The God Who Guides Us, Finds Us
Years ago, I heard an incredible story from a speaker at a conference I attended that blew me away.
The speaker said that as a young man, he didn't care about faith, God, or the church, even though he'd been raised in it. His mother was a devout Christian and sweet woman who doted on her son and saw so much potential in him to do good in the world.
He was more interested in having a good time, and before long, he developed a severe drinking and drug problem that his mother agonized over, but he always brushed off her invitations to go to church with her and her pleas that he stop abusing himself.
Around this time, the speaker related that his mother died suddenly. She left him all her money, which amounted to around $70,000. She also left him her Bible, which she cherished and read daily for years.
When he got the money from the estate, the speaker said that he immediately began throwing parties, spending countless nights strung out on drugs or drunk, and living frivolously.
The money ran out soon enough, and he lost everything else he had. Somewhere along the way, he also lost the Bible his mother had given him.
He related how he finally lived on the street, hand to mouth every day, doing whatever he could to survive. He would try to find any odd jobs he could do, beg, steal, whatever he could just to eat.
Many months later, he took a job 100 miles away cleaning up trash and debris, and as he was cleaning up a pile of garbage, he discovered his mother's Bible.
The speaker said that he fell to his knees at that moment and began weeping like he'd never wept. He remembers thinking if God was chasing him that much, he would finally give in and stop running.
That story has always stuck with me because it's not all that dissimilar from the story of the Prodigal Son from Luke's Gospel and not that dissimilar from my own.
I spent years as an agnostic, leaving behind a faith that I had grown to see as stifling, grace-less and untenable.
I had no idea that the god I grew up with was not God. I'd been right to fire that false god, but I had nowhere to go but unbelief without any accurate understanding of a God of love.
It seems that God is always nudging us in the direction we need to go, guiding us toward moments when we can (if we are willing) be confronted with how much God loves us.
My moment wasn't as dramatic as the speaker who told the story, but it was just as transformative. I encountered God in, of all places, a church. That last line was meant to be funny.
I hadn't darkened a church door in years, but at my wife's urging, I agreed to visit a Presbyterian church down the road from the apartment where we lived at the time. I spent most of the service weeping, and I couldn't stop.
It was the first time I heard about the loving, grace-filled God who had been nudging and guiding me all through my life to that moment- a moment when I was finally open and willing enough to experience God's presence.
I'm learning that nothing is wasted in our lives. We might choose a different path than the one that God may long for us to choose, but God still travels with us even when our trail leads us to pain and heartache.
And God still urges, guides, pokes, cajoles, and shows up in a hundred miraculous ways throughout all our journeys and our triumphs and tribulations until we are ready to let transformation come.
May you find the openness in your own life's journey to experience the love and presence of God. May you feel known, cherished, and chosen.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.