Oftentimes when newer acquaintances at church learn that I am our middle school youth pastor’s mother, they automatically begin flooding me with compliments and accolades of credit, “Well done, Mom!”, “God is well pleased with your work of raising him up in the way he should go.”, etc. I then get to graciously share the truth with them that I had nothing to do with my son’s faith in Christ Jesus. In fact, it was my son’s witness of Christ to me that eventually led both me and my husband to the Lord, saving our marriage from divorce!
Growing up I had knowledge of Jesus Christ, but my family did not live for or behave like Christ. We just followed the societal culture’s course and standards like any other “good, basic, moral, American” family. It was a secure and happy upbringing, but my extent of “religious” knowledge was through the same reading of the standard scriptures year after year during our biannual church attendance on Easter and Christmas. It simply was not enough to compel me to desire to seek God for myself.
I had been fully facing the world and experimented with all it had to offer for the first thirty-nine years of my life, strived after my significance, approval and pleasure in a variety of unhealthy ways. I had two kids and was rescued from a violent marriage all by the age of twenty-one. In hindsight, I can see now that even though my back was turned on God, He never turned His back on me.
After a few volatile years of healing, I married again. We were both facing away from God through the calm and stormy seas of the first twelve years of our marriage (that had us heading for the rocks). Another failed marriage was ahead on the forward horizon, but I tried keeping my sights on my children versus on that horizon. One day though, my eighteen-year-old firstborn daughter slipped from my sight. She was missing and I apparently had no parental rights. During this gut-wrenching experience, I caught my first glimpse at Jesus Christ being a person to know intimately. It happened through her brother getting down on the floor with me where I had crumpled to my knees in despair and hopelessness. He (at the age of seventeen and knowing Christ two years already) began to pray aloud. He prayed personally to a God he seemed to know as both Father and Friend.
I had never heard anything like it. The veil was lifted from my eyes to witness with clarity the relationship he had with Jesus Christ and to recognize that the peace and joy that he consistently carried into our tense home came from Christ. I became hungry for what he had. On the heels of that hunger though, came the filling of bitterness and discontentment instead (at a gale-force pace) and it sent our marriage ship adrift to slam against the rocks. It was splintered and we were clinging to broken pieces. Divorce was imminent. On the very Sunday morning I had planned to tell my husband that our marriage was not salvageable, my spirit awoke instead with an unrelenting urge to attend church that morning.
To my surprise, my husband attended with me and our year old baby son. What we found there at church was the acceptance of Christ Jesus, He filled us to overflow with His love, grace and forgiveness so much that it spilled from each of us onto each other. I noticed that my heart no longer blamed my husband. I confessed my part in our shipwreck and recognized my need to give him the same forgiveness that I had just received from Christ. Restoration of the marriage ship began in an instant (at least to be sailable again). Deeper, internal repairs would need to continue through the restoration process over time, but we sailed home together that day as one flesh for a new voyage.
I encourage us to be a strong witness to the backward facing! As my son did, stay forward-facing to God. Walk away from the world’s standards and cheap counterfeits of truth. Allow the character of Christ’s countenance to shine on your face to the precious person in front of us who has their back to God, yet is looking at us. May they have cause to wonder who we are seeing as they watch us look beyond and above the stormy circumstances with joy and peace.
Serving Christ by His grace,