When I was in the fifth-grade, I took a two-week summer session at church. I was under the impression once I had learned our church doctrine and received a certificate with my name on it that I had a guaranteed spot in heaven.
I could never figure out why with my certificate framed and mounted on the wall that I didn’t transform into a perfect person 24/7. Sometimes as a teenager, I’d snap my fingers on Sunday mornings and proclaim, “This week I am going to do everything right.”
Perfect Monday never came.
My unguided life continued. I made decisions (or my mother did), HUGE decisions, that even now I shake my head in wonder, “Why didn’t I know to pray about that?”
Like getting married, the first time.
No one ever mentioned I was even supposed to pray for my lifetime mate beforehand. It wasn’t until I became pregnant with our daughter Ariane Elizabeth that I even sought the Lord’s presence in our young household. Since my husband and I had differing denominational backgrounds, we began visiting a variety of churches. But nothing snapped.
I also tried to develop a consistent prayer life. My praying, though, was usually when I hiked in the mining canyons behind our house. On top of a vast ridge, my minuscule voice dispatched proper prayers across an immeasurable chasm. Maybe, I thought, my words might penetrate through the heavenly realm and actually reach the reverent God of the universe. I was fully aware I shouldn’t bother Him with too much, so I kept to major subjects and never knew to wait for a reply.
I loved God, and I desired to be a good child. I just wasn’t sure how to do it.
Yet, with Ari’s birth, I knew she deserved more than I could humanly offer on my own. I just had to try harder to figure it out for this daughter who had captured my life.
Funny, how when things are out of our control, we reach for The One who is. When Ari turned one, she was hospitalized with a high fever. The doctors weren’t sure what was causing it. I remember the moment I was all alone in the hospital elevator. I cast-up into the heavens the prayer of negotiation, “If you heal my daughter, I’ll give you my life.”
God fulfilled His end of the bargain. I endeavored for the next year to fulfill mine, attempting most Sundays to begin my week as a perfect child. However, snapping fingers and making vows wouldn’t do it. I needed more.
It wasn’t until I discovered a Tuesday night women’s Bible study led by my mother’s friend Drew that I met Christ, as in officially asked Him into my heart. For the first time I learned that I could be born again, redeemed and even receive the Holy Spirit’s help. I took the plunge, not just by being water baptized, but by being immersed in getting to know Him–having a real relationship.
I fell in love with God as my Father, His Redeeming Son Jesus, and The Helper in the Holy Spirit. I was so hungry for truth that I spent hours each day, delving into The Word’s wealth, memorizing His promises. I leaned heavily on this guidebook now alive with instructions to live that life I always desired.
It scares me how I thought I had received my admittance ticket into heaven with my church membership study in the fifth-grade.
However, I have to give credit to those beautiful captivating women in my Bible study who were living such vibrant lives in Christ that I was drawn to Him. I sensed they had “something more, something beyond themselves.” I wanted that.
One defining moment came when I realized that God had time for me and was interested in all areas of my life. He proved that one night after one of our Bible studies when several women and I were standing in the kitchen visiting.
I dared to ask, “Would it be too vain to ask the Lord to heal my complexion? After Ari was hospitalized last year, I guess it was the stress, but I’ve had an untreatable case of adult acne. I’ve spent too many dollars at the cosmetic counter and nothing works.”
“Of course, we’ll pray!” Drew volunteered. “God cares about everything in our lives.”
We prayed right there, in a kitchen, mind you, about my complexion, mind you more. I drove home shocked that they cared about me and something so vain. I was especially leery that God would have time for such a trivial request.
The very next day a colleague—one of the few professing Christians where I worked—approached me and asked if I would be willing to try a new line of aloe vera products she was selling for extra income. I did. The whole line of products was a reasonable thirty dollars and within two weeks my face cleared.
Amazing. And I recognized that it was no coincidence. How simply God revealed He cared about even the trivial areas and that He has time for me in all areas of my life. His omniscience and omnipresence empowers Him to be so good. He individualizes and personalizes His responses for each of His children. He narrowed the chasm and became closely real.
There is such power in His love and peace. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (I Corinthians 1:18)
I still haven’t gotten the perfect thing down yet. And I’ve realized over the thirty-five years that all answers to my prayers don’t come so swiftly. He’s not a magic genie in whom I can snap my fingers and make endless requests.
He’s the Holy God of the universe who sent His Son Jesus to bear our sins so we can have an eternal relationship with the Holy God of this universe. He is our Faithful Father and desires a personal relationship with each of us.
I’ve heard some describe a different God: they imagine Him as a hard taskmaster like their earthly father. I never once thought to compare my Perfect Father with mine. They were canyons apart.
I have been captured by true Fatherly love, unconditional love. Living in His Design possesses more intrigue than I can fathom in a lifetime.
Yet, I am determined to try. Are you?
Paul describes it like this:
I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, and to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:16-21 (NIV)