Once upon a time…
(It has to start this way, of course)
Once upon a time, there was a little girl who believed in God, Jesus and in angels. No one was ugly and people everywhere were good.
Of course, as stories go, Little Girl learned that not everyone was good. Still, God seemed to be someone she could always rely on despite the abuse and dysfunctional beginning. When Little Girl became a teenager she talked her family into attending a non-denominational Christian church. She found comfort in the music and the words that sometimes touched her heart. Her love for God and His son grew to be a desire to serve and to love.
So, when her family changed churches and became active in a very different church, with lots of strong ideas about what God wanted from her Little Girl did her best to conform to what was expected. Believing that God required these things of her in order to be with him, she became a good Little Woman with strong values and convictions. Over a period of 20 years, she burned herself out in the service of others convinced that good works would win out over her guilt for things she wasn’t as good at, like patience, long-suffering, and marriage. Devoted to God she gave her all but the promises just didn’t work. After each marriage failed Little Woman did what was encouraged and tried again. She had six children and became obsessed with her devotion and commitment to making sure they were educated, family-oriented, strong; their lives less dysfunctional than hers was.
One day, looking in the mirror she thought she saw a glimmer of God but instead, staring back at her, she saw the Samaritan woman at the well. Her heart ached as she realized the well was dry and she had nothing to offer anyone. And then she fell. Like Alice, Little Woman fell a very long way down. She lost her church, her faith, her family, she lost God and she lost Jesus. She suddenly wasn’t sure if they even existed.
Little Woman didn’t fall because she did something wrong (though that’s what they all thought and said while whispering behind their doors), it was because she began to ask questions no one could answer. She began intensely studying and demanding to understand the question of why. The questions were intense and they went against everything she had been living for up to that point and against everyone in her life.
If she didn’t ask, or just didn’t believe the answers she could stay comfortably numb. If she believed what made sense, what only could be a mistake in communication, she could become angry at having spent most of her life sacrificing for something she didn’t believe in anymore.
If she didn’t ask questions she could spend a lifetime in servitude to a God she didn’t recognize anymore. If she did ask the questions she could be shunned, lose her relationships, be hated and avoided; she would be alone.
Loving truth more than security though, she asked. And as quickly as the sun can come up in the morning Little Woman was suddenly very alone. No more friends and no more family to support her daily. Only her children were there, confused by the anger of the others toward this mother everyone used to love and now called names; this woman the family said they needed to be rescued from. It was all very upsetting but the answers she got were even worse. The answers made God seem like a very unkind God. The answers she got made Jesus seem like one more locked gate to God; one more hoop to jump through. So she stopped thinking about it all together for many years.
Then one day she heard the music and those comforting words again. She found listened to the voice of a preacher that knew the God she thought she knew so long ago as a child. She wanted to believe but she fought not to drink the Kool-Aid. She missed God; the apprehension about the desire to find Him was stronger than the fear that she actually wouldn’t be able to. She was afraid to put herself out there; afraid to trust God again and afraid to even say the name of Jesus out loud.
And then, in all of these questions, in all of these small moments of prayer, all these crazy moments of grief and of understanding, all these moments of asking for answers that made some type of sense; In all of these moments she learned about grace and love. She found peace in a Father, waiting to love her again, who didn’t expect anything more from her than a willingness to become quietly Christian; to just follow.