God Shows Up
In this moment, in that moment, in every moment whether we believe or not, God shows up.
From what we read in the Bible, God shows up in the darkness. See Daniel and the lions den for that (almost) literal translation. God shows up in high places, royal places even. See Queen Esther's story for that one. And of course, he most often shows up in the most inconvenience of places and lowly of places (a stable, anyone?) Wherever he shows up the point is this: He shows up. He does not let us down. He truly does not disappoint.
I've found this to be true, mostly because I've experienced it first-hand.
It all happened slowly, close to 4 years ago after the birth of my first child. My encounter with God was as fast as swimming in sand as my hormones shifted silently underneath me, like plates moving under seas, undetectable. Under the deep joy and love for my baby, I occasionally felt layers of hormones and anxieties that I couldn't detect or see, only noticed sometimes that things weren't quite right, and kept slipping away from me, like trying to remember an old acquaintance's name at a cocktail party.
And then it happened: the perfect mix of hormones, sleep deprivation on top of sleep deprivation, combined with the newness and uncertainty of being a new mom, coupled with my tendencies towards an anxiety, and boom: the perfect storm of everything not right meant that I needed to do something quick to save myself.
It was like riding a bike for six months. Everything is fine, and then all of the sudden waking up one day forgetting that you know how to ride a bike, and the jolting feelings of knowing the next time you were going to get on that bike, you were sure to fall off in an instant.
And so one mild day in July 2010, several days after celebrating our 6th wedding anniversary, and several weeks after my darling new baby girl turned 7 months old, I checked myself into a mental health facility.
Little did I know that trying to save myself would mean that God would in the end save me.
They say God meets you where you are, they say God is with you in all cases, all places, through all things. And for the most part, I believed that. That was before.
And now that I've been through a place that was dark and full of much anxiety and fear, I can now say with clarity and confidence that He does meet you. With open arms, too.
And I'm here to tell you that He does indeed meet you anywhere, in any state. My story just goes to show you that you don't have to be in a perfect place, birds singing and tweeting as you sit on a bench under the shade of a large oak tree.
Being saved, coming to know and love Jesus with an unshakeable faith does not always happen in the loveliest times in your life. Maybe it has in yours, and if it has happened that way for you, that's wonderful. But in my experience, God comes exactly when you need Him most desperately; when you need Him with the most necessity, and yet somehow always shows up in the moments that you least expect Him.
But He does show up, I promise. He shows up just in perfect timing.
He's more likely to meet you in desperate circumstances, in a place where you're willing to listen and learn and be still. And unfortunately in my case, the place where I was (finally) still and quiet enough to listen was this place. I hoped I'd never know what the inside of this place looked like.
And as unpretty, imperfect and altogether scary as my story sounds, my encounter with God is still my story, part of my life. And it's about time that I let go of the fear to tell it.
In that place, that uncomfortable place of near wits-end and bleakness, I felt God's love and comfort there.
In the nightmares of just blank darkness where I had succumbed to thinking that they would just be part of my life, I found His warmth and presence. I knew, just somehow knew beyond a doubt, that even in this state of mind, in what felt like foreign terrain to me, God was there. And though I have no proof beyond a life now lived in gratitude, I'm certain of it. Certain that God was there, with me. And there is nothing that was more comforting and freeing to me than that. And can I tell you? I've never felt such love or light in those moments that I felt His presence.
And here's what I realized in my encounter with God, my testimony: I cannot walk away unchanged.
The best way I can describe this change and how I feel about God now is of course through the words of another – the insightful words of Barbara Brown Taylor: "God acts. Then it is our turn. God responds to us. Then it is our turn again."
And so goes it with faith, with an encounter with Jesus, with God. If you've had one, you know. You know like the wise old sage who sits on top of a hill, that you cannot just wax philosophical about life changed. You actually have to live it, respond to it, and live changed. What they don't tell you is it's only about the hardest thing you have to do.
Before I encountered God as my God, as a relationship and a reality in my life, back when they were just words on necklaces without meaning, I actually believed that being saved, knowing God and developing a relationship with Him meant that life would be perfect. There would be songs and hymns as background music as I skipped through life, challenges, traffic. Everyone would be kind. It would always be sunny, and my family would always and forever be in deep gratitude for me and my contributions to our life.
Not to burst your bubble here, especially if you're considering coming to know God and figuring out this whole Christianity thing (do it! Still do it, it's a great thing I promise), but let me be transparent here: it's no walk in the park.
Some days I actually throw my hands up in the air and wonder if God is indeed testing me, as it feels like constant and consistent SATs over and over again. And this is coming from someone who is a believer! To be quite honest, although I am saved and have seen firsthand the love and acceptance of Jesus, I still have to wait in line, my family still whines and complains like a normal family, and some days they are annoyed by me instead of being overwhelmingly glad and full of vivacity like I so hoped for, like the life I constantly see portrayed in a soft drink or snack food commercials. And from what I hear, I still will have to pay taxes for the rest of my life too.
The joys of this world, some days are just enough for us to bear.
But while life in general has not changed, some things have. Some major big things have entirely changed. I, for instance, still wear a cross occasionally but now I believe it. Now I understand exactly what that means and it means radical love. Love of a depth that I have seen and known. And it means that I need to live my life to the depth of that love, even as impossible as it seems.
It means loving deeply, it also means gratitude from the deepest part of who I am. Not just for the saving (though that's huge) but gratitude for the love I've seen, the life I have, the life that is yet to come. The one that's been promised that is a whole lot more fulfilling than years of tax returns and back pain.
And I will tell you – I'm changed, down to the core of who I am. My perspective on life, faith, health – everything – has changed right down to my mothering and how I interact with family, in that most of the time, I'm grateful. I remember not only what a gift life is (even frustrating, irritating annoying life like too much laundry and whining) but who gave the gift to me, and who paid for it in advance, all for me.
And can I tell you something? That changes everything.