Opening my eyes, I could tell that it had been a rough night. My throat was dry, my head was pounding, and even the very slightest movement made me want to puke. Then I heard a familiar noise and rolled over to see him lying there, snoring, and the horrible memory of how the night had ended came flooding over me.
The night had started well enough with a few girls at dinner, laughing and sharing. A few drinks and we decided to hit the club. There was a great local band playing. A few shots and I wasn’t thinking so much about the divorce anymore. Then the ex boyfriend showed up, and even though I had decided four months ago that that was a dead end situation, he kept smiling at me, and came all the way across the room just to ask how I was doing and tell me I looked pretty. Well, at least he was familiar, and I was lonely.
Seeing him standing there now in the bathroom doorway, laughing as the margaritas from last night wouldn’t stop coming back up that morning, I felt small, weak, cheap, and dirty. When he sneered, “really nice, PASTOR Melanie;” I was so disgusted with myself that I puked again.
As he drove me to my vehicle, which had been left in the club parking lot the night before, I couldn’t stop thinking about my Sunday school students, my granddaughter, my son, if they only knew the real me, the broken me, the disgusting and pathetic me. We had to pull over so I could puke again. Not my best moment.
There is a misunderstanding about what it means to be a Christian; to be “saved.” People seem to think that the moment we accept salvation, somehow life gets easier. We shed our old ways and old habits, we accept a path of love and forgiveness, and we are stronger and more focused in everything we do. And some days, we are. But-not always.
Living for God isn’t about never messing up. Being a Christian doesn’t mean you are better than anyone else. It simply means you try really hard, every day, to live a life like the one Christ taught about. Honor God; love your neighbor.
Easier said than done in the middle of soccer games, a job…or two, dinner, drop offs, pickups, dance lessons, choir concerts, basketball camp, volunteer at church, go to Wal-Mart, pay the electric bill, feed the cat, bathe the kids, care for aging parents, deal with persistent health problems. It’s never-ending. The sheer energy it takes to just live life leaves little time to spend on searching for God.
Sometimes reading the Bible is the last priority on our list, and prayer is said hastily before we fall asleep or maybe even just whispered quickly as you hurriedly shower in the morning. Multitasking is OK, right? It is hard enough to follow a Christian path when life is just busy. It can be even harder when life gets rough. What if a child gets sick, you or your husband loses your job, a parent dies, your husband cheats…or leaves. What then? What about when obstacles block our happiness. Where is my easy Christian path then?
And that is where I found myself. Struggling to find God’s Grace in the midst of pain, fear, and doubt. At the age of 42, my life crashed down around me. My husband of 15 years abandoned me and my 13 year old son. We were alone. I didn’t know who I was or what I was going to do.
I would like to tell you that I drowned myself in scripture, devoted more time to prayer, and searched for God in every moment of the day, allowing his Grace to soothe my pain and lead me through the dark places. And some days I did. But some days I questioned what was wrong with me. Was I too old, too out of shape, too busy; what did I do wrong to make this man I loved leave me? And some days I questioned exactly what God was thinking? How could he let this happen? Some days I was just plain pissed off at God. Occasionally, I even looked for reassurance and comfort in other places, on days when my Bible just didn’t seem to do the trick. I wish it wasn’t true, but it is.
God doesn’t expect us to be perfect. In fact he knows we’re not. He gives us his Grace to help us deal with the dark moments. The more we work to grow as a Christian and to strengthen our relationship with God, the better we become at dealing with life and all its imperfections, all its pain.
We will never be perfect, but we are always forgiven.
As my ex boyfriend drove me to my car on that horrible morning a little over three years ago, I realized that I had not been pursuing God. I had been looking for comfort and healing in a world that itself was broken. When I got home, I showered, I cried, and then I prayed. That night after work, I spent a good thirty minutes on my knees, and I read in the book my small group had been studying. Day by day, moment by moment. And on Sunday morning, when my seventh grade Sunday school students began entering the room, I realized that the act of getting up, starting over, sinning and then being restored, is not a final act. It is a process. It is a learning, growing process. Some days I do well, others, not so much. But EVERY day God loves me and provides me the Grace I need, to face this difficult broken world, if only I accept it.
And there is hope. When we actively follow Christ and purposefully strive to do God’s will. When we get up every day to try again, there is hope.
“For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
That was three years ago. In that time, I have attended Pastor Licensing School, been appointed to pastor a church, and had many good days. I have had a few really bad ones, too.
Seek God with all your heart. Some days you’ll still fail and you will sin. Some days you won’t see God’s path and will wonder how you can go on. Some days you won’t realize God’s Grace has been there for you all along. Some days you won’t seek, and will not accept, God’s glorious plan for your life. But some days, you will.