I met Jesus in a small Baptist church when I was 13.
I’ve told the story so many times I often wonder what parts are true and what parts my memory has filled in. Basically, it’s the old, old story retold 1980s style. I was a lonely teenager who wondered whether anyone really cared about me, and a kindly old pastor in polyester pants assured me that Jesus couldn’t care more. I walked the aisle, was dunked in the Baptismal waters, and stepped back into life wondering what had really changed.
At that point, not much. And everything. In the blink of an eye, I had been saved. I’d spend the rest of my life figuring out what exactly that meant.
Sometimes, I think back to that mousy, overweight girl, and I want to stop the clock right there. I want it to just be her and Jesus. I want the hope of heaven to be so thick she can feel it. I want the pain of her parents’ divorce and the rejection by her first boyfriend to be all the suffering she ever has to endure. I don’t even care if she thinks she knows it all and really knows nothing. I just want everything to stay the same.
The problem is, nothing stays the same. Not the preacher or the little country church. Not the girl or the way she looked. Not the parents or the boyfriend or the polyester pants. Nothing is the way it was, nor the way it will be. Nothing except for Jesus, and that’s a lot for a 13-year-old or even an almost 47-year-old to take in.
I’ve spent most of my life so far as a single woman. Of course I’m married now, but the four and a half years I’ve spent as a wife and stepmom are just a fraction of the rest of life as a single woman. And as funny as this may sound, when I first got married, I didn’t know how to be a wife and a Christian. Actually, I didn’t know how to be a wife. Period. But how would I take on that role and still be a Christian? I’d only ever known Jesus as a single woman. I didn’t know how to be a stepmom either. But a stepmom and a Christian? I was clueless.
The worst part is, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I entered marriage and parenthood living out my faith as I always had. But somehow it didn’t seem to work that well.
Maybe you’ve experienced something similar? Maybe you’ve spent the majority of your life as a mom with kids at home, and now you live in an empty nest? Or maybe you’ve spent the bulk of your life married, and suddenly you’re a widow? Some of us have always worked and suddenly, a diagnosis has sidelined us. Or maybe we’ve spent our whole lives skinny and motherhood plus middle age has given us a larger middle? I could go on. Southerners become northerners. Healthy become sick. Successful become unemployed. And young always become old.
Nothing stays the same but Jesus. But even he can feel like a stranger when so much has changed.
Over the next three weeks, and really over the next several months, I’m going to be writing about how we can continue on steadily in faith when life itself is constantly changing. This month, we’ll begin by seeing the Bible as a story of change and transformation. Then we’ll talk about both the potential obstacles and benefits that change can bring to our faith. As we move on from there, we’ll talk specifically about how Jesus meets us in our families, our friendships, our churches, our jobs, our neighborhoods, even in the mirror as so much changes around us.