Most people would probably think that the best years of their life would happen early on. Not me. I was several decades in when God came and got me and nothing has been the same since. It's been the hardest journey and the biggest thrill ride. Part of it I wouldn't wish on anyone, but what is more true is that I wouldn't trade it for anything. Not anything.
My hubby and I met at church as toddlers. Our families were big on church and most of our social activities centered around that as well. I was very active teaching Sunday School, leading women's groups, directing Christmas pageants and vacation Bible school. Too bad I didn't have a relationship with God. Didn't really know the Bible.
When our church had to close, kids and careers quickly filled in the void. I remember thinking, I don't need to go to church to be a Christian. I was thankful to God for my blessings and I guess I wanted to please Him, but I didn't hang out with Him. I didn't ask for His guidance or advice. A few times when marriage troubles rocked us or there was a health scare I'd pray. When the crisis passed, it was back to life as usual (basically without God). I had it handled. Until I didn't.
I worked for a magazine publisher in my 20s. After a decade, I left to start my own publishing company with big dreams. We started with high moral values deciding we'd put God first and Jesus front and center. Things blossomed. Soon, when those Christian principles were affecting our bottom line, we made new decisions. When the company failed, I knew why.
As I tried to figure out my next step, one night, I had a dream. In my dream, I died and found myself standing in front of the gates of heaven. The "Man" out front asked, "Why should I let you in?" I answered, "Well, why not? I didn't do anything." He replied, "I know. I gave you everything and you didn't do anything."
It doesn't feel awesome when the God of the universe tells you you're a disappointment. I knew it wasn't a dream but a wake-up call.
I started trying to figure out what God wanted me to do. I tried a lot of things: Christian camp counselor, helping the needy with service projects, and even did a short-term missionary trip to Haiti. Nothing was clicking until I went on a weekend to a writer's conference. There, I had a revelation of what it was - to help people meet God in a way that wouldn't freak them out.
The "how" was creating a magazine. In this "normal" magazine, we told stories of how God was working in the lives of people today, how to start a relationship with Him, and we connected people struggling and searching to groups who could help. We did that for nine years and then it was time to do something different.
As I mentioned, when I started this journey with God, I only knew the Bible basics - not the depths of it. I believed in God, but I didn't KNOW Him. So, as I'm on this "mission from God*" (just like Jim Belushi and Dan Akroyd in The Blues Brothers), I was about as clueless as to how to tell others about Him. And that's when my education with God really began.
Through a series of events, I believed a lie. A lie about me and a lie about God. I was convinced that I was unforgivable in the eyes of God. Thrown away...forever. This is the part I wouldn't wish on anyone. Being separated from God is the worst, most hopeless feeling there is. The Bible calls this hell. Yes, there is a literal place of hell, but that's what makes it hell - knowing you are without hope because you are without God.
What I couldn't see then was that this was not God abandoning me, but Him saving me.
I wasn't without all hope. I knew I had to exhaust all my efforts and find out what the truth was. For the next three years, I dug in with God - which was strange since I thought He'd abandoned me...yet I was talking to Him constantly, feeling Jesus with me all the time...but my fear was holding me prisoner in the lie - for a time.
I voraciously read the Bible, studied it, meditated on it, questioned God about it. I listened to hundreds, if not thousands of podcasts and sermons, read umpteen books and commentaries. I sat with Jesus, I got to know God, I listened.
The first year was excruciating and eye-opening. The second got way easier and I was out of the pit more than I was in. In the third year, I'd all but defeated the lies. I knew too much truth. I knew who God was. I knew His character and I knew His Son. I was not thrown out - I was loved and kept.
I found out who God was and I found who I was.
Over the following years, I have stayed very close to God. I never want to feel far from Him EVER AGAIN! I am amazed at all that He has revealed to me. I live with absolute joy and peace these days.
I know that what I have with God is rare. But what I know is that it's not supposed to be.
I see how easily I just followed everyone else. But everyone I was following didn't really KNOW God so they couldn't tell me how to do it. Many people I listened to when I was growing up were getting it wrong. I don't think they meant to, they just didn't know any better. They hadn't taken the time to get to KNOW the God they said they believed in.
So, this is what God is asking me to do now: To help others understand how to truly KNOW Him. How to experience Him in a way that they absolutely know that they belong to Him. That they are kept by Him, loved by Him, and safe with Him. In that place, you will never be afraid, never need to worry. That is where your eternal life begins...and where EVERYTHING changes.