Tuesday, April 03, 2007

prodigal daughter

Please let me hear breathing. Please let someone still be here. Those were the thoughts of my seven-year-old self when I’d wake up at night. For I was scared, since I had not yet asked Jesus into my heart, that if He came back in that “twinkling of an eye” like the Bible said, I’d be left behind. It was the fear of being left behind more than anything that prompted me to come to my Mom one day when I was about eight and ask her to pray with me to ask Jesus into my life.

I had always gone to church and been a pretty good girl, so life didn’t change much after that – although I certainly slept better. I got baptized at fourteen, joined the church we attended, after high school went to Bible school for several years, and pretty much lived up to everyone’s expectations – until I left my Saskatchewan home and moved to Vancouver.

Turning my back on the beliefs and lifestyle I had been immersed in since childhood was not something that happened overnight. In fact I can’t isolate an event or moment when it began. It was, instead, a gradual slide from obedience and faith to compromise and then skepticism as I needed to rationalize my actions and did that by poking holes in what I had always believed.

I continued on in this state through university until graduation and into my first teaching job in northern British Columbia. After two years of teaching, a couple of friends and I decided to travel Europe. We quit our jobs and with Eurail passes in hand, embarked on the “Europe cure.”

It was in month three of that jaunt – October of 1974 – that I decided to take a side trip to L’Abri. I had read about this Swiss home of Francis and Edith Schaeffer years earlier in a book by Edith. I’m not exactly sure what I expected to get from this visit. In a way I was surprised that I even had the urge to seek the place out. For there had been little sign of spiritual life in me for years now. But there was something – a restlessness, a holding back, an inability to fully enter into the godless outlook of my friends – that made me feel marked. It was as if my Christian experience had spoiled me for really enjoying my backslidden state. Perhaps I made this trip as a somewhat grudging assent to what seemed inevitable. I think I viewed it as a way of saying to God, here’s your chance to win me back.

When I got there, I was toured around with other visitors. At lunchtime we were invited to join in a meal. Neither Dr. Schaeffer nor his wife were home. We did sit around and talk to some people for a while. But nothing happened – inside me I mean. Despite the whole effort of making the trip up the mountain, I didn’t feel any closer to God. When daylight began to fade I made my way back to the road and the bus stop.

On my trip back to town I mulled over what had and hadn’t happened. Partly I was relieved that there had been no Damascus Road experience. I wouldn’t have to change anything or go through awkward explanations to my friends. But I was also a tiny bit disappointed – and worried. Was this spiritual numbness I was feeling here to stay? A verse I’d memorized in childhood came to me: “No one can come to me unless the Father ... draws him” (John 6:44). Had God decided not to draw me any more? Had He written me off?

We finished our trip and I arrived back in Canada mid-December. The bone chilling Saskatchewan temperatures mirrored the chill in my spirit. My grand adventure was over. I felt like I shouldn’t go back to B.C. because my Dad was ill with bone cancer. Jobless and broke, I moved back into my old bedroom on the farm. Completely cut off from friends and the life I’d made for myself, without even the freedom of using my car, which was up on blocks in the snowed-in quonset, I had lots of time to think.

Did I really like the direction my life had taken, I asked myself. As I looked at the last years from the vantage point of this place, where even the air made me feel dirty by the way its purity brought out the foulness of my cigarette smoke-permeated clothes, I saw how far I’d strayed. Again I sensed God beckoning to me and knew that this was the time to respond. If I resisted now, there might not be another time.

Still I resented the thought of giving up my independence and my right to determine my own future. Could I really trust God with my life? He'd probably want me to be a single missionary or an old-maid school teacher.

Yet, in the five years I’d done my own thing, had I done any better? I certainly wasn’t happy. Was I prepared to take on the responsibility for the rest of my life as well?

Finally after several weeks of this, one evening I’d had enough. I knelt on the cold floor of my old bedroom and prayed, “God, I’ve been a fool. Can You take me back? Please? I want to be Your girl again.”

Of course He did. And I’ve never strayed like that again. As for my treatment at His hands – I could have suffered way more consequences for my prodigal years. But instead, God has heaped my life with goodness and mercy. He is wonderful. I wouldn’t want to be anyone else’s girl!

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This is part of "Testimony Tuesday," where you'll find links to lots more life-changing stories. Thank you Tim Challies!

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