“The only one who understands us is God”
Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest
(If you’re reading this blog for the first time, and want to catch up, read the previous post: In Him We Live)
I was a carnal Presbyterian married to a carnal Catholic when I cried out to God in the summer of 1978. There is no doubt that God heard me because although nothing around me was different, I began to change. Something called hope sprouted in my heart. I couldn’t pinpoint “hope” back then, but I know God gave me a gift of faith that hot sultry night to hope for a better something in my life. I wasn’t sure what this “something” was exactly, but faith went into action when I decided to believe what I found written on a prayer card in my kitchen windowsill, (Phil 4:12) “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” For me, “all things” meant putting one foot in front of another, picking up the duties of my state in life and doing my best. I had a nine month old baby boy, a nine year old daughter, two step-sons, one a year younger and one a year older than my little girl. As a family, we were a jumble. Many combined families were a jumble in the 70’s.
We attended a Catholic church. This was part of our jumble because my husband was a divorced Catholic, he couldn’t partake of the sacraments; I couldn’t become Catholic unless we divorced because the Church couldn’t recognize our union sacramentally, and our children attended Catholic schools. I was twenty-four when we were married, I had known of God from a very young age, but I didn’t really know God. I heard about Him. I heard enough about Him that I wanted to keep my little family, such as it was, together in a church, and if the only church was going to be a Catholic church, then a Catholic church it would be; AND isn’t that a hidden nugget about faith? Despite choosing not to live a particularly Christian lifestyle, something in me was drawn to be near God’s house. Psalm 139:13-14: says,
“For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well.”
In some miraculous way my soul knew to cry out to God when I was in such despair. It knew to stay near a house of worship.
Five months after my experience with God, life was not as chaotic. A very good job had come my way almost immediately which blended well with my husband’s work. Although things were still chaotic on the home-front, I continued to pray, “I can do all things through God who strengthens me.” I never put in Jesus’ name, because when I first read the scripture I could only think of God, and I didn’t recognize that it read with the name of Jesus. In retrospect, I guess that was simply God.
Our church had begun a program called Christ Renews His Parish, and I was invited to attend. The Catholic Church went into quite a tailspin when Vatican II hit (I would call it “Christ Renews His Church”), then the Holy Spirit began to sweep through Catholic churches in 1967 (just as He was in other denominations) and to many Catholics who had learned to embrace the changes of Vatican II, this was eyed with suspicion. Christ Renews His Parish was not a charismatic event, but word had gotten out after the men’s retreat that the fellas came home doing strange things. They came home and seemed jolly! When it came time for dinner they wanted to join hands and pray out-loud spontaneously! This was really odd in a traditional Catholic home in 1979. My Catholic friends pretty much dreaded going, but had to attend because their husbands went on the first one and insisted. I was secretly thrilled. You see, I had hope. I wasn’t Catholic yet; didn’t even know if I ever could be. Hope was stirred just by knowing whose renewal it was: Christ Renews His Parish.
Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
~ Hebrews 11:1
Women of all ages were at the renewal weekend. Throughout the weekend there were times of bible study (we were each given a Good News Bible upon arrival), skits, singing, fellowship, testimony, contemplation. We were all assigned to a certain table in our meeting room with a candle representing the light of Christ in the center. We would light the candle, read a scripture and pray before beginning each session. During the day, I would look at the candle, and it was as if I could see a figure in the flame. To this day I have remembrance of the presence in the flame. In fact, I was aware of a warmth, a holy presence in the meeting room once the candles were lit and the praise music would begin. With every skit, testimony, reading of scripture, I had a sense of something. Something greater than me. We had an opportunity to talk with our pastor individually, and I could share a bit of my story with him. I don’t remember exactly what he told me, but my eyes were directed towards Jesus throughout the renewal weekend. He was actively orchestrating events. Somehow I knew that. Everything pointed to Him.
Our final session was more formal. Our pastor was dressed in his priestly garments and we were to go up to him for a final prayer and blessing. We had a prayer to pray. I wish I had the prayer! It was a re-commitment. For most of the women there, it was a re-commitment to their Catholic faith and their parish. For me, who had been confirmed a Presbyterian at the age of eleven along with my Sunday School class, it was so much more. I was born again. It was like being washed clean in an instant. In an instant! I didn’t have words to explain it. I needed to move for the person who was next in line. On the way home, I tried to explain it to my Catholic friend, who did not share my renewal experience at all, and she pulled a blank. When I got home, the joy seemed to keep bubbling up as I tried to explain what had happened. Not much understanding there either. It didn’t matter.
I was drawn to renewal. God drew me there to meet His Son. Over the years, I have heard many testimonies about how people have come to know, really know Jesus in a personal way. For me, this was the path. Jesus says in John 6:44-45:
“No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me.”
The thing is God is a loving God. He wants to know His offspring. Why my journey to meet Him took such a detour I won’t know until I get to Heaven, and we talk face to face. Perhaps it was because my parents divorced a few years after I was confirmed in our church and attending church dropped completely out of my life. Still my soul yearned for Him.
I have found there is a psalm that will sooth my soul no matter what. Perhaps it is one that will soothe your soul.
~ A Contemplation of the sons of Korah
Yearning for God in the Midst of Distresses
As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So pants my soul for You, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food day and night,
While they continually say to me,
“Where is your God?”
When I remember these things,
I pour out my soul within me.
For I used to go with the multitude;
I went with them to the house of God,
With the voice of joy and praise,
With a multitude that kept a pilgrim feast.
Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him
For the help of His countenance.
O my God, my soul is cast down within me;
Therefore I will remember You from the land of the Jordan,
And from the heights of Hermon,
From the Hill Mizar.
Deep calls unto deep at the noise of Your waterfalls;
All Your waves and billows have gone over me.
The Lord will command His loving-kindness in the daytime,
And in the night His song shall be with me—
A prayer to the God of my life.
I will say to God my Rock,
“Why have You forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?
As with a breaking of my bones,
My enemies reproach me,
While they say to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”
Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God;
For I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance and my God.
If you are reading my blog and you think you haven’t really encountered God yet, well, now you have. Dropping by here is no mistake. It’s just a beginning. Keep seeking. He knew how to touch me. He will touch you. He will!
In Him we live, and move and have our being,
Now, so many years later, I read in Revelations about the flame in Jesus’ eyes as written in Rev. 12:19, and look at today’s Israel which celebrates it’s 70th birthday as a nation and rejoice that I am here to witness such a time as this! I can tell you that I did not relate the flame in the candle which bore such witness to me of the reality of Jesus Christ to the words of Revelation until I began writing this post weeks ago. (Yes, weeks ago. The Lord seems to have changed my focus a number of times in the process. Isn’t He amazing?)
His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself.
Revelation 19:12 New King James Version (NKJV)
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