Each of us has a God Story —
What our journey in relation to God has been. Why we believe. Why we don’t believe. What we used to believe and don’t anymore. Where healing and growth have allowed light to shine brilliantly into places of darkness. Where we still hurt and still long for wholeness.
Where we started out in this life and how we got from there to where we are now, as well as what our destination is and what we think will determine our success or failure in reaching it.
Mine is a Christian God Story.
As missionary theologian Leslie Newbigin put it
“[T]he way we understand the past is a function of our whole way of meeting the present and the future. The community of faith celebrates the resurrection of Jesus as the ground of assurance that the present and the future are not under the control of blind forces but are open to unlimited possibilities of new life.”
A chronically ill child, I failed to develop spoken language. My vocabulary was the word “Uh” grunted in varying degrees of frustration while pointing to what I wanted, with all around guessing what that might be. My other skill was holding my breath and turning blue until someone got it right. At age three, I was identified to go to a residential school for the deaf to learn signing but Mom insisted I could hear sometimes. Our family doctor studied the emerging field of “allergies” hoping to prove her right and avoid my being sent away. “Fur, feathers and dust,” was his verdict after testing, so away went the cat, the dog, sixteen rabbits, my angora sweaters, wool blankets, feather pillow and a host of other things. It was a close call about the dog. My brother and sister, then aged nine and six, evidently lobbied to keep the beautiful spaniel Blackie and send me away, but my parents disagreed. Our canary did stay on in the house but was banished to a room I must never enter. Soon I could definitely hear some days. Not enough, not consistently, but it was a start.
One day Dad, Mom and I – in Sunday best – drove to a beautiful Art Deco building on Saint George Street in Toronto. In the lobby, we watched the arrow on a shiny brass dial above the elevator inch towards the big, gleaming “1”. When the doors opened, we would ride up to an ear, nose and throat specialist, possibly the last doctor I would need to see for ages. This gave me strength not to shriek as he siphoned a splat of ear wax into a kidney-shaped vessel. More progress. I heard the plop.
One day soon after, Mom and I – tired from a morning of errands downtown – boarded the Barrie bus at the Five Points by Tamblyn’s Drug Store and sat side by side behind the driver. About a block up Clapperton Street, while gazing out the window across the aisle, I heard cheering erupt around us. Mom had spoken to the driver and I had reacted. Mom was practically hysterical. “She was looking away! That wasn’t lip-reading! She heard me! Turn your head again,” she said, and spoke again. “Did you see that?” People clapped. “She heard me again! She had to have! Her head was turned completely away!” All the way to Peel Street, Mom demonstrated my new trick for each new arrival to great applause like I was a clever circus poodle. That settled it. I could hear. And I could understand language.
Lucky me. I started kindergarten at the school my brother and sister went to. Enrollment was low that September, so I even began a year early. I drank life in like a milkshake and gobbled up learning as greedily and as giddily as if it were candy. I aced kindergarten, then did half of grade two while still in first grade and the rest while in grade three. By age seven, I was in grade four and the principal was talking about me skipping grade five. I just adored the world and its creator — in equal measure.
At age six or seven, hearing the Scripture in church to “repent and be baptized” both “in water and the Spirit” I decided to heed the call on my heart. The next Sunday, I ran to tell my favorite priest. He was elderly. It’s lucky the sweet old darling didn’t die. He sputtered that my Christening had saved my soul and I was to do nothing further – attend Sunday School, sing in choir but nothing else – until I was twelve. What about how we all come to church to learn what God wants so we can please him? I quoted Scripture but it didn’t help. No baptism for little me. I must have gotten this nonsense from the girl across the road, he said, whose folks went to a different church. It had to stop. He would speak to my parents. I was shocked. There were two churches? And which one your parents went to determined how you and God were to get along?
A few months later I had a vivid dream in which I was looking at the priests in their white vestments and heard God say he wanted me to be just like them, with their same access to the throne of heavenly grace. That Sunday I ran to tell my favorite priest – the same one as before. Boy, he must have had a strong constitution. “You? Ordained?” This lovely, lovely hero of mine had turned scarlet and shook like the little bobble thingie on an overheating pressure cooker. “I hope to be long dead before ever a female is ordained in this church. I don’t want to hear a word about this ever again.” I was shocked.
Just a few days later, I had a dream of being a missionary to Africa, like the one my mother supported and we girls wrote back and forth with, who frequently sent photos of her work. I heard a heavenly voice say God wanted me to be just like her. This time I had learned my lesson. I wasn’t going to upset that dear, sweet man again. I ran to Mom. “You? A missionary to Africa? Not while I live and breathe,” Mother gasped. I was shocked. What about how we’re to go to all the world, baptizing? “People who go over there can die. Do not so much as think of it ever again.”
That summer, en route to the corner store at the outskirts of town that sold some of the best ice cream to be had, I stared wide-eyed at a freshly-built, rather plain structure just up the road from it which – to my astonishment – boasted a sign identifying it as a church too. I begged to visit. “Over my dead body!” Mom gasped. “The people there are just a wee bit religious.” To me that sounded terrific but apparently in MomSpeak the phrase was not a compliment. I was shocked. A person could love God too much? How was such a thing even possible? What about what it says in the Ten Commandments? God wrote those on a rock. Twice.
I look back on that period of my childhood as “the season of the four shocks”.
“I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.“Romans 8: 38-39
Thus, all Christians are of that holy priesthood and can offer spiritual sacrifices to God. All have the right to go directly to God through Jesus Christ, our High Priest.Heb. 4:14-16Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.Heb. 10:19-22You also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.1 Pet. 2:5But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light…1 Pet. 2:9
Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. And when they saw him they worshiped him; but some doubted. And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.
What is your God story? I invite you to share it in the response section below.
Photo Credit [Top Photo]: Wayne Peterson, Belleville, Canada 25 Sep 2015
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