“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 a hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11 NIV
I didn’t grow up in church, but went irregularly every now and then growing up. During my days of attending a private school we spent Wednesday mornings in chapel, and had a week of vacation bible school over the summer. We jumped up and down, ran around, and always requested to sing “Father Abraham”. After I was suspended, everything church related was also suspended. When I did start going to church again, I wasn’t the typical church girl, or atleast I wasn’t what I imagined was the typical church girl. “Church people” had it all together. They came with their hair in place, nice clothes with pretty smiles, and accompanied by their families. I thought they all had it together and it was just another place where I’d have to fight to fit in. In an attempt to belong, I would go and push my problems away and ignore the thoughts and images in my head. Unwillingly there at times as a teenager, I let it be known that I didn’t want to be there. Arms folded defensively, I’d sit there guarded. Even though there was a sense of safety, I refused to let my guard down and become vulnerable to more destruction. While my face often showed “I hate this”, the hurt inside of me was always pushed away and the evil on the outside was temporarily gone. Eventually, the more I was pushed to go, the more my heart opened.
Regardless, I wasn’t very active in church. I didn’t understand the Bible, and didn’t know how to pray. I was sure there was a “right” way, and I just couldn’t do it that way. I had this preconceived idea of who God was, and I figured He was just someone else I had to be perfect for, or else. I tried to avoid thinking about how much God must have hated me for the life I was living; how disgusted He must be in someone that continually lied, faked her way through each day, and was the definition of impure. Instead, I went through the motions and followed the crowd to fit in. But somehow, that uncommon safe feeling made me feel like I was doing the right thing, even if I couldn’t explain it. Tears stained my face in the middle of the night, tears while I prayed for someone, something, anything, to save me. After my tears remained unanswered, anger seethed through me as I began to question God; He was just like everyone else. He knew what was happening, but did nothing. “Why” bounced through my head. Why would God leave me? Why was He allowing such things to happen to me, to happen in the world? He was suppose to be different, why was He proving to be like everyone else?
Through the years, I was told God had plans for me. I didn’t know what it meant because I couldn’t see outside of what I was going through, much less a future regardless of dreams. I felt like my life was hopeless; I couldn’t see two minutes ahead, never mind a planned out future. However, I felt something about this hopeful outlook and trusted these unfamiliar words. Every time I heard this simple statement, my heart had a feeling of hope that I couldn’t describe in words. I fumbled to live in this unseen hope, but I eventually started to grasp it, and eventually believed.
Not much longer after I started to feel comfortable enough to plant my roots at church, my parents stopped dropping me off at a place I once begrudgingly walked into. A teenager looking for answers, I walked away from the church and didn’t step foot into one again for years. I was angry with God, angry that He’d let what was a safe place to me be taken away. The corners of protection I had in the world all began to slip away; people, the church, and God all began to live up to David and my mother’s voice that rang through me.
“No one can deal with you Sarah, everyone leaves you.”
“You hurt everyone; it’s your fault no one wants you.”
God was the only one I could blame, the only one that I knew could hear, even if He wasn’t listening. My heart was cold and I put walls around my soul. Yelling at the top of my lungs in an empty house my frustrations escaped me.
“How could YOU do this to me?”
I placed the stones back in their places and brushed my hands together. I was done and walked away as easily as I felt everyone and everything God related had walked out on me. I painted the glimmers of white on my life black, and went in a different direction, looking for something to heal me. Running from Christianity, my abusers occult system took a hold of me – I no longer had any reason to fight it. Partially sunken into a system I knew nothing about, a faint voice that was frequently drowned out hung on to the pieces that weren’t drenched in this foreign world. Years of going back and forth, the faint voice changed to a persistent, reassuring tone.
“You don’t belong here.”
It never gave up; making sure it was heard even in the middle of darkness. The more I heard this voice, the less I began to fight it. The safety that used to hold me in the middle of all of the storms was gone. I feared stepping out of the world I was halfway in, I feared their reaction. Years of running from God, I slowly crawled my way back. Running away from home in the middle of the night I began to find myself in church parking lots; a former safe place, yet a place I felt I couldn’t step in again because I was too damaged and contaminated. As afraid as I was that I had turned away from this new system I still couldn’t comprehend, I ran back to the only stronghold in my life. The voice that never left me gave me what I needed to escape the terrors that were devouring me.
I used to think in very black and white terms – you either had to be all “good”, all the time, or God cast you aside indefinitely. The Bible is full of God giving second chances though – what about Rahab the prostitute (Joshua 2:1-22, 6:20-25), David, who was an adulterer and murderer (2 Samuel 11-12, Psalm 51), Zacchaeus, who took advantage of the poor (Luke 19:1-10), Peter, who denied Christ (Matthew 26:31-35, 69-75, John 21), and the thief on the cross who was granted a second chance in eternity (Luke 23:39-43) to name a few.
It doesn’t stop there, and none of us are exempt from this second chance. Jesus told Joshua that He was giving him another chance; another day. God is no more finished with me or you then he was with the children of Israel because they sinned. God WANTS to give you a second chance, how many times do you hear that from the people that surround you?