We backed the minivan up with a good 10 feet in between us and the truck next to us. We unloaded beach chairs, fishing poles, three excited girls (big sis was at camp) and was ready to spend the Sunday evening together. It was a peaceful start until two other trucks wedged their way in to join their buddies enclosing us on both sides. Young highschool kids with their music blaring, cigarettes, beer, and potty mouths.
We could have moved. Packed up our stuff and found a much more peaceful spot to spend our Sunday afternoon. But that’s not what we do. When the world surrounds you and disrupts your peace, you have a choice to keep your peace amidst the noise of the “world.” And to be honest, other than the hard conversations that it sometimes requires to be had with our older kids, we don’t mind.
It wasn’t that long ago I was on that side of things.
Wade and the girls walked off to my right to go find some hermit crabs and possibly a better place to swim with less seaweed, while I stayed back in my beach chair with a good book. I began to watch as they tossed the frisbee back and forth without a care in the world. Throwing back beers and shooting the sh** as we used to say.
Thirteen years ago I would have been bumming a cigarette and dragging Wade over there to drink some of their beer, also without a care in the world. Not thinking about the responsibilities that Monday would bring or any thought to my health of my body. I sat and I pondered what called me out of a lifestyle that I can no longer identify with as I looked over to my right and I saw Wade holding the hands of my girls.
Finding your purpose calls you higher.
They were my purpose. They were the reason I was no longer the party girl without a care in the world. They were the reason I stopped numbing out to alcohol and began to look myself in the mirror to face what I needed to face. Yes, Jesus. But He used my purpose to obtain my future.
He first gave me Wade to love me when I was one big mess and very hard to love. Showing me that despite my flaws and my screw-ups, someone could love all of me with or without alcohol. He gave me someone with so much patience that even when I tried to run him off (to see if he would) he never left my side. And believe me when I say I tried to make him scram. It wasn’t because I wanted him to go… It was that I had convinced myself that once he saw the real me, he would leave anyway so I might as well beat him to it. But he stayed. Wade showed me that I was funny without being drunk. He showed me how to have real courage instead of liquid courage that only lasted for a few hours.
God then gave me children. It wasn’t until I was pregnant with my firstborn, that I finally let go of some things. The final drink, the final smoke. I remember being pregnant and all of my friends telling me how much it sucked that I was pregnant because that meant I couldn’t drink. I remember agreeing. How sad is that? But it’s true. I remember not knowing who I was outside of being the girl who lit up the party with her false confidence.
When my daughter was born, something amazing happened. It was as if she was my best friend worth living for and all of the other people I had associated with before could not compare to what I felt for this little babe. It was then that Wade and I both knew that a change was in order.
Up until this point, we were spectators at the local church. This church had been where I was changed in youth group and it was also the church that my daddy walked the long aisle in my 6th-grade year, throwing all alcohol aside for Jesus. But this wasn’t what we needed in this season and we both knew it. We had walked so far away from Jesus that we needed something NEW. We needed to find it for ourselves and looking back, we had to walk away from the family pew that gathered every Sunday morning in order to find out who we were as a new family of three.
After months of church hopping and almost throwing in the towel, we stumbled upon a church that met in a school. This is pretty common in today’s church but back then it was unheard of. Where in the world is the steeple and what… coffee in the church?!? Are you kidding me?? This must be a cult as we walked in overdressed and shocked at how many people were gathered in the lobby just standing around talking. Weren’t we all supposed to go in, find a seat, stay quiet until it was time for lunch? This is all I knew and having been placed in a church that was so unlike my familiar was terrifying and equally exciting. However, I still wanted to leave and crawl back in a hole. After a few minutes, I realized I had begun to question everything I thought I knew about church. As the hands went up, my eyeballs grew wider as I was surrounded by energetic worshipers and felt as though I was back at youth camp at the age of 14. Passion, excitement, and joy… we experienced them all at once and we were hooked. This church was the beginning of a new chapter in our life where we would seek Christ as our excitement and we would without a second thought, lay down our former selves. It wasn’t a sacrifice… It was an honor. We no longer wanted anything to do with the former partiers that we once were and wanted everything to do with this contagious joy that we felt and experienced.
Purposed called us higher.
I know for some its not an instant change. Some experience severe withdrawals and need professional help leaving their old life behind. But for more than I think we tend to believe, it can happen. To experience what it feels like to have a purpose in Christ that calls you higher than the former life you once knew.
I didn’t know much about the Bible when we began going to this church. I had so many questions and had to walk thru a lot of healing in later years letting go of guilt and shame of who I used to be. But I didn’t need Biblical knowledge in order to feel and be loved by my Father. It was the feeling of purpose, an inner knowledge that He had something great for me that caused me to leave the old behind.
So as I sat in my beach chair with my left side being that of partiers, a representation of who I used to be and to my right, the little hands and feet of the ones that God used to call me out of it, I was thankful. My prayer is that everyone would experience God the way that I have in my life… and that was my prayer for these young high schoolers also.