In the Spring of 1969 a baby girl took her first breath. The world she entered was bright, cold, loud, and chaotic. She was swaddled, placed in her mother’s arms and then she nursed, and slept. Little did she know that from the moment of her birth she was in the middle of a cultural war. The hippie movement had begun approximately 9 years earlier and was at its peak. Young men and women all over the country were turning away from the values of their parents to embrace “sex, drugs, and Rock and Roll”. In response to this cultural shift, another group of people gravitated to the opposite extreme. Whereas their counterparts deemed all things permissible, this group found sin around every corner. In their zeal they ripped verses from Scripture, misconstrued them and turned them into battle cries. Other passages were ignored completely when they failed to support the cause. Somewhere along the way grace, mercy and God’s love were lost and in their absence relationship became religion, freedom was traded for bondage, and devotion gave way to despair.
And that baby girl….she was right in the middle of it all.
By the age of four she had developed a pretty good idea of the nature of God. One night, she lay in her bed terrified and wide awake. Her heart beat rapidly in the darkness. She was drowsy but she forced her eyes to remain open because she feared she might sleep and if she slept, she might die. She knew what would await her after death. Oh, yes. The picture had been painted vividly for her young heart. If she died she would go to Hell and burn, and burn and burn…
That night she prayed and begged God to save her soul, not because she had been allured by a loving, merciful Savior but because she was terrified of a vengeful Divine Judge. She barely spoke to Him again for the next ten years beyond a well scripted verse at bedtime and before meals. After all, why would she want to know a God who hated her?
She knew He hated her. She had received that message loud and clear every Sunday morning, Sunday evening and Wednesday night when she entered the church’s doors. The minister never said God “hated her” of course, but he painted a picture of God’s anger and disgust. He vividly described her woeful state so, she knew God hated her. If He did not, why did His messenger glare at her so?
And if God hates you, if you are really, really disgusting to Him, what is there to live for really?
She prayed again when she was 14 years old. It was a real prayer, from the heart. Her room was dark and she was alone. For so long despair had been growing inside her like a cancer eating away at all that was beautiful, joyful, and light. At last, there was nothing left to consume and try as she might, she could find no sound reason to continue the life before her. She was there in the darkness, alone and weeping when she prayed.
“God, if you are there…help me! Help me. Help me….” but is seemed to her that He made not a sound.
She remembered a small box she had seen in the linen closet. It was an inch long, the white plastic slightly yellowed with age. There were razor blades inside that box, she remembered. She rose, went to the closet and rummaged through fluffy towels and old medicine bottles until she found it. Holding it in her hand, she formed a plan. She would do it in the shower so the blood would all run down the drain. There would be nothing to clean up when she was gone.
Her hand trembled as she attempted to open the box, but the lid would not move. She pushed harder and harder. She turned the box over in her hand to see if she was mistaken about how to open it. She shoved the lid again, weeping in anger and frustration. She attempted to pry it open. She struck it in order to break it open, but the box sat stoically before her, altered not at all.
She wept some more and then looked at her watch. It was time for church. If she did not leave immediately, she would be late and her father would be angry. She returned the box to the closet, washed her face, covered the blotchy spots with make up and went to service.
It never occurred to her to tell anyone at all.
She did not speak to God again for a long time after that but one day, she went to pull a towel out of the closet before her shower and there was the box. She picked it up and remembered that day. She held it for a moment, and then pushed the lid gently with her thumb. The box slid open with absolute ease. There in the bottom was a stack of shiny, sharp blades. She stared at them for a moment, closed the box and returned it to the shelf. Perhaps, she thought, God answered her that day after all.
She graduated from high school not long after and went away to college, an ultra-conservative school of her parent’s choosing. She was surrounded by prayer, sermons, and scripture reading but her heart was a dead thing, unmovable. In fact, she began to doubt in earnest that there was even a God at all. She did not know the time was right and her Maker had been awaiting it. At last, she was away from all she had ever known and the moment had come to tear down all of the lies and rebuild them with truth.
There was no sudden rush of realization, no moment of breathtaking epiphany, just a slow and steady demolition of all that bound her and a tender whisper over her weary, parched soul that spoke to her of His true nature. Day after day The Breath of Heaven calmed her spirit, and healed her wounds. Moment by moment He allured her by speaking life into her as He proclaimed her true identity.
At first, she cowered before Him. Like the woman caught in adultery in John chapter 8, she trembled in terror and shame before Him awaiting judgment only to at last look into His face and find compassion, forgiveness and love instead. Her hungry soul could not resist and she began to believe.
“Therefore I am now going to allure her;
I will lead her into the desert
and speak tenderly to her.” Hosea 2:14
Years passed. She married, had children and all the while her faith grew. One Sunday morning as she worshipped in a church that was oh, so different from the churches of her childhood God lovingly took her back through so many memories but this time, He showed her them through His eyes, and she saw how He watched over her and preserved her until the moment was right for Him to deliver her completely. Then, He took her to a place she never wanted to go again.
Suddenly, she was back in that darkened room with a box of razor blades in her hand but this time there was no fear, no more despair. Instead, she saw Him there and she knew He had preserved her life. Tears flowed down her face in gratitude as she opened her eyes to gaze across five little heads to meet her husband’s eyes full of love for her.
“Are you okay?” he mouthed.
“Yes.” she smiled back.
Then to her Redeemer her heart cried, “Thank you, thank you, thank you….You restored my life and delivered me completely. In your presence is fullness of joy!”
“So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten.” Joel 2:25