Less than five years off the street, I simultaneously craved love and fought against it. I hungered for Jesus but acted as if I didn’t know Him. And in part, I didn’t. I had bits of knowledge, enough to cross over from death to life, but not enought to propel me to freedom.
To the onlooker, I was rebelling against God and His truth. My husband and I went to bars almost every Friday and Saturday. It wasn’t uncommon for us to stay until last call. We were living together, at that point, unmarried, and quite honestly, it didn’t even cross my mind that this was wrong.
My entire worldview was contrary to God’s. This worldview, this way of thinking, had developed slowly, over almost two decades. Transformation—which always begins first with the heart and then one’s thoughts—would take time. And love. Gentleness.
Patience as bit by bit, God brought light to my darkness and truth to my falsehood.
He used three people in particular, one I initially found strange. This man worked with my husband, a railroader, and in time, a friend. He kept coming around, offering to help, giving and letting us borrow things. Wanting nothing in return. Every once in a while, he’d throw Jesus into the conversation, or subtly say he was praying for us. And then he’d leave.
No pressure. No Bible thumping. No condemnation.
God also sent two pastors our way, one right after the other. They stopped by, joined us for coffee. Took us to lunch and dinner. Answered our questions, but mainly acted as friends. As if they were oblivious to our drunkenness, foul language, and frequent fights.
As if they saw past the outward gunk to the hurting, hungry hearts beneath.
And here’s the deal—had they come at us with condemnation, perhaps even with expectation, I would’ve caved. Hid. Maybe never entered a church again. Though I might not have known a lot of Scripture, though I couldn’t recite the ten commandments or categorize my sins accordingly, I had years of condemnation, of self-loathing. Of shame. Of believing I was unworthy of God’s love.
And He saw me. (Genesis 16:13) He saw my hurt, my confusion and deception. My shame. And instead of calling me to rise to where He was, He came to me. As the God who bends down to listen (Psalm 116:2). Through three obedient and faithful men, God shattered my expectations, broke through my defenses, built steady and enduring bridges, and gently, lovingly, drew me closer and closer to Himself.
We moved four years later, and those men never saw the results of their patience. For all they knew, their efforts had been wasted. They have no idea the impact their determination to form a relationship with this sinful, foul-mouthed couple from the west coast, made.
Except for one of them—my husband’s coworker. Last year, this man, the one who’d so patiently reached out, joined us for dinner. It wasn’t long before our conversation turned to my writing and ministry, and all God has done through a street-girl turned speaker. That night, both my husband and I were able to share the impact he’d made, nearly a decade previously.
When he’d chosen to build bridges. To show love. To trust that, if he were faithful, prayerful, and patient, God would bring two broken, sinful people to Himself, in His timing.
And perhaps trusting as well that he wasn’t responsible for the end result. He was but a guide along the journey, a journey that occurred on the inside, hidden from others, long before the fruit emerged.
I’m reminded of this story—my story—as I encounter others so different from me. My initial reaction is to pull away. To self-protect and choose the comfortable. To jump to conclusions and stay focused on the outside instead of the broken heart within. And in this, I’m reminded of who I’ve been, yes, but also who I am now—a representative of the God who sees, loves, and transforms. (1 Corinthians 13:4-13)
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