Collisions 3:21 "Fathers, do not embitter your children, lest they become discouraged."
My Typical Sunday: Get up, get dressed, leave for church, sit in pew, sing songs, listen to preacher, retain some of the information (Optional). Sounds pretty simple right? Well, there's no such thing as a "typical Sunday" when you're a follower of Christ. God always does this crazy thing where nothing goes the way you plan on it going. So, here's the crazy story of God working in me today.
For the past few Sundays, I've been church hopping on the weekends when I'm actually on campus. I wanted to find a church that I felt almost at home in. So, when Michelle causally mentioned that she was going to church with her roommate and Kady, I decided that I wanted to tag along to see what church they were going to. So, we all got up and dressed and left for church. I always get nervous when I go to a new church. I feel the need to run random bible verses through my head, that way if someone comes up to me, I don't give off the impression of...something. I'm not sure why I do it, it's just something I do to prepare me for the unknown. If you know me, you KNOW how uncomfortable I get in new, foreign, situations. I know that every church is different, and I just want to be as prepared as possible, JUST in case someone decides to come up and talk to me. (It never happens, but that's beside the point. It COULD happen someday...)
Anyways, back to story. So this Church's name is Epic. I know, it's a pretty awesome name. So that eased my nervousness a little bit. As worship starts, I notice that they play really contemporary music. Which was great, I LOVED the music that they played. Announcements, Welcome, blah blah, more Music, Preacher! I know I'm not supposed to judge people based on the first 5 seconds of meeting them, but I'll be honest...sometimes I actually do. :O But, He preached an amazing message. He talked about how as Christians we need to step out of our comfort zones and act in his will, not just what we think is God's will. He said "So often in our lives we mistake what's going on in our little bubble for God's will, that we often are blind to his will taking place outside of our bubbles." It's in the wee hours of the morning and I still remember that, so you KNOW it was good. As the service was ending, I started thinking about all the things in my life that God is asking me to step out of my comfort zone and take action upon. I wrestled with this question all the way back to the college, and even through going out to lunch. It wasn't until we were going back to college after lunch that I finally had answered all the questions that I had spinning around in my head.
God has this funny way of taking the things that I'm not exactly comfortable with, and pushing me head first right into a situation dealing with things of that nature. We rented Courageous. A movie about Fathers. TERRIFIC. That's just the type of movie I want to see after being told to step out of my comfort zone by God. (sarcasm) Although it's not the movie I wanted to see it was a movie I NEEDED to see.
That whole 'Father' thing...is not...not my Favorite thing to talk about. Who is my father? It depends on who in my family you ask, me and my brothers have a very, VERY contrasting image of who he is. Even though we were all raised in the same house, and share the same mom and dad, we all turned out so very different. I'm not sure exactly Lance's opinion on him, but Ryan and Wayne see a man who has no faults, a perfect father, and a perfect model. I wish I had the heart to tell them how wrong they are, but I can't...it might crush their entire world. The very first memory I have of him is anger. When he got mad, he got violent. And then, I got really good at hiding from him...most of the time. Second thing I remember about him, his sexism. There is nothing more painful than watching your brothers be showered with affection from both parents while you sit in the corner wishing with all your heart that you could be loved like they were, instead of just ignored. When I wasn't ignored, I was either being yelled at..or something much worse. Not to mention that I was told on a regular basis that I was not good enough because I wasn't a boy. Instead I was this weak little girl, who was absolutely worthless to him. My mom didn't help the situation at all either, she was too busy swooning over my little brothers to even acknowledge that I was there. I tried to be as perfect as possible but nothing I could do would ever be good enough for him, and nothing about me made him proud of me, just more angry that I was not a boy. Third thing I remember about him, Alcohol. He was a very angry, violent drunk. He would come home from work, drink, and then get angry. I remember so many nights being thrown out of the house because he would get so angry with us kids being up late and playing in our rooms. It didn't matter what time of day, or what the outside was like, we were forced to be out there. We weren't allowed to come back inside until my mom got home, usually around early morning. After we left him, he became a stalker, found out where we were staying, and tried to take us back, several times. Hence all the moving we did, trying to escape him. Eventually mom filed a restraining order, and the first time he violated it, she called the police and he was arrested for aggravated assault on one of the police officers. Shortly after that, we were taken away from mom and placed in foster care...if you're interested in THAT story and the rest of my life, come find me sometime and I'll be willing to share with you my life story and testimony. (Bring some snacks, It's about 3 hours of story.)
After being abused, watching him abuse my mom, the harassment after we left, his assault on a policeman, watching as my family was torn to shreds over this, and the entire foster care situation that followed that situation...I have so many reasons to be bitter. I know deep down in my heart, I know that I am. I'm bitter towards the absolute hatred I felt from him growing up. Nothing I did was ever good enough for him. I've spent the majority of my life living my life in a way to somehow make him proud. Nothing ever worked, it didn't matter how smart I was, what my GPA was, or what extra-curricular activities I was in. He didn't care. I know I'm still bitter because I'm hurting from all the things that he said and did, and everything he should have said and done, but didn't care enough to do. Watching Courageous today didn't help anything in the "getting over the abuse" section of my heart, instead it just made me wonder why I had to have a terrible father figure growing up. I know there was a purpose in it back then, but I could never see it. It's hard to see God's plan in the present, but you can clearly see him working in your life in your past. God was all over my past. I didn't see it though, until I came to know Christ, and looked back over my life to see how far I came and changed in my life.
I think though, my brain might have a unorthodox way of dealing with bitterness, instead of hating my father with a burning passion, shortly after coming to college, I was filled with the conviction to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with my father. Yeah, you're about as surprised as I was when God laid that sucker punch on me. So, I wrote my father a letter explaining my faith to him and why He needs to come to Jesus and realize that he's not as big and controlling as he thinks he is. Yeah, he may have been big mean and scary when I was little, but my HEAVENLY father is so much Bigger, so much Stronger, and (to be honest) so much Scarier than he will ever hope to be. I realize that now, but for the longest time, I let my fear of my father get in the way of my relationship with my heavenly father. I read somewhere (MAJOR paraphrasing Alert) that people's first impression of God is the impression that their father's had made on them. I know that sounds maybe a little inaccurate, but it was true in my life. One of the hardest things that I struggled with as I was becoming a Christian and accepting that this whole "God" thing was pretty legitimate, was the fact that I had no idea how someone who was a "Father" could love all of his children equally, and with no judgement on what they had done in their past, but loved them for who they were in the present. I had a hard time wrapping my head around the whole "unconditional love" concept. A father who loved me no matter what mistake I made, or how often I messed something up? I couldn't fathom that that type of love actually existed. How could I know what unconditional love was from a Father I had never met, if I hadn't even received conditional love from a father I spent the first six years of my life with?
The best thing about God though, even through all the crap that I've been through, I've still managed to come out as a half way normal person, even though I might be a little too weird for some. I know that My God will be here for me, no matter the circumstance, no matter how many times that I mess up, falter in my faith, doubt him, doubt myself, that is at the very nature of God's unconditional love for every single person that He has made here on Earth. For a God to love everyone on this planet equally, and without favoritism or fault, He has got to be Bigger than what we can comprehend, because we has humans can't quite grasp that whole concept completely. We can imagine unconditionally loving a few people, but loving every single person equally, and without fault? That blows my mind, I can't even imagine loving my enemies with the same love that I have for my friends and family. But I don't have too, because God knows what He is doing. God is the reason that I'm so much more "normal" than what I would have become had he not stepped into my life. To be completely honest, I have no idea who I would be, or what kind of person that I would have become in life had I NOT accepted and found my way into the arms of Jesus Christ. I'm actually kind of thankful (in a roundabout way) that my Earthly father did decide to not be a part of my life anymore, it just allows me to have a closer relationship with my Heavenly father instead. And God is capable of giving me the right amount of love, the type of love, and how I recieve love, because He's gotten good at picking up the broken, abused, and hurting people of the world and turning them into some of the most important/influential people in the word. This is why I refuse to give up hope that one day, ONE day...things will eventually start looking up again. And I know that God's in charge of all of that happening, I'm excited for reaching that place, but I'm still terrified of the journey that takes me there. But He's got a plan, and He will never abandon me. Ever. That's why I love God, so very, very much.