I was home for break between the spring and summer terms of my sophomore and junior years at Penn State University. I had chosen to go to summer term so I could graduate early and marry my love as soon as I graduated. Problem was a month earlier he had told me he no longer loved me and had dumped me. My heart was shattered and all I could do was cry. I was 20 years old.
My mother kept trying to talk to me about it, but I just couldn't. I wouldn't tell her anything. She knew I was a mess and was really worried about me. That Thursday I was home my mother turned 51 years old. My Dad got home from traveling and along with my aunt and little sister, we celebrated her birthday.
Sunday came and mom wasn't feeling good. She sat on the couch and said her arms hurt. I made lunch for my dad, sister and I and we were sitting around the corner eating and as usual my dad and I were arguing about something. Suddenly, my mother cried out, "Mickey (what she sometimes called my dad), something is wrong!" My dad told me to call the doctor which I did and the doctor said to call an ambulance. Dad screamed at me to get my handicapped sister out of there and I picked her up and ran to the neighbor's in the rain and in my bare feet. It is strange the details you remember. The ambulance came and took my mother to the hospital. We lived four short blocks from the hospital and my mother died of a heart attack before she even got there. It was 3 days past her 51st birthday.
And my world caved in. All these decades later, I am shaking and crying as I type this.
I was angry at God. Really angry. You can't imagine how angry I was.
I wasn't raised in a church-going family. I remember going some as a young child and on Christmas and Easter, but our family didn't talk about God or Jesus, didn't pray, didn't crack our Bibles. In 7th grade I took confirmation classes and joined the youth group. A combination of things - those classes, the youth retreats, and going to PTL meetings with my friend's family brought me to accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I remember it being such a joyful time and I was on fire for the Lord. I wanted to be a minister when I grew up. Smile.
My family's reaction to my new faith was not encouraging. My older siblings called me a Jesus Freak. My mother was worried I was in a cult due to an incident at a PTL meeting where I prayed God would heal my sister. My mom wanted me to meet with our minister to straighten me out. But I was not deterred. I had found the Lord and throughout middle school and high school I would walk to church and sit with friend's families. I became involved at church. I believed. I was zealous.
I was a Christian. I knew what that meant. And I'd like to say my actions in middle school and high school reflected that new belief, but they didn't all the time. I go off to college and I didn't go to church hardly at all. I partied and got a little wild with my new found freedom. But I didn't stop praying or believing. I never read the Bible much as the denomination I belonged to didn't stress the importance of reading the Bible and I didn't get why it mattered. But I was a Christian.
And then my Mom died.
I was angry with God because He had taken her. I never doubted this was God's doing. He is sovereign. He is in control. I believed that with my entire being. I did then. I still do. So God did this.
I didn't get along with my father at the time. He had anger issues. My father said, "jump" and we obeyed. He had a way of going from 0 to 10 on the anger scale in a nano second. We all treaded lightly around him. I was majoring in civil engineering and my father repeatedly told me "Women shouldn't be engineers." and "I wasn't smart enough to be an engineer." We argued constantly. I rarely went home unless I had to.
So when Mom died and for years, I ranted at God, "Why didn't you take him instead?" "Why her?"
Many years later, I forgave my father for the way he treated us. Our relationship was restored and I loved him.
My mother's death did a strange number on my spiritual life. I turned my back on God. A few years later when I got married and my husband and I would be home for the holidays, my in-laws expected us to go to church with them. So I did. And I would sit and cry in church. I'm sure my in-laws noticed and thought I was a crazy person. I would sit there and think, "God why did You do this to me?" My entire home life had disintegrated after mom died. It was His fault.
My entire 20's I turned away from the Lord. But by His mercy He never turned from me. Then I had children and I thought they needed some religion and I began to take them to church. Not often - maybe 6 times a year. My kids would doodle or sleep. But I would sit there and listen to every word intently. Often ripping apart the minister's sermon. Often trying to figure out what was his point? I had a million questions. Gradually, as the years marched on I began going to church more. I'd go to Sunday School and ask a question in my skeptical tone and people would roll their eyes. I dissected it all. A minister lived across the street from me and I would sometimes ask him questions. And he would kindly answer me. I felt God drawing me to Him. It was small whispers. I felt myself coming back to Him. Slowly. Gradually. I was in search mode. I was curious. What did I believe?
And then my world crashed in again. A series of 4 things happened in a matter of 3 months and a 5th thing a few months later. Any one of those things would have made a person depressed. But the combination of them took me over the edge. My life had hit a wall. One night I laid on my driveway in a dress in the pouring down rain and told God I no longer wanted to live. He needed to take over my life because I couldn't do it anymore. I was completely His if He would save me. And He did. Things began to change in my life. My heart bursts thinking about it.
There is a part of me who looks back at my early life and regrets the many years I spent far from God being angry with Him. Would things have been different had I hung with Him instead of turning my back on Him? Most certainly they would have been. If I had only known then what I know now. But I didn't. Why didn't I? I do put some blame on my church and those Christians who surrounded me when I was young. They didn't explain the truth about life - how hard it can be sometimes - and how important it is to cling to your faith. They did a poor job of preparing me. Perhaps I wouldn't have listened though. My spiritual life was built on sand. It was immature. It had no deep roots and when the storms of life came, I was washed away.
But most of me says it is what it is. Those weren't really wasted years because they brought me to this place. It is my spiritual journey. Unique to me. Had I not taken every ugly twist and turn and come to the place where I surrendered it all to Him, then I wouldn't have the faith I have today. So I am strangely thankful for my messed up family, the messed up life I led and the utter joy and peace I now have in my renewed faith. I love the Lord with all of my being.
The storms of life are going to come. Are you prepared for them? I wasn't back then and it about did me in.
If I could give advice to you, prepare. You have questions about what it is you believe? Ask them. Seek answers. Check out church. Open your Bible. Pray.
NOW. Feel the urgency to figure this out.
Experience God now and let Him build your faith.
And when the storm does hit, hold on tightly to what faith you have. Turn towards Him. Trust Him. Pour all of your heartache and grief and depression and tears on Him.
And He will cover you in His love.
I know because I have since experienced that comfort in other storms in my life.
But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be glory both now and forever! Amen.
2 Peter 3:18 NIV
I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;
I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth.
These are the things I will do;
I will not forsake them.
Isaiah 42:16 NIV
Trust in the One who will not forsake you.