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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Rain Drops Keep Falling

Like an arthritis flare up before a rainstorm a memory came to mind yesterday which seemed to rise up out of nowhere. It felt strange to experience the effects of deep wounds creeping upon me suddenly. It wasn't the first time I'd relived the humiliation of this particular affair.

While the temptation is to think the timing of this reappearance is random, I choose, instead, to receive it as a signal.

Maybe I need the reminder of the moral of my story. Or, maybe, there's been a shift in the weather and I need to be prepared. Whatever the reason, deep in my soul I think I smell rain.

I'm praying for cool April showers of God's grace instead of a pelting from regret and shame.

This morning I feel compelled to share the story with you.

I was summoned for jury duty yesterday. I wasn't selected, but I did have lots of time to myself.

A person can do a lot of thinking when they aren't interrupted every five minutes by the demands of four children. And thinking is what I did.

I was in a great mood and reading the book "Don't Waste Your Life" by John Piper while I sat patiently wondering if I would be called upon to serve. I don't know if something in that book triggered my recollection of this event, but as I was driving home the thoughts came barging in.

The rocky path of my youth is a little too sordid to share in detail. I'm sure that you'll be able to connect many dots though. Out of respect and love for my parents I don't want to specifically share about the events which negatively impacted me during childhood. Generically speaking their divorce, subsequent remarriages, and subsequent divorces created tumultuous times for everyone involved.

Had I been a person of more character maybe I would have spared myself much grief in my teen years. Instead I chose to treat myself horribly and made just about every stupid decision within my power to make.

I had received Jesus in the sixth grade. I heard the Gospel message and KNEW it to be true when I was taken as a guest to AWANA night at a local church. My mom would become a Christ follower less than two years later.

We attended church during my high school years and I became involved with the youth there, serving in various capacities. I was also involved with boys, sneaking out and partying.

It's safe to say my attention was divided. And I was miserable.

I never doubted my decision to put my faith in Jesus but I needed to mature. The enormity of the decision I had made to follow Jesus hadn't sunken in when I was in 6th grade. My teen years provided opportunity for my faith to be tested.

May times my faithfulness was exhausted.

Many times God's grace was sufficient for me.

At 18 years old, I'd been kicked out and then taken back into my mother's home several times. I managed somehow to (partly) pull things together and graduate. I had already met Dustin and began dating him. We had been attending church together. Both of us were ready to grow in our faith and take our relationship with Jesus more seriously.

Events had necessitated a move to Atlanta, to live full time with my father for the first time in over ten years. Dustin and I were supposed to date long distance but we determined it was likely I wouldn't return to Arizona for a long time. Dustin decided it would be best if we broke up.

And so began my journey into an unknown wilderness. I was supposedly in Atlanta to begin college. I had no clue God was really moving me there for some intensive therapy - just me and Jesus - in preparation for the life He was building for me back here in Arizona.

I arrived in the South with my heart shattered in a million pieces. The Lord had plucked me out of my life and placed me in a city where I knew not a soul. I felt terribly alone.

I was supposed to be an adult. If I wanted to be a Christian and live out my faith I would have to be responsible for doing things like getting myself to a church, since my father and his wife did not share my faith.

I was being called upon to get off the fence and decide what, or Who, I was going to live for.

In those days I had never prayed harder or more earnestly. You could find me from about 10PM until 2AM sitting on the patio with a blanket wrapped around me, my journal, and a cigarette in my hand.

That's right, I prayed and smoked at the same time.

And, Jesus still listened.

Every night for ten months I reflected and cried; I repented and praised.

Big changes were happening though they couldn't be seen on the outside. The whole course of my life was being altered during that time. Though, admittedly, I still retained some of those bad habits I so desperately wanted to shake off forever.

In looking for a church to attend I met a young girl who told me that she attended a college group. She invited me to spend a weekend with her at her dorm, and meet all her friends. After knowing her all of about a day, I agreed. (I was VERY lonely, and immature)

The first event we would be attending together was a worship service. I was excited to go and meet new people and just be in an atmosphere of corporate worship once again after months of near solitude.

Apparently I was so focused on my excitement about the worship service I forgot to focus on what I might wear that evening.

Immature, unwise, wounded and insecure Jen showed up in her usual attire, which was: jeans, a midriff tank (which revealed my naval piercing) and a cardigan sweater (left unbuttoned).

I clapped and sang along with the crowd. I didn't care that I knew none of the words. I just wanted to sing to Jesus.

When the music portion ended everyone broke out to mingle. It was then that the first people I would meet that evening came to greet me.

A group of about 8 or ten peers (all female) proceeded to walk up and surrounded me. The leader nearly bumped noses with me and told me how inappropriately I was dressed. She loudly told me, "Here we try not to be a stumbling block to our brothers, so we like to keep ourselves covered. We don't appreciate you coming in here like that." She proceeded to point to my stomach.

My belly ring glistened under the lights that evening. You should have seen it. Never in all it's years had it been so shiny. You would have thought I spent hours polishing that sucker just for the occasion.

I was humiliated....... AND SHE WAS RIGHT.

I hadn't thought of it, but I should have. I didn't know better, but I should have. My church attire could be defined as sleazy, but the truth is I had been a resident of Sleazeville for a while at that point.

In that moment I felt as if a flashing neon sign was above my head. It read LOSER.

With all my heart I wanted to be more. Everything in me wished (and still wishes to some degree) I could have been. I had been pouring out my everything before the Lord desiring for Him to meet me. If I could have cleaned myself up before inviting Jesus to take over the mess I'd made of my life I would have. But, I couldn't. If He wanted me He would have to come and take me just as I was.

I ran to the nearest bathroom barely holding myself together. As I buttoned down my sweater in front of the mirror I was treated to the reflection of my tears and snot running down my face. If it were possible to be any more broken than the state in which I had arrived that evening, I was. Everything hurt.

Deep down inside, though, I knew this hurt was different. The hurt I had been experiencing up to this point that been self inflicted and led to true remorse. Remorse, as used by the Holy Spirit, while painful, leads to repentance and is actually medicinal. Even in all my sorrow, I was able to recognize the healing properties of the pain I had been experiencing under the care of the Master Surgeon.

This pain was different. It was infused with shame and ridicule. This pain was unkind and unloving. It wanted to elevate itself above me so it could trample me. This pain didn't really want to see me get well; it wanted to destroy me.

I have so much more to share but this post is getting to be very long. Look for another post tomorrow or the following day.

1 Corinthians 13:1 (NLT)
If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

Mark 2:16-17 (Amplified Bible)
16And the scribes [belonging to the party] of the Pharisees, when they saw that He was eating with [those definitely known to be especially wicked] sinners and tax collectors, said to His disciples, Why does He eat and drink with tax collectors and [notorious] sinners?

17And when Jesus heard it, He said to them, Those who are strong and well have no need of a physician, but those who are weak and sick; I came not to call the righteous ones to repentance, but sinners (the erring ones and all those not free from sin).

Hebrews 10:16-25 (NIV)
16"This is the covenant I will make with them
after that time, says the Lord.
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds."[a] 17Then he adds:
"Their sins and lawless acts
I will remember no more."[b] 18And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin. 19Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.

2 Timothy 2:13 (NIV)
if we are faithless,
he will remain faithful,
for he cannot disown himself.


Stacey said...

Jen, I'm constantly amazed at how open and honest you always are. Thank you for being a shining light in my life!

E said...

Looking forward to reading more.

LOL about smoking & praying. I think most reasonable people recognize the two can go together. I don't see a big diff between smoking and other addictions (over eating...over exercising...too much Internet...whatever). Anyway, I can't stand the smell of cigarette smoke, but I think being hypocritical about it stinks even worse. (Oh, and I don't think you were being...nor do I think smoking is a good way to honor our bodies...just sayin'.) That wasn't my only takeaway from your post...sorry for focusing on it so much!!! ;)

Looking forward to reading more!!!


E said...

I don't think that came across correctly...I don't think smoking is that horrible. It's not good for our bodies and probably not going to be a staple in a healthy lifestyle. ;) That's all. Especially for those who aren't addicted to it -- like the occasional smoker. I dislike it personally, but I realized a couple of years ago I was being a butt about it (to a couple of my family members). :)

beBOLDjen said...

I completely got your point! No need to explain further.

It wasn't healthy (especially for an asthmatic) but my point in including it was to shake sensibilities because I think we all tend soemtimes to act as if God doesn't see what we're doing ALL. THE. TIME. His forgiveness is real and so our our sins.

He never approved of me treating my body poorly; it was sin to be sure, but His grace paid for that sin and EVERY other one I would/will commit; thus allowing me access to His throne by the Blood of Jesus. = my point exactly :-)

Audrey said...

Oh Jen. First of all, thank you for such an honest and open post. Your younger self and my younger self would have been great buds. I just want to put my arms around you and give you a big hug! I, too, have had to face those sins of my past, but I've learned to love that girl that I was. I think that she did the best she could under the circumstances. Praise God for His unending grace and for all the life lessons that we've learned on our journeys. Looking forward to the next installment of your story!