This post has been a long time in the making. I haven’t quite known how to write it without hanging out all the raw emotions that go along with writing it. God has been pecking on my shoulder for some time now, (well ever since we moved to Wisconsin…so for about 2 months now), to just do it. So here I am today…just doing it.
It has taken me some time to figure out that I have been in a sort of spiritual desert for going on 2 years now. A lot of things led up to it. Some I will touch on here and some that I choose to keep private. You see, sometimes the raw emotions, of some events are just to much for the soul. Some things I have not been able to just turn over to God and let it go. I am not sure why because the pain of holding on to it is sometimes to much to bear. All I know is that my God is a great big God and He will help me through the process. He might get a little frustrated with me from time to time, but I know that He will always be there when my stubbornness cries out to Him for help.
So where do I start…well the beginning seems a good place. Some background on who I am and where I come from spiritually. When I was 10 I attended an independent Baptist church camp. Among all the activities was canoeing, baseball, hiking, and Bible studies; they preached fire and brimstone sermons for the first four nights telling you that if you did not ask Jesus into your heart you would die and go to hell. Then they would describe hell as a place that was full of fire and flesh eating bugs and it was eternal torment. Now when you are 70, eternity doesn’t seem like a long time; but when you are 10, it seems like it would be the rest of your life. So, of course, when they asked the fifth night, “Is there anyone who would like to come forward and receive Christ as their personal Savior?”, about a million hands went up with enthusiasm, including mine! OF COURSE I didn’t want to live the rest of my “eternity” in hell.
I spent the next 25 years or so in a state of being a “religious” Christian. And by that I mean “playing church”. I attended church every Sunday, had my children dedicated to the Lord, taught Sunday School, led the Youth Group, sang in the choir, was on all kinds of committees…but truly didn’t know what it was to serve God.
In 2003 I met my husband Richard. Again. Well you see we had known each other for over 30 years. We were best friends in high school, and spent all of our time together whenever possible. Back then we were both very scared of our love for each other so we hinted around but never really told one another exactly how we felt. I was a believer…he was not. For several years we skirted in and out of relationships and marriages that were, to say the least, not of God. When we met back up in 2003 in our hometown, he had been involved in a near fatal collision in 1989 that resulted in the death of the man who hit him head on and he nearly lost his life. On that day Richard cried out to a God that he didn’t even know, and accepted the Lord Jesus into his heart and life. When he came back into my life he asked me a very poignant question: “How is your relationship with Jesus?” I had no idea what he was talking about. I told him all the things I did in the church and he asked the question again…and again…and again. I realized that I didn’t understand what he was asking and I began to listen to him talk about his “walk” with the Lord. I didn’t even know I was supposed to be walking with God until that moment. You see…church had done it’s job in educating me on who God was…but had failed miserably at teaching me WHO God really was. I didn’t know that an intimate relationship with God was supposed to or even could exist.
After being in failed relationships and marriages, we both felt that God tried to put us together all those years ago, we were just too young and naive to stand up to the obstacles in our path. With him being half-Japanese, I felt my mother would never allow me to date and/or marry him. (life back then was very segregated in the aspect that whites only married whites, blacks only married blacks, and certainly mixing ethnicity in marriage was not an option). For Richard, he was very into drugs and drinking at the time and living a very destructive life.
So,in 2004, Richard and I finally were united in marriage. For the first time in my life, I felt that I was where God wanted me to be.
Almost a year later, Richard sat me down and told me that God had called him into the ministry. Within the next year, he was fast tracked through licensing school and was appointed to three UMC churches in Northeast Missouri. He was doing what he had finally been called to do, but didn’t have the support from a spouse in the past. Now, he had my full support.
So now is the shorter part of the long story…Because of the decisions that the UMC were making more in the liberal direction, we prayed and he made the decision to leave the UMC. On that same day, Richard was invited to the pulpit of a SBC church. Here is where the sandstorm began. He was the minister to God’s people of that church for 5 years. In 5 years there were two church splits (over stupid things as you might imagine), and we finally ended up closing the doors to the church. It was evident that the majority of the people in the town that we lived in did not want to hear the gospel preached as the Truth of God. They wanted feel good stories; stories that made them think that their sin was not so bad and that they would be ok with just a little bit of sin in their lives. We continued in the ministry and started having home church. The idea was to get back to the way the apostles spread the Word: meeting in each others homes for church. It was an amazing time of intimate worship like I had never experienced. We had those few faithful followers of Christ that remained faithful to the cause and we really found that we enjoyed our “new” way of worship so much more than a gathering of people that were only “playing church.”
Let me be very clear on this point. I nor my husband has ever maintained that we are perfect people. We, like everyone else, are sinners saved by the grace of God. I sin everyday. Yes, everyday. Just because you give Godly advice, or preach God’s Word, doesn’t mean that you think you are perfect. You are merely doing a job that God called you to do.
I can tell you this…I have buried a child, lost a parent, been addicted to prescription pain medication, lost my way many times…but I have never experienced as much hurt as I did while my husband was pastoring that church. Hurt that ranged from my husband getting death threats for his beliefs; to being ridiculed for trying to help people that Jesus called the least, the last, and the lost; to losing friends that I thought would stand through anything with me. Where did all of this hurt leave me? It left me with so much pain in my heart that I was beginning to think I would never recover. I felt so distant from God that I thought I might never find Him again. I knew He was there, I just didn’t know where to look for Him no matter how hard I sought His face. I felt so wrong to be there, but there I was sitting in the middle of a hot desert with no water, food, or shelter. No matter how hard I prayed or how long I talked to God…I just didn’t feel His presence. I knew I was the one who left…I knew He was still there…I just couldn’t find the road back. I stopped praying, I stopped reading His Word. But most of all, my faith was becoming less and less. And when I look back on this desert that I finally found an oasis in, it hurts even more because I know that Christians did this. Christians made me feel this way. Christians had failed me. I was sitting in a place that I didn’t want to be. A place that was not fun to be in. A place where I was ashamed to be. I felt there was no way to climb out of the hole I had fallen into.
The spiritual darkness that hangs over the town in Missouri that we moved from is so overwhelming that I have seen it ruin the lives of the most devoted to God. You can literally drive 10 miles outside of town and look back and see a dark cloud hovering over the entire town. The demonic release that you feel while you are out of town, is so liberating and free feeling that it makes you not want to go back. Upon arriving back inside the city limits of the town, you feel so spiritually suppressed that you just want to crawl in a hole and not talk to anyone or deal with anything. It is so spiritually dead that I am not sure there is any coming back from it. I believe that God has turned his back on the town until they turn from their wicked ways.
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from
their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14
Brookfield, Missouri, is this verse living in the flesh.
I am very happy to have left all this hurt and pain in Missouri. Although that has been easier said than done. I so very much miss my daughter and “son-in-law”, my grandson, and my best friend, and “framily”. But other than the people that I miss… there is NOTHING about that town that I miss or even think of fondly. Every day that passes, I fall in love with Wisconsin more and more. As I have said many times, I will give up my mild winters in Missouri for these Wisconsin summers any day of the week. Life here is so peaceful and people here don’t care what “religion” you are…they are just so happy to be worshiping God that it reflects in their day-to-day life. I am so happy to be a part of a community that is thriving with new businesses, has a very low crime rate, and where you neighbor doesn’t care that you are a Christian. You are not expected to act a certain way and most importantly…churches work together for the greater good of Christ Jesus.
We are pleased to make Beaver Dam, Wisconsin our new home! It is an amazing place to raise a family and worship God in the manner that Jesus taught.
As soon as I sort it out, and figure a way to put it into words… I will tell you how I climbed out of the darkness into the light where God was waiting…