Thursday, December 08, 2011

Why I Believe I am a Beautiful Princess

I am a beautiful princess.  I know this to be true.  Let me tell you why I believe this.

Do you remember last month when I talked about the young people who were not only asked to write their Faith Papers but to also share them in public?  These kids wrote of their faith, along with its ups and downs.   Some shared some pretty dramatic moments that impacted their faith story.  Many of the kids had gone through trying experiences of which I'd had no idea. 

I said that I wanted to do the same.  I wanted to take the time to examine my own faith journey and I wanted to share it.  I challenged you all to write about your faith as well.  Elizabeth commented that she'd written something like a Faith Paper already.  You can read her story here.  Even if you don't want to write it down, I think it would be a good idea to just take some time to think out your own story, to ponder the events that helped draw you closer to God.

As I thought about the beginnings of my gift of faith, I really couldn't remember a time before I had faith.  That may make my story seem boring, but I consider it to be the best part.  I can remember back to age 3 and most of those memories involve my mom.  I know without a doubt that my mom is the reason I do not have a time when I did not know I was a child of God.  Mom's daily life was centered around God and she shared that with us.  I remember her telling me that when I needed to know how to behave that I should think about how Jesus would behave.  Many, many years later when I first saw all the posters, bracelets, etc. that said WWJD? (What would Jesus do?) my first thought was, "That's just what Mom said!"

Back to age 3... One time my dad was digging a well or something that took a long time and left a big hole in our yard.  I guess he'd seen black widow spiders by that hole.  Mom told me to stay away from that hole because of those spiders.  I'm guessing she also said something about the hole itself being a danger but I only remember the spider warning.  Later, she found me and my little friend, Laurie, sitting at that very hole.  That sounds pretty defiant and naughty, huh?  But I remember why I was there and why I had invited my favorite friend along.  I was waiting for a black widow spider to come and bite us so we could go see Jesus!  Oh, the faith of a child!

I did not always take time to consider what Jesus would do.  Maybe I did consider it but I did not always live by it.  By the time I was 5 yrs old I had already developed a checkered past.  I had taken stalks of rhubarb from the neighbor's yard and eaten them.  I remember thinking the neighbor's didn't want it anyway.  Isn't that the way it is with sin?  We are all pretty good at justifying the wrong we want to do.  I still do it. 

I also remember that my brother and I (I probably should not drag him into this) would ring the neighbors' doorbell and run and hide.  We must've thought that was funny.  I will say this, though, I had recurring dreams about that 5 yr old action well into my high school years.  I would dream that the neighbor came out with a gun and I never could find a safe place to hide from him!

Sunday School was very important to me as a little girl.  The first songs I remember learning were "For God So Love The World" and "Jesus Loves Me".  I loved being with my friends at Sunday School.  One Sunday, though, was especially horrible.  The night before we'd all endured an earthquake.  I don't know that any damage was done but it was bad enough the the bed had moved across the floor.  I was terrified and when my Mom was comforting me I confessed that I'd thought I'd died and was in hell.  The next morning I heard her tell people at church that I thought I'd gone to hell.  I was horrified!  I know now that it was just a cute little kid story.  All mother's tell such stories.  At the time, though, I felt that now my church friends knew that I didn't deserve to go to heaven ( read above paragraphs if you don't remember how naughty I was).  I knew they now knew I was a fraud.

When I first went to church camp I think I had just finished 4th grade.  It was to be the first of many, many church camps.  I loved going to church camp but that first experience was kind of rough.  There was one pastor there that worked on me all week, pressuring me to get baptized.  In the church where I was raised we waited until we decided on our own to be baptized.  I always knew I would do that but hadn't really thought about it much to be honest.  That pastor decided to use scare tactics to get me to be baptized at church camp but I wanted to wait and do it when my family could be present.  He went so far as to tell me that if I were in a car crash on the way home and died, I would go to hell.  It seemed that baptism was all about being saved, something we did to earn everlasting life.  I'm not telling you this because I agree with his theology.  In fact, I am still kind of upset with that man for scaring me.  I am telling you this to suggest that God can take even someone with bad theology to make you aware of your own gift of faith.

Even as a kid I remember thinking that we should love and honor God simply because he was God, not so that he would save us and not because we were frightened of hell. I do not believe that we can do anything to "earn" salvation. It is a gift. It is not a gift that is forced on us, but it is a gift.

One thing that shaped me early on was that my little sister was born with cerebral palsy.  She was such a smart and cute little blonde girl!  She never learned to walk but was always smiling and charming to people.  I knew, though, that her life was always so much more difficult than my own.  Still, when I think of all the times I just went off to play games outside, games she couldn't play, I am ashamed to say I didn't consider her.  I wish that I'd spent more time including her with my friends as it was difficult for her to get out to make her own friendships.  Even though I wasn't thinking as much about her as I should've then, I believe she had a lot to do with my need later to be a nurse.  Having her as a sister made me realize the suffering others endure.  I think it also made me more grateful for the things we can take for granted, such as the ability to walk.  I saw her love for God, even when she was in pain or lonely.  I see, even now, how she graciously allows others to show God's love.  I see how they are blessed by being able to help her.  Through her I learned that God wants us to help each other through this life.  I also know that her trials will end when she enters heaven.  She will not only walk but she will run!

My childhood years were really pretty happy but there were some dark moments.  My Dad had some problems, most of which I was blissfully unaware at the time.  His problems did affect his children, though.  For one thing, we moved a lot.  Sometimes we moved quite abruptly.  The worst was 6th grade.  My dad had just become a minister and we'd moved to a new town, his first congregation, early that Summer.  I thought I'd finish growing up there.  The 3rd day of school in the Fall, though, that all changed.  Dad picked us up after school and told us to go to our classrooms and clear out our desks.  I don't remember even asking him any questions.  When we got home we saw that the U-Haul was already loaded.  We left town, not knowing where we'd live next.  We did not get to say goodbye to our friends.  If I remember correctly, we travelled a couple of weeks before Dad found a job and we settled down.  Well, we settled down for 3 months anyway.

I did not like moving.  I did not like always being "the new girl".  I cried every single time.  I still cry now just thinking about it.  I do think it had a huge impact on who I became, though, and it wasn't always a negative impact.  For one thing, I learned to make friends quickly.  I also learned that God was portable.  He was with me every place that I lived.  He wasn't tied to one building or one town.  I also think that all that relocating made me a bit less attached to this life.  Somewhere along the way I found my theme song.  Really, I have a theme song.  Don't you?  Mine is, "This World is Not My Home".  Do you know it?  Click here to listen to Martina McBride sing one version of it.

That song may sound kind of hokey for 2011 but the words still mean a lot to me.  I've come to realize my childhood fear of being a fraud is exactly true.  I am a sinner.  I hurt people.  I am selfish.  I want to gossip.  I get frightened.  I get angry.  I feel sorry for myself.  I whine.  I put my needs before others.  I forget to seek wisdom from God.  But the important truth is, God is able to work with that.  He holds me up.  He helps me want to be obedient to him, not for myself but because he is God and I am humbled before him.  My permanent home is with him.

Complete obedience is how I want to live my life.  I don't yet; I keep messing up.  It is my desire, though.  God deserves nothing less from me.

I want to be very clear, now, about what I believe.  I believe that God made all that is.  I believe that God is the ultimate power.  I believe that my faith is yet incomplete and immature.  I believe that I am a sinner.  I believe that I have been forgiven, not because I earned it but because of God's gracious love.  I believe there is much I do not yet know or understand.  I believe the Bible is the Word of God.  I believe there are sinful forces dragging at me but I believe that God can pull me to safety.  I believe my most important job in this life is to tell others about God.  I believe the most important thing I have to share with my children is my faith.  I believe all joy comes from God.  I believe that this all-powerful God still has the time to listen to my prayers.  I believe that God's only son, Jesus, came and took my guilt away so that I can be purified to live as a child of God.  I believe that the Holy Spirit is my constant companion, always working on my behalf to hold me close to God.  I believe there are angels.  I believe I have a permanent home in Heaven.  I believe that I am a beautiful princess because I am a daughter of the King.

I believe I am a loved and precious princess, a daughter of The King!