This has easily been the most difficult year of my life. Every day seemed to bring about new challenges and each challenge seemed more daunting than the last. Weariness, depression and the desire to give up seemed at my heels each day. Perhaps you know the feeling.
I will also say that this year has been one of growth and dependence on Jesus that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I feel like I learned to pray, learned to trust, and learned to worship on a level that I will cherish for the rest of my life.
This was the year that the Lord taught me that sometimes we just need to go home. “Home” is often the place where we have felt the greatest peace, the most profound acceptance, and the least amount of strife in our hearts. For me, home is a camp in Hungry Horse, Montana.
On a warm summer night in August 1986, I met Jesus at an altar at that camp. I remember the preacher telling me about this Jesus and I remember my soul leaping at those words. There was a Savior who wanted my heart. The whole world disappeared as I listened to those words of hope.
I stood to my feet in the crowded room of people when he asked if anyone wanted to accept Jesus as their Savior. I scooted down the aisle, bumping knees with my friends, and I found myself weeping on a dirty carpet at the front of a stage. It was there that I gave Jesus my sins and He gave me eternal life.
I left the service that night all by myself. As I walked out in the dark, my small frame stood among the large evergreen trees that surrounded the building. My weakness stood among their enormous strength. I bent my neck back to peer through a break in the trees at the navy blue sky dotted with a million stars. If you ever want to see a glimpse of God, look into the Montana sky. I felt in that moment so small, but it would also be the first moment that I would feel Him tug at my heart. It was as if God was telling me that despite the largeness of this world or the enormity of the challenges I would face, He was there with me.
This summer I went home in August to visit my parents, but Mark wasn’t able to come due to the fact that we were in the middle of selling one of the church buildings. It ended up being a terrible trip in my difficult year. I had car problems on the way, alone with two children. My brother came one day of my vacation to repair the car and when he finished, my dad told me to take a drive to make sure everything was good. Where does one go?
You go home.
I rolled down the windows and set out for Hungry Horse, Montana. It was the EXACT day of the anniversary of the day I met Jesus 29 years ago.
The hot air poured through my car as I wound through the mountains. The river was rushing mercilessly on my left and with each mile, I could feel the presence of Jesus flood my car. He had an agenda for me that day.
As I pulled into the empty camp, every memory flashed through my soul.
Here He met me.
Here He called me.
Here He sent me.
And here He would meet me once again.
I stepped out of my car onto the dry dirt of the parking lot. There was no one there, so I crept up to the door of the chapel where Jesus first met me. The same enormous trees surrounded me with their strength once again.
I laid my hands on the door in front of me with a posture of surrender and I began to sob uncontrollably.
The faces of those who played parts in my journey to Jesus came to mind one by one. My tears surprised me because the source of them was not the pain that I carried with me due to a difficult year.
They were tears of immense gratitude. Gratitude for the sacrifices of the people who came before me and lead me to this spot where my eternity was changed. Although the journey had been long, I was so thankful that I had the privilege of being on it.
I drove away from that camp not truly understanding why God gave me that moment. And then the year continued to unload on my shoulders with a fierceness that I didn’t know what to do with.
Recently as I cried out to Jesus about our plight, He reminded me of that afternoon in Hungry Horse.
“Those people who gave up so much for you to meet Jesus…they felt like you at times. Would you want them to do it all again if it was just for you?”
Hot tears stained my cheeks.
“Yes. Yes, Lord. Even if it was all just for me.” I was overcome with such a selfish emotion, but my salvation is the most precious thing I have…I NEEDED them to go through all of those challenges, even if it really was just for me…
“Then you keep going for the ONE.”
Resolve poured down my back like a steel rod. That was all He ever needed to say. Greatness in the Bible was often seen as a man standing in a field with a shepherd’s staff, or a woman carrying a baby amidst the scrutiny of scandal, or seen in the eyes of an Egyptian slave. When the outside world looked, they did not see what God knew to be true. In His eyes, there before Him stood great leaders who said yes to the ONE time and time again.
My audience is Jesus and my mission is to do His will….come what may.
Come what may.