We think of milestone moments like graduations, cross country moves, marriage or having children as the ultimate transformation makers. And those sorts of major events can certainly change and define us, but I’d like to argue that it’s the seemingly random, ordinary, nameless and usually overlooked encounters that have the true capacity to be the momentous life changers.
When a quick, casual exchange includes a phrase, or maybe even just a single word, that seems to glisten and glow, standing apart from the rest of the entire conversation and apart from ALL the other ingredients of the day, as anything but ordinary. The value and meaning of the moment, unmistakable (to YOU and YOU alone); as if the full day and all it’s contents, plus maybe all nine (or eight) planets in the solar system aligned just to make that chance encounter, at the precise moment, possible...just so YOU could hear those precious words, that no one could have possibly known that YOU needed to hear.
Those secret moments, those course adjusting, mind altering moments, I contend, are the TRUE pivot points in life!
I’ve had a number of huge, life changing moments. I've experienced all the traditional stuff, and all of those events have changed me in one way or another, but some of the biggest changes and moments of personal revelation have sprung from seemingly inconsequential encounters.
One of my very top, most pivotal moments happened nearly a decade ago and it changed me forever!
At that time in my life, I had a patchwork composite style sort of religion. It mainly consisted of obedience, performance and a form of ‘Christian karma’...this was my faith. My spiritual concoction made perfect sense to me. Believing that God would want to reward my good behavior and punish my bad, how could it be any other way?? Interacting with God upon the premise of a reward and punishment system felt very equitable and it seemed to fit perfectly with my daily reality. When I “sinned”, I could swear I felt God’s scorn and shame, his disapproval and rejection of me. The only problem was that when I performed, I didn’t feel the glorious opposite. I felt maybe a lighter version of the negative, something attune to him tolerating me or “toughing out” my existance.
I’d read verses about obedience and “being worthy” and the verses filled me with questions and fear and darkened my personal little shame cloud; my constant companion that drenched me daily in overwhelming amounts of unworthiness.
I’d constantly (secretly) wonder if I was entirely missing it. Could it be possible for me to want the whole thing SO bad and live SO carefully, so intentionally, and still entirely miss it?? It was such a horrific and haunting thought for me.
I was miserable and exhausted. I had no idea how to embrace anything more or better than what I’d been believing and experiencing, until one life changing encounter...
All my bad theology was turned completely on it’s head the day I met a girl. I didn’t know this girl. I’d never met her before and actually I’ve never seen her since. She simply wanted to pray for me and I said “yes”. She didn’t know my struggles or my secret fears. She didn’t know how emotionally and spiritually exhausted I’d been, for sooo long. There’s no possible way she could have ever known.
We sat silently for a bit, with her hand on my shoulder while I cried (as quietly as I possibly could, because I hate feeling like a loud weepy spectacle). I had NO idea what to expect, but after a long pause she softly said, “I feel like I’m supposed to say something to you. What I feel I’m suppose to say, is something someone once said to me, many years ago, but I’ve NEVER felt compelled to say those same words to anyone else until, right now.” She then, gently but confidently said, “I feel like God wants me to say something to you, from him...I think he wants to say, ‘Why won’t you let me love you?’”
My tears flowed like a gushing river! I wept and wept and wept giant, ugly, red splotchy faced, puffy eyed, spit string tears till I had no more tears left to cry. And when I finally felt composed, I also felt new. I felt light. My struggles hadn’t vanished but the shape and color of them had been altered a bit. Heaps and heaps of perceived rejection, disappointment and unworthiness...GONE!
I’ve spent the last decade or so, since that night, replacing and unlearning false and damagingly flawed Christian theology with truth. It’s taken me years to shift my thinking and expectations away from anticipating pain, punishment and spiritual spankings from God, to embracing a Biblically accurate depiction of God. No more making God in to the something that I imagine him, want him, wish him or even fear him to be. Biblical truth says that I have a good God who loves ME and ALL my fellow humans desperately and unconditionally. It’s taken me years to grow to the place of believing, wholeheartedly that God is the giver of good gift and not bad, that he desires a relationship with each of us and that no sin is too great, no mistake or misstep is too much. He wants to take it all, regardless of how broken or flawed we think we are. His love is greater!
My fear, spiritual insecurity, feelings of shame and unworthiness and my ‘Christian karma’ theology unraveled (slowly) as I began to see that I’d been believing mountains of mistruths. I'd had TERRIBLE and completely, unbiblical beliefs! My Christianity didn’t involve grace or genuine love from God. I imagined God feeling more obligatory love towards me, like “She’s family...so I kinda have to love her. I wouldn’t have chosen her...but since she’s here, I guess I love her”.
I couldn’t fathom a reality where God desired ME or my company, my companionship, my thoughts, my time, my humor or that he might possibly think I'm amazing...or maybe exactly like him in some tiny, obscure and unique way...like maybe he could see some piece of himself when he stares into my eyes, like how we’re both passionate and a little intense about certain things, like justice for the hurting. I was incapable of seeing that he could be proud of me, just for being ME...for merely being who he made me to be. And I certainly couldn’t see that he’d been chasing me for years, or that I’d been pushing him away; pushing away his acceptance; not mere tolerance, but 100% acceptance, because I couldn’t accept me...and if I couldn’t even accept myself, how could a perfect God do so?? (Or so I thought)
But in one beautiful moment, my paradigm completely shifted. I tell this story hoping to encourage and maybe inspire, maybe just one person, to step in an unnatural...supernatural direction. Maybe a full step is a bit too much for right now. Maybe just a lean is all you can muster. Even if it’s only an itty-bitty lean, a longing for more, even just that’ll do! Because God will bridge whatever divide and cross any distance he needs to, just to be with YOU! He did it for me and he’ll do it for you too. I'm not his favorite, each one of us are (uniquely)! You're touch might not look exactly the same as my encounter did. That’s OK. Expect great, but also expect unique, because God isn’t tame. He won’t be placed in a box or in a formula or a building or a room. But expect him to be great!