I will arrive at Heaven’s Gate weary, wounded and having failed my ultimate mission to become like Christ. Yet I will be overwhelmed and overjoyed and fully accepted as a child of God. That is the miracle of the cross and a truth I hold dear. There is an old spiritual that says “I’m not what I ought to be, but I ain’t what I used to be!” and that is a central theme in my testimony.
My childhood was impacted by divorce and alcoholism. My father (who eventually came to Christ) was largely absent from my life except for 1-2 visits a year. My mother worked hard as a factory worker. She eventually found Christ while in recovery in AA. She began going to church and dragged me along. I was angry and ill tempered. But found that there were some father figures to be found and that kept me there.
We were poor—living in a mobile home park outside of a small blue collar town near the factory where my mom worked. The only summer camp we could afford was the church camp since they would let me go free. It was a chance to get away so I took it. It was there I accepted Jesus. There was something about the peace and humor of the counselors. Bob, who also led worship at our home church, became a key mentor in my life as I opened scriptures and started my journey.
In high school my best friend was a preacher’s son and we ended up canoeing the Missouri River for five weeks after high school. It gave me a lot of time to think! This was a bit of a crazy excursion and long before the internet and cell phones. So it was “Good bye Mom, I’ll send a postcard” and off we went. John and I enjoyed a tearful communion at a Methodist church (his denomination). The pastor was overjoyed to administer it as the Methodist and Episcopal churches had just formally recognized one another and so he was sure he was one of the first to officially share communion with an Episcopal. He and his wife restored not only our bodies but our spirits with laundry, decent food and their Christ-like compassion. It was on this trip that the “journey” metaphor for our walk with Christ truly took hold.
My adult journey has been full of seasons of flow and seasons of drought. I have never felt more accepted–and never been more hurt–by Christians. Such is the challenge of an imperfect community serving a perfect God. The Bible has a central theme of forgiveness for a reason! We all must pursue becoming more like Christ not simply in terms of personal purity but in terms of restored relationship. Personal purity alone is the path of the Pharisee. Jesus came to restore relationships. That can be harder than simply working on “no swearing, no porn, no ___” checklists. I am still in progress. I have moments where I am confident my motives and my actions please God and moments when I continue to screw up: I too have been the source of comfort and the source of pain for loved ones in my life.
What I love about Christ and Christianity is the unfolding nature of the walk of faith. We become our best by seeking to be least. We grow closer to God by sharing our worst stuff with Him. The paradoxes of faith are fascinating and draw me in. “How can this be?!!?” And yet it is.