At the beginning of this year, I sense a need to remember what God has done for me in the past. Goals are important and I have them but I’m giving priority to acknowledging God’s faithfulness to me in the past. I once reached a fork in the road. I went one way and told Him to go the other. It was the end of my journey with Him I thought. As I traveled along doing my own thing I didn’t know He was right at my heels. It wasn’t until I turned around and saw Him that I knew we’re never more than an arm’s breadth away from Him, always within His reach. Here’s my story as I wrote it a few years ago.
Faithful to the Prodigal
The prodigal phase of my life began soon after I graduated from Bible College. Unable to find my niche, I drifted away from God. With my once keen interest in the Bible and Christian service in decline, I became enamored by the cool, more glamorous lifestyles my friends at work enjoyed.
My collection of Christian books ended up in a trunk, my Bible stuffed into the glove compartment of my car. One by one, traces of my former Christian life disappeared. I still believed in God. If interrogated, I couldn’t deny His existence. But, as I saw it, He’d distanced himself for reasons unknown and left me alone to find my way.
Church services became repugnant. When I stopped attending, I felt relieved of a heavy duty. I stayed in touch with some believing friends but kept clear of the “tsk-tsk what a shame she used to be such a fine Christian” crowd.
Several years passed. Then, in the space of a few months, three people came into my life. First, I met my husband Doug. He knew little about my Christian past. Some time between our engagement and wedding, he discovered the Bible I’d stashed in the glove compartment and started reading it every day on his lunch hour.
While Doug became increasingly excited about the Bible, I made a new friend at work, Grace. One day, she surprised me by announcing her desire to get back to church. As a two-time divorcee she felt unwelcome in the denomination where her father had been a prominent pastor. “I need you to take me to your church,” she said. I didn’t consider myself to have a church but because I cared about Grace I agreed to accompany her to the church I’d last attended. With a large congregation, I felt it would be easy for me to slip in and out unnoticed.
Doug, Grace and I attended a Sunday service. I intended it as one-time event but hadn’t counted on their enthusiasm. Doug hadn’t been inside a church since childhood. Both were drawn to the warm personal style of worship. Grace described a feeling of something good happening to her.
Doug continued his Bible reading adventure. When he reached the New Testament. Jesus’ words soared off the pages and lodged in his heart. “I used to believe only in God but now I believe in Jesus,” he announced. Around the same time, Grace stated she’d been born again. My efforts to keep God locked up in storage began to come undone and that made me nervous.
A new person arrived on the scene. When I transferred to a different division of the company I worked for, the office and coffee room buzzed with gossip. I soon learned that Betty, secretary to the Director of Research and a vivacious party-girl, had become a Christian six months earlier. Betty seemed not to notice that the whole office disapproved. Her zeal overflowed into the workplace. Snide remarks from co-workers failed to quell her enthusiasm.
Betty told me she’d been praying for God to send another Christian to the office. Since God had answered every single prayer she’d prayed thus far, she believed I was heaven-sent. In private I explained that I had once believed but given up my faith. “I’m what you would call a backslider,” I told her.
Betty replied, “Call yourself whatever you want, I know God sent you.” She made me her new best friend.
When it came to the Bible, Betty was on a learning curve. Every day she grilled me for information and I found myself reaching into my locked storage box for information I’d tried to forget. Those conversations with Betty, my friendship with Grace and Doug’s growing interest in spiritual matters stirred the dying embers of my faith.
God placed these three people in my life to lead me back to Him but I didn’t want to jump back into the faith life or become a churchy person. Privately, I renewed my commitment to Jesus. I kept it secret for many months until one day during prayer I heard these words several times – the faithfulness of God. Not in an audible voice but in a soul whisper. At that moment I understood that in spite of my unfaithfulness to God, He’d been faithful to me. He didn’t push me into a decision but waited respectfully for me to return to Him. He understood my hesitation and nervousness and didn’t condemn me for it.
God has shown His faithfulness in many ways but as I look back, I’m most grateful for Doug, Grace and Betty.