My family ceased going to church was I was eight years old, for no particular reason.
We just stopped.
Next time I stepped inside a house of worship was a decade later, for a funeral for a beloved friend, Chuck Davenport, who died valiantly in the Viet Nam war.
Our abandonment of church wasn’t because our family became agnostic, or even embraced atheism. We converted to the religion of apathy. Church was a boring inconvenience and waste of a perfectly good day.
Sundays became glorious beach expeditions for my brother and me. Hurray! Under the scorching South Florida sun, we built sand castles and took turns burying each other so only our heads popped out like globular living creatures. What fun!
We brilliantly plotted new ways to get our parents mad at us for being silly kids. We did this because when we were caught trouble-making, we were noticed and our voices heard; we weren’t invisible to our daddy. When we behaved, we were unseen, ignored, and blended into the drone of daily living.
We conspired to push the boundaries of how far we could walk unsupervised into the ocean before we’d get caught. One day we exceeded our limit, and almost died in our foolish rebellion.
The waves grew furiously higher. I lost touch with the sea floor. I struggled to stay straight up, against the gnashing water that was twisting and pulling me down.
The ocean’s battle to own me was near its conclusion. I was gasping and swallowing the acrid sea water.
“God, am I being punished for not going to church?” I yelled, “Where are You? I need You. Help!”
As I wildly thrashed, struggling for air, I could see the distant coast. Everyone looked so tiny. Angry muscular currents pushed me farther out. I was alone and drowning. My eyes burned from the salt as I tried to see if anyone was swimming nearby. Nobody.
Brother was gone. He vanished. No one could hear my cries for rescue over the arrogant laughter of the sea about to claim its next victim.
Suddenly, a strong hand appeared out of nowhere and reached down to bring me up to the water’s surface and then to the shore. Mommy was delirious that her daughter was alive. Brother rejoiced, as his tears of guilt were replaced with jubilant hugs of relief. He thought his sister died. Daddy fumed that I disobeyed his mandate of unescorted swims. Interesting perspectives of love lost, then found.
I have no recollection of a face attached to the brawny arm that saved me. I still don’t, to this day. Invisible love and tangible hope; a stunning reminder of God’s protection?
God, was that You? Did You set me free from death’s clutches? Why did You bother to save me? I was a nerdy friendless kid whom other kids mocked. How could I possibly matter to You?
His answer came 50 years later. He loves me. I’m precious to Him. God gallantly declares that my life matters.
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze” (Isaiah 43:2 NIV).
A fallen world brings much effort to pull us into the murky abyss of hopelessness. Pits and graves abound.
Many question, “If God is a God of love, then why does He allow some to be born without limbs, loved ones to die in disease and children to suffer the atrocities of flesh-wasting global hunger?”
Simple answers rarely quench the outrage, or the sting. Nor do they remove the excruciating, adamant ache of loss, or dry its ever-flowing tears.
However, I’ve discovered a hidden treasure of priceless worth, in the depths of my snake-filled pits and grave’s shivering numbness. These trials and unanswered prayers aren’t randomly-flung or heartlessly-permitted by some mysterious, distant, inaccessible Being.
My near-drowning is purposeful because it forces me to reach past my human limitations and capabilities and dance with the supernatural; the impossible.
Hope is strongest when I’m at my weakest.
As I pensively gaze at the totality of my life’s experiences, there’s an in-my-face reality that I’m able to even do so; to think, to remember, to breathe, to cry, to rejoice in the overcoming.
Nothing can dissuade me from the evidence that I‘m raised up, time and time again because of Who God is, not because of what I can or will do.
Miraculously, I’m still alive, housing a soul beautifully scarred with memorials of God’s intimate loving and protective custody over my life, and yes, even my heart.
“Don’t pray for the persecution to stop. We shouldn’t pray for a lighter load to carry, but a stronger back to endure. Then the world will see that God is with us, empowering us to live in a way that reflects His love and Power. This is true freedom.” – Brother Hun, author, “The Heavenly Man”
Scars, I’ve learned, are trophies for the living to testify of Heaven’s sweet affirmative embrace … and notice.
My precious Jehovah-Shammah, “The Lord is There,” personally knows the intensity and intent of scars as well. My life’s resurrection depends on them. They are indeed, glorious tributes of triumph.
His and mine.
“Beautiful Things” by Gungor
Editor- Phillip Brock
Script Writer- Marcy Bryan
PA- Megan Bryan
Artist- Casey Hyland hylandglass.com
DP’s- Kevin Bryan, Dan Skinner, Phillip Brock
Music- Beautiful Things by Gungor