years! Four kids later, and ten big cross country moves, we are united in Christ. And we still seek God with all our heart, mind and soul from the bible because knowing Him and giving our lives over so He could control and protect us changed everything. My great joy is watching my boys grow up knowing God and drawing security from the bible rather than from the things that the world would offer as security. It is humbling daily to continue to feel God use me for his purpose and that’s all I wanted when I first recognized at the alter that I needed Him. We are created with a God sized hole in us that cannot be satisfied by anything we can manipulate, buy, own, or touch. God alone satisfies it. My sincere hope is that every person I come into contact with will want what I found: Jesus. We have access to the father because Jesus who never sinned, took our sins as his own and paid for them by death on the cross so we can have eternity in Heaven. There was no other way, our sin separated us from God. So Jesus built the bridge. All I had to do was accept the gift, confess my sin, ask forgiveness, and cross over to begin a new life with Him as my Lord. Thank God I did, that emptiness was the worst condition of my life.