Hello, welcome to FACETS of Faith! Before we begin to get to know each other through a variety of conversations, the team is taking the opportunity to share our stories. We hope you’ll find points of connection as we share; and if you do, will you take the time to let us know? Something special grows out of the little “Me, too!” moments when we share our stories.
I’m Jennifer. I’m affectionately known as “the middle child” on the team, and I have the opportunity to share between two beautiful friends. Tracy’s story last week was precious, and you’ll meet Kim next time.
As I consider my story I scramble to sift through a disorganized pile of snapshot memories and events, hoping to get to “the essence of Jen” somehow. It’s a challenge to choose the milestones on the road I’ve walked. I might be tempted to share my “highlight reel” of carefully selected mountaintop moments, or I could choose to line up my lowest moments to establish a completely different connection. The truth is, life is somewhere between the two all the time—there are highs, lows, and the overlooked, mundane middle. All of it shapes me, and I hold a box of mixed memories to share as honestly as I remember them.
A quiet neighborhood was most of my world until high school. My older sisters spent time with the same core group while I tried to tag along. Sometimes I was too little to keep up, but I felt too old to be paired with my younger sister. My mom tried to contain me, but there were pick-up games of whiffle ball, football, frisbee, and every kind of tag in the empty lot across the street. Homemade go-carts raced on the hills we all knew as “Death I” and “Death II,” and my dad, who could engineer nearly anything, may have given us a leg up on those races. When I think about the core group in the neighborhood, its’ no surprise I was a tomboy and participated in competitive sports.
See? I’ve always been a middle child, and that’s how some of my basic life skills were learned (aside from waiting right where I was when I was left or forgotten). I’m convinced some “middles” may develop their fascinating combination of laidback and competitive natures because the effort-versus-reward decision comes lightning-fast. Heaven help the poor soul between this middle and her goal. At least, that was the case once upon a time.
Idyllic life in the neighborhood gave way to harsh reality. Children can be cruel. Adults can make wrong choices out of their own hurts or hang-ups (as a parent, I know this too well). The road became marked with hard things: teasing, shaming, anger, and abuses. I built thick, protective walls around me. The big milestones in life can be hurts that leave marks and make us fearful and angry. Not surprisingly, fear and anger drove my increasingly bad choices, and I hit the guardrail hard!
When I was 24, resentment toward anything “Christian” in name set in. By then, I’d become a toughened, feminist personality full of fire. I never saw it coming, and I’m sure no one else who knew me did either. God sent an intelligent, logical (oblivious) personality to talk about Jesus and trust. One day, I’ll share that sweet story in detail.
I was living a life focused on protecting myself and my interests. I had perfected the art of hurting others before I got hurt. When I was introduced to the genuine, loving, and truthful heart and mind of God, something had to change. These verses were pivotal in June of 1994:
Do not remember the past events, pay no attention to things of old. Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:18-19 CSB
For those who identify with their old nature set their minds on the things of the old nature, but those who identify with the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. Romans 8:5 CJB
For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father!” Romans 8:15 CSB
The truth? Healing began when I discovered what the pages of the big, old Book I’d been reading my whole life contained. Inside the Bible were stories of God’s men and women, the heroes of the faith, and they were as human and broken as me. Their stories connected to one another, and they connected to my life thousands of years later.
The ultimate hero appeared when I read the book of John. I met the God who was, is, and is to come. I met the genuine “God with us” Jesus on those pages in a surprising way. When I dumped my preconceived notions and read the Bible with an unguarded heart, everything changed. I was free to see the whole book in a fresh light.
That was the antidote. The hurts and emotional hang-ups wouldn’t last forever. My wounds could be healed—maybe not in five minutes or even five years for some—but healing and change were possible. My ugly offenses against God and everybody could be resolved and forgiven. Then I could begin healing from what others had inflicted. Progress, not perfection.
When I encountered the truth of the Bible and Jesus, as He really is, it was a fresh beginning on the road with a new milestone. This one was larger and differently shaped. In the middle of my road stood an imposing, rough-hewn, wooden cross stained with Jesus’ blood, and it was precious.