Year of the Open Door
- Wednesday, November 05, 2008
"I saw a church over by the dentist the other day."
I tried to control my enthusiasm. "Well tomorrow's Sunday, you have any plans? We could check the church out, then go to lunch."
During our last visit, I had said to my sister Marlene, "I really think the only thing that will help Amanda is having Jesus in her life." And you too! I'd wanted to shout.
If Marlene had a relationship with Jesus, it wasn't a priority. Years ago, she had asked him into her heart, but she wasn't going to church or spending time in the Word. She didn't have the fellowship of other believers. She was missing out on the blessings that went with a relationship with Jesus Christ. And so was her daughter Amanda. She was unhappy and rebellious, and I was almost certain she didn't know Jesus.
"I don't want to go in there," Amanda said as we neared the door of the church.
My husband Jim and I could feel the spiritual warfare like no other time in our lives. Jim pulled us all over to the side. We prayed for God's guidance and protection, that He would keep Satan away from this girl and allow us to worship Him. Amanda turned back toward the parking lot.
"I'm going in this other door," she said.
We followed Amanda through the side door, which led to the foyer.
"I can hear just fine out here," she said.
"Come on," I pleaded. "Let's just sit in the back."
She took a few more steps, and then stopped again. I whispered, "Amanda, don't let the devil do this to you. Give Jesus a chance for just a few minutes. Let's sit here in the back."
She relented, but we discovered that in this church, one doesn't sit in the back. A finely dressed usher escorted us up the aisle to the front of the church! Amanda sat with her head buried in her jacket hood.
This was like no other church I had been in. I was used to a quieter, more conservative worship service. A large choir in flowing blue and white robes sang exuberantly and joyfully, swaying back and forth. In front of them was a smaller singing group with back-up singers who danced and waved pom-poms. Below the stage, several men and women danced joyfully. I was especially fascinated by an elderly woman dancing slowly in front of the stage. She wore a long pink dress that contrasted beautifully with her ebony skin, a pink bow in her long braided hair, and a radiant smile. I didn't know if this was the type of church Marlene had in mind, or if she even knew what kind of church she was looking for. She did seem fascinated as she looked around at the ethnically diverse congregation. Amanda continued to sit, hunched into her seat.
I whispered to Amanda, "This is sure a wild church! It's not the kind of church I would go to every week, but it sure is fun for today, don't you think? We could enjoy this and maybe next week you could pick a church."
She looked at me and smiled. "I want to sit by Uncle Jim."
Amanda traded places with her mother so she could sit by Jim. I watched as they nudged each other and pointed discreetly. Amanda looked up at the choir. By his motions, I could tell Jim was asking her what would happen if one of the choir members started to sway the wrong way. She raised her hands and slowly began to clap, then swayed a bit with the music and sang. It was truly as if the Holy Spirit had come down, lifted the veil from Amanda's eyes, and softened her heart.
An alter call followed the sermon. With our heads bowed, I prayed. I felt Marlene's hand move when the pastor asked those who wanted to accept Jesus as their Savior or rededicate their lives to raise their hands. When we opened our eyes, he asked anyone who had raised their hands to come to the front of the church. Marlene and Amanda's faces were radiant as they listened expectantly to the pastor's prayer and instructions. Then they were led away and the choir started to sing again.
I moved over to the seat by Jim. He took my hand as I sat there with tears in my eyes. After years of prayer, I really didn't expect to see such an incredible answer. Going to church wasn't such a surprise, but Marlene seemed to be pursuing God. Jim squeezed my hand and I could almost hear his familiar assurance and warning. Trust God, Cherry. You're always trying to do His work for Him. At lunch, Marlene and Amanda both said they had gone forward to rededicate their lives.
"Do you remember a point in your life when you accepted Jesus as your Savior?" I asked.
"I was five," Amanda said.
Marlene was vague, "Yes, about eight or nine years ago."
That would have been the last time she'd hit a really low point in her life. She had come to Jesus, but hadn't totally submitted to him. Now she was at another low point. Jim had been right. It was their choice to come to Jesus. Our job was to love them and pray for them. We couldn't do it for them.
This was a new start for both of them. A new beginning. Then Marlene showed us her new purse. Again. She'd been quite proud of the fact that Amanda wanted to buy matching purses at Wal-mart. This time she pointed out the key chain she had attached to it weeks before when they'd bought the purses. The key chain read, "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.' Jeremiah 29:11-13"
We sat stunned as we remembered the morning's sermon about living a Christian life. The pastor had opened with Jeremiah 29:11! Across the front of the church was a banner that read, "The Year of the Open Door." Marlene and Amanda were starting the New Year by choosing to walk through the open door that Jesus always leaves open to us. I began the New Year with a renewed faith in God's provision for my sister and niece.
Marlene didn't go back to that church, or another church. Her drinking continued throughout the year. The devastation of social services putting Amanda in foster care hastened Marlene's spiraling descent until she hit bottom. Amanda is now in a Christian foster home and attends church every week. Marlene has stopped drinking and is working regularly. She isn't going to church, but she's leaning more on Christ.
I continue to pray and watch as God unfolds the results of that special year. I remind my sister, my niece, and myself of the promise in Jeremiah. God does have a plan for them. God's plan doesn't look at all like Cherry's plan, however. I can still feel my husband squeezing my hand and feel his familiar assurance and warning: Trust God, Cherry. You're always trying to do His work for Him.
Cherry Pedrick is the coauthor of The OCD Workbook Second Edtition, The Habit Change Workbook (also in Polish), The BDD Workbook (also in Polish), Helping Your Child with OCD (also in Chinese), and Loving Someone with OCD: New Harbinger Publications; Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, and Anxiety Disorders: Lerner Publications. Visit her at www.cherrypedrick.com.
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