Friday, January 16, 2009

Full Circle


A) it is wicked cold outside. So cold that the water pipes at my house are frozen and therefore, my relationship with hot water at home is suspended indefinitely. Or at least until it gets above freezing, which I'm about 95% positive didn't happen today.

B) Don't you just love when God throws a brick of truth at you?

Yeah. I totally got a brick of truth yesterday. And I'm not talking the little red bricks. I'm talking one of those ginormous concrete bricks they make interior walls out of. Yeah. That kind. I'm still a little bruised.

See this is what my mind has been doing lately: You know, I'm suffering from a quarter-life crisis, right? No? You don't? Let me catch you up. Read here. And here.

Caught up?

Good. Now I may continue.

So I was thinking yesterday about how I see my life in seasons. Not like fall, winter, spring, summer. Or even football, basketball, baseball, summer. (Although, the latter could most definitely be true.) I mean, I guess it's easier to describe it as chapters in a book. Or verses of a song. Or movements of a symphony. Yeah, I like that one.

Anyway, I've been on this roller coaster lately, trying to figure out how I feel about my life. Why would God have brought me to Birmingham (which I most definitely feel He did) just to pick me up and move me again three years later, only one year after I get a "real-big-girl-full-time job" (which I still don't know that He's actually going to "move" me yet)?

Then yesterday it dawned on me.

Birmingham is where I had my first "crisis of faith" (if you can call it that) and where I really figured out what FAITH was all about! I was 14, about three weeks away from 15 -- the breaking point of all adolescent life.

Just a little background here: I grew up in church. I was the churchy-church girl at school. Goodie two-shoes (except for those few wild years in 1st-3rd grades when my parents had to bribe me with Little Caesars pizza so I wouldn't get my name on the board. But I digress...).

We were there every time the doors were open. Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night. Sunday School, Discipleship Training, Bible Drill, Children's Choir (Perfect attendance! Woo! Woo!), Mission Friends, Girls In Action, blah blah blah. You name it, I was there.
And when the fair came to town, and all my friends went to the fair on Wednesday night, which was the cool night to go, I was at church. Except for that one time in eighth grade.

I "asked Jesus into my heart" when I was seven. I saw a dramatization in "big church" by the youth of Ray Boltz's "Thank You". Still one of my favorite songs ever. Right there, a seven-year-old's heart was touched in a way I still don't understand. All I knew was that I wanted to be in Heaven with Jesus and God when I died and that everything else would fall into place. I didn't have to understand it all at that point but I would someday, somehow. I just wanted to go to Heaven.

Y'all, I cried. Wept like the seven-year-old little girl I was. I wanted Heaven so bad I could taste it. That night, as I said my prayers with my Daddy, as I did every night, my Daddy led me to the Lord. And for that I am eternally grateful. And I know he is too.

Flash forward about seven and a half years. I'm sitting in the Wright Center on the Samford University campus. (Yep, the same Samford University that I work at right this moment.) I was at Friends Forever '98. Thank God I had my sister in tow, or rather she had me in tow, or I don't think I would have gotten through the week. That was a seriously spiritually draining week for me. I was a new teenager trying to find my way through a seriously rigid teenage wasteland. One in which I was a popular kid. That's not easy.

Anyway, so I became friends with a friend of a friend (are you following me?), we'll call him Kenny. (Lame, I know.) Kenny was a stud. Like seriously, dude was a cutie. But Kenny was seriously lost. LOST. (That's big-time lost for those of you following along.)

Every night, the camp pastor would ask people who wanted to be a Christian (in so many words) to raise their hand (while all heads are bowed and eyes were closed). And every night, without fail, Kenny would raise his hand. EVERY TIME!

And everybodoy knew it.

Preacher Man finally called him out on it one night. He asked him why he kept raising his hand and Kenny said, "Because I need to be saved...again." Then Preacher Man explained the "once saved, always saved" clause to my dear friend. He explained the phenomenon of what I know now as "We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone" and that nothing we can DO FOR God will save us. It's only through what Christ did on the cross for us that puts us right before the Almighty God.

At that point, I hit a wall. I started crying. And I had doubts. DOUBTS. About my salvation! This was not good. At least in my eyes it wasn't.

My sister could definitely tell something was wrong and I was tenderly led out of the auditorium by my big sister's comforting hand. I talked it out with two of my spiritual heroes -- my sister and Karen Stewart.

The above was explained to me like it can only be explained to an emotional, hormonal 14-year-old. At that moment, I understood. Nothing I do can merit me salvation. Good things don't happen to good people, bad things don't happen to bad people. Bad things don't happen to good people, good things don't happen to bad people. IT'S ALL UP TO GOD. (I never would have guessed I would be standing in front of my best friend a year later trying to explain the same thing. Can you see God's handprints yet?)

Still don't get it? Click here and read Romans 8. Plain and simple.

"You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." Galatians 3:26-29

So I became the Christian I wanted to be, at that moment. I did what I thought I should do according to what I thought a Christian girl should do.

My faith stayed strong throughout the rest of my high school career and on into college. I hit some major road blocks in college, MAJOR, but I always ended up turning to my Bible for help. Still, I felt a little lost. I felt like nothing that I "did" made me feel better. Nothing made me feel good enough. I was in an intense situation and needed out fast. I think I cried out to God for that relief one night, not knowing that he would actually deliver.

God picked me up out of Starkville and transplanted me into Birmingham, and Samford, a place I swore I'd never see again. (That'll teach you to swear, Katie.) He brought me back to the place where I first struggled with him and he won. Full circle. (Hence, the title of this post.)

My life has been majorly transformed while I've been here. I think I've finally experienced that "faith enough to move mountains" thing. Seriously. I haven't moved any mountains or anything but the more faith I've had, the more God has shown himself to me, in big and small ways. It's been freaky and exhilarating all at the same time. And fun. God is fun.

I was priveleged to be a part of a conversation a few weeks ago with my Daddy and a lady at FBC Jackson. We talked about having faith as small as a mustard seed. And we all agreed that that was all we, personally, had to cling to. We all admitted that we didn't claim to be very smart people, and by smart, I mean like brain surgeon, cardiologist smart. Those guys know a lot about a lot. And they are all about some proof and significant evidence.

But see, me, I don't know a lot about all that science stuff (my daddy did most, okay, all of my science projects and usually the day before they were due) and I don't really want to know. It makes my head hurt. (So does ham.)

All I know is that the thing, THE God, I believe in feels really real. All the time. And I'm a feelings person. I'm a writer. And a musician. Those things are all about some feelings, ya know? Nothing I've ever known has made me feel so safe. That's got to mean something, right?

There is something that a friend in college told me when I was struggling with my best friend's rejection of Christ. And it has never left me. Here it is (not so much word-for-word):

"Think about it this way. If you believe and it's not true, you've gained a lot (knowledge, friends, assurance) and lost nothing. But if you don't believe and it is true, then you haven't gained a thing and you've lost everything. So why not believe, and when it turns out to be true, you've gained everything and you've lost everything and you get to party in Heaven."

Yeah. Let that marinate a bit.

So I guess I say all that to say this, God is poetic. And not poetic in the biblical psalmsy sense of the word (which he is) but poetic in the ironic sense of the word.

Yeah, God, I see you winking up there. Next time, could you use something a little lighter than a concrete block. No? Okay. Just checking.

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