See my previous post. This is a continuation.
I could have used God in my life when I was a busy working mother of two young boys. He might have helped me deal better with stress and to be a more disciplined parent. God’s timing is always perfect, though, and I know it was not the right time.
Metro Community Church – the only church family I’ve ever been a part of – was very young and small, and they were meeting in an elementary school, when my kids were little. I would not have heard of Metro. I might have gone to an unappealing church, which might have left me with an attitude of “I tried church for awhile, but it’s not for me”. I might have attended a church that did not convey that I must intentionally accept Christ in order to be forgiven.
The people that God used to lead me to Christ were not around at the time.
God did not intend for me to grow up with church or to know Him before I actually did.
He wanted me to discover my faith as an adult so that I would be more free to take the steps I have taken, to read the Bible, and to be passionate about living for Him.
I love this saying: People plan. God laughs.
THE JOURNEY BEGINS
In May 2000, my son’s guitar teacher was killed in a car accident. Ross wanted to go to the service, which was held at a Catholic church. It was packed with people supporting the parents in their grief. It was a beautiful service. This tragic event made me wonder who would be there for me, locally, if something happened to my husband or one of my sons. I didn’t have a church to contact. Both mine and my husband’s families lived at least two hours away. You know from what I’ve already written that I had no close friends that I count on.
I began thinking about finding a church to attend. My most recent presence in a church, other than the memorial service, was at a small denominational church for the wedding of an acquaintance. While there, I felt very noticeable, because everyone seemed to know each other. Not that the other guests made me feel that way, it was just me. Shyness and the fear of being exposed as someone unfamiliar with their religion made the idea of a small church quite unappealing. I also didn’t know whether Mitch would come with me when I tried my first church.
At work a few months later, I began talking to Judy about churches. She lived in my community and was fairly new to the area. Did she go to church, and where?
She worshipped at Metro Community Church, which held services in the auditorium of the local middle school. It was a relatively large, growing church with a contemporary style. Doubters and seekers were (and are) welcome any time, but Friend Day was forthcoming, and it was an ideal time for me to check it out, so she invited me to meet her there.
My First Church Service (mid-September 2000)
Judy’s invitation led me to the first regular church service I had ever attended. I found it funny, but it encouraged my comfort level, that it was not even in a traditional church building. I quickly learned that a church is the people rather than the building.
A couple of people greeted me outside the school and then at the auditorium. I had a good feeling already. Judy and I found each other and sat together. She served God through participation in the drama team. If I remember correctly, she had to leave her seat for a short time to participate in the skit that enhanced the message and added to my enjoyment and understanding.
There was singing – contemporary, upbeat songs of worship – to which I tried to mouth the words (I’m a terrible singer). Everyone was dressed in jeans or other casual clothes. I enjoyed Pastor Paul’s message; it applied to everyday life instead of being an academic type of lesson on a passage of the Bible.
I returned to Metro about every two weeks after my initial experience. My son, Ross, and I went together a couple of times.
The Hand of God Reaches Me (September 25, 2000)
On my way to work, a light turned green at an intersection, and I started through it. Typically I just see the green light and go. Today, as I inched forward, I cautiously paused to look in the direction of the cross-street traffic that was stopping for the red light. That pause was enough to see a truck that appeared unprepared to stop. On the highway where the average speed is probably 60 miles per hour, it sped through the intersection, where I would have been had I not stopped to check that day.
My heart was racing, I felt emotional, and an overwhelming feeling of gratitude and love washed over me. I truly felt God watching over me and loving me that day. I have felt His presence on most days since then.
Early the next month, I had my first mammogram. I was not quite 38 years old. The doctor wanted me to have baseline numbers. The technician called me back in from the waiting room for another picture, then she said I needed an ultrasound. I learned a few days later that a small lump had been found. The doctor said that by the shape of it, it looked like a benign cyst, but I needed a biopsy just to be sure. I was scheduled with a specialist, but not for several weeks. I was scared, and the wait was awful. That was when I began praying. It was indeed a fibrocystic, benign cyst. Another wake-up call, and another reason to count the blessings God had given me.
I bought a journal titled ‘Counting my Blessings”. At first, I recorded things I was grateful for, and later it became a regular journal in which I included notes on the Bible and general thoughts. I’ll be sharing entries from journals in future posts.
I had learned that two other colleagues other than Judy attended Metro Community Church. Jeff, asked me if I was saved. The Sunday messages talked about accepting Christ, but I was only going to church once or twice a month, and I guess I wasn’t absorbing it. Jeff explained, and I also stopped by the table at church where someone gave me a New Testament and a little booklet that illustrated salvation.
The women of the church had a Christmas party. Judy was unable to go, I knew no one else; uncharacteristically, I went anyway. I’m somewhat shy around new people, and I’m not great at introducing myself to others. I was glad I went to the party. There were icebreakers and activities, and I felt comfortable.
Metro has many small groups of people that get together at homes and study the Bible together in such a way that you apply God’s Word to your own life. There is a host home and a leader, and the groups usually consist of no more than ten people. I began attending a Small Group Bible Study, a women’s group. Melissa and the others were very welcoming and made me feel comfortable. They were real, too, not a bunch of people presenting themselves as perfect.
I accepted Christ as my Savior. Alone in my bedroom one night, I closed the door. I knelt, and I talked to God, referring to the prayer from the booklet I had been given at church. I said something like this: “ I can’t do it on my own. I give up my life to you, Jesus. I’ve sinned, I am sorry, and I accept forgiveness through your death on the cross.”
It felt wonderful to finally take this step. This is what it means to be saved. A feeling of overwhelming love and peace came over me. I went to bed shortly afterward, and I lay there feeling confident that if I died in my sleep that I would awaken in heaven. I have eternal life; I am saved.
Journal entry – January 24, 2001: This is my third meeting with the Bible study group for church. I feel comfortable with all the ladies, and tonight was the largest group we’ve had. Melissa’s home is our meeting place. After the others had left, as I stood to walk out the door, I told Melissa that I had accepted Jesus. She wanted to talk about it further and invited me back in. She felt honored that I shared that with her. I didn’t leave until 9:45. (Looking back, I know how excited she must have been. I was new to her group, and I had already taken a big step of faith.)
February 25, 2001 – Baptism Day
My life is becoming full with wonderful people, people with whom I share meaningful friendships. People that have been understanding, patient, and accepting while they are being used by God to guide me along my spiritual path. People like Judy, David, and Jeff, who understand what Baptism meant to me today, they make me feel so fortunate to have friends like them.
While I would have known them well as co-workers, I believe that God was bringing us together. He must have known that I needed true friends in my life and that I needed Him. I have many new relationships – with God, Jesus, and with friends.
Trying to not make this an epic story to be read all at once….See the next post tomorrow morning.