It took a summer full of real encounters with God, the kind of encounters that brought me to my knees and to tears, to make me realize and make me remember. These kind of encounters happened in the most mundane places: in my car, in my room, in the empty children’s area of my church. They changed me.
I grew up in church. When I say that, I want you to picture my parents dragging a not-so-cute, little girl kicking and screaming into a Sunday school class. The production was usually due to the fact that my shoes were too small, or my dress was too scratchy. Going to church was just what we always did on Sunday mornings, and I am grateful my parents were never embarrassed enough to leave their overly dramatic daughter at home. Eventually, after many questions and hesitations, I had my first encounter with Christ Jesus. I came to realize how much that man loved me, He suffered profusely and publically, so I could live with Him forever. My relationship with Jesus became my very own, and the most important thing to me. It changed the course of my life. But that was many years ago.
Everything between God and I was really great until my senior year of high school. I will spare you the exact details. Just know I got my priorities really out of order. My relationship with Jesus shifted from my number one priority to my second, third, and eventually 127th. As our closeness digressed to distance, my trust in God became practically non-existent. No, I never did drugs or partied beyond church-sponsored gatherings (the wildest kind), I was still in church, I even found my Waco home church during this time (a rare thing for most college kids to do), I was even consistently reading my Bible and talking with my friends about Jesus. Yet, I had gone off the deep end in a completely different but very real and painful way. I was reading my Bible like I read my college textbooks, not like the LIVING WORD OF MY CREATOR, GOD that it is. My deep empathy for the lost population, my neighbors who have an unsatisfied spiritual need, dissipated. Every trial I faced I turned into a major struggle I did not know if I would ever get past. I had a meltdown at least a few times every day, but I was always able to muster a very big smile before I walked out of the comfort and reality of my dorm room. I am going to be honest, my freshman year of college could not have been a more smooth transition. I had SO much fun that year, I made the most amazing friends, I learned a lot academically about the Bible and so many other interesting subjects, I made above average grades, and had so many memorable experiences, but I still had a deep, deep problem.
I began to realize the extent of my problem during spring break on a mission trip to Guatemala (palmswideopen.wordpress.com). Among the events of the trip and people who relentlessly pursue Jesus day in and day out, I encountered Jesus for who He truly is for the first time in a long time. I was desperately broken over my sin and let Jesus back into my heart to take control of my every action. A lot happened in that short week.
When I got back from Guatemala, the rat race to finish the spring semester began. I did not take enough time to reflect on the amazing trip and how God had just wrecked my life. Thank goodness it was only 7 weeks before summer.
Approximately two things involving summer 2017 went according to Emilee’s plans (Prayer: 100% Guarantee or Your Plans Back). That is such good news. You know, I wanted to rest this summer. I thought God wanted me to take some time to regroup too, all the sermons and quiet times were telling me that at least. Long story short, I barely slept this summer. Instead, I read my Bible early in the morning hours before I embarked on the adventures the new day held. I let the Truth change me late into the evening after each exhausting day. I woke up early on Sundays and stayed up late into the morning hours of other days to experience the community of Christ. The craziness turned into the most restful season of my life. I was resting in God more than ever.
I am willing to say this is the closest I have felt to God. I have fully experienced God’s presence this summer. My year away did various damage. It took many months of pain to get to this place, but I am glad Jesus loves me enough to do whatever it takes to bring me home. Somewhere, deep down, the energetic, highly ambitious little girl who fell deeply in love with Jesus years ago was always there. I just had to go find her.
It breaks my heart to see people living the same way I did for too long. I have encountered many hurting hearts this summer. I hope and pray that they find the joy of the Lord again. It is worth all the hardship in the world.
Thank you for never letting me get too far away. Thank you for loving me enough to bring me through the hard times, so we could live in a deeper relationship. Thank you for reminding me even this morning that you will never leave me (Hebrews 13:5). God, it is so Good to be right here with you. I want to pray specifically for those who are far from you today and for those who may not even know the size of the chasm between you and them. God, bring them to a place of repentance. I pray you will do whatever it takes to get them to a place at which they encounter you like they never have before. I know you desperately long to have them back. God, thank you for giving me people along the way who have greatly encouraged me not to give up on this journey. I pray you will use me as an encourager for someone else who feels like giving up. Thank you for the gift of Jesus and for desiring a relationship with the helpless humans we are. God, you are Good when the world is a hard place to live. I love you so much!
In Jesus’s name,