Saturday, March 8, 2014

My years as a prodigal

Back story first:

I was always a happy child. Delightful as my granddaddy would say it. I learned about God very early in life as my grandparents would take me to church. At first glance organized religion seemed pretty harmless. You sit in service you stand, sing then you sit, stand a million more times then you sleep through the message, you go home, eat fried chicken then take a nap. Seemed pretty wonderful for this southern girl.

My parents didn't take us to church when we were younger. They were still finding their way, numbing their pain, & seeking the next thrill. Through my elementary years I took on the role of helping as much as I could around the house, looking out for my brother, & sometimes acting like a mom. I have always been good at taking care of everyone else. Then one day my dad found Jesus. Our lives changed somewhat. I think their addictions shifted and became model church folk. We started attending a church that preached condemnation. You can't wear this, you can't wear that, you can't listen to this, and the list goes on. I constantly found myself checking off the things I was doing right and feeling like a horrible person because of all I couldn't put a check beside.

We switched churches and learned of unconditional love and how Jesus loves us regardless. At this point I was so confused. So I don't have to keep this list of do's & don't's? Then my parents took up their addictions once more while Holding leadership positions in the church. I thought well I guess I don't really have to keep this list anymore. Or did I?

Through my teenage years I just wanted to find my way. Figure out who I was, what I believed in, and find a good man. Ambitious huh?

Insert my prodigal story:

My prodigal story isn't the typical one of disrespect, rebellion toward my parents, or leaving home. It's more of a journey that spanned 23 years. So here goes:

I went looking for love in all the wrong places as I can still hear Johnny Lee singing it. I took many roads of self destruction though drugs and alcohol weren't one of them, my craving for the hole in my heart to be filled with the perfect man and acceptance was addiction enough. I found myself
In a downward spiral never finding what my heart so desperately wanted. My path of horrible choices left Me with failed relationships, emotionally hurt children, near disasters, heartbreak, and feelings of well I guess I can't check those boxes of keeping it good with God.

As I carried my do's and don't's list around I encountered "church folk" that didn't really accept me. I was the scarlet letter. You know, "she can't get her act together" and "you know she's divorced" and "why is she here at church", "she doesn't belong here". It's hard to discern the truth about what God thinks of you when surrounded with such self righteous people.

Yet again I decided to try this church thing. I couldn't ever shake that I felt God pursuing me & often feeling His love even though I wasn't quite sure how He could love someone like me. You know I don't have checks in these boxes and I'm sure that's not really God I feel. I changed churches to suit my at the time, "I don't know about this Holy Spirit thing". So I played church, I was there every time the doors opened. I held every position there was to hold, taught every class I could teach, started children church, and prayed no one would really find out about my horrible choices in life because I knew they would slam the doors in my face. All the while I was making wrong choices in relationships, dragging my kids to church, I was silently keeping my list like it was some trade off. Well I did this well and I know that will cancel out this mistake, etc. but I always came up short in my heart & on my paper.

Feeling defeated as my recent relationship choice was leading my children to withdrawal and the verbal and emotional abuse was more than I could bare or watch my children endure. I felt as though my heart would break into a million pieces. After yet another failed relationship something happened. I truly found God. I didn't find Him in church with all the self righteous people, I didn't find Him in a relationship, I didn't find Him in serving others. I didn't find Him in my children even though they are gifts from God.  I found Him in the still quiet of my house. This prodigal finally found her home & into the One who knew me completely and loved me anyway. I realized I could put away my list of do's & don't's. I am finally truly finding my way. I haven't completely arrived & I am stumbling still working to figure it all out and I don't have all the answers nor do I have it all together. But I am working to walk in the direction I feel God is leading.

Yes today I do attend church and I sing in the choir. The "self righteous" ones are still lingering around but the difference for me now is I know who I am in Christ & His opinion of me outweighs the self righteous & the voice of the enemy. Church folk don't bother me at all except when they mess with those still finding their way. We must love the unlovable (even the self righteous folks) we must be patient in their process, love them where they are, show them they don't have to keep a list, while understanding that God is the only true judge as He has all the evidence.

I am finally in a healthy relationship. I have 3 children I birthed and 2 that are birthed from my heart. They are working hard to find their way. (Especially from all the decisions their parents made). They will travel difficult roads, they will make wrong choices, they will even say they hate me, they may doubt God, the may become the prodigal but none of that will ever separate them from the Love of God, His pursuit of them, nor the love of a momma who understands the paths they take, the why behind the what, & will be standing with arms wide open.

I know God is faithful. I know nothing can EVER separate me from His love.

As a side bar: This year my parents will celebrate 26 years of sobriety. I am so thankful & blessed with parents who are such overcomer's. They are wonderful parents & the best grandparents. I love them & I am so proud of them. They are finishing well.

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