There was a time when I did not take God seriously. But no matter. He took me seriously.
Of my early memories, this one stands out– my husband and I at age 16 were climbing on a jungle gym, talking about the meaning of life, and blithely dismissing God’s hand in parting the Red Sea because, thanks to advances in technology, we could do it ourselves. He was into Scientology; I into the Tao of Pooh or Danse Macabre, whichever suited the moment. The deep questions of life I thought could all be solved with reason and logic. I ridiculed faith wherever I saw it and in all its forms, considering it absolutely equivalent to stupidity. Once, in what I intended to be an act of malice, I sent my sister and her friend to a booth at the county fair that had nearly wasted more than five minutes of my time trying to shepherd me into its folly with a logical question: What is the #1 cause of death? Bob and I watched, full of venomous giggles, as Heather and her friend listened– it seemed to us, in rapturous attention. I kept waiting for recognition to register on their faces, to see surprise and annoyance that the booth was a swindle, that big sister had pulled a good one on her little. None came. The joke was on me.
That was interesting, she said when she came back. Seriously? Interesting? How about baloney? How about gentle people who are off their rockers? How about being mad that they suck you in with a scientific question and then bait and switch for faith? I was beside myself. And confused.
Fast forward ten years. My husband and I were buying a used car. We took it for a test drive and of course blasted the radio, which was the most important feature (because we were in denial that this minivan would suck out whatever cool we had left in our souls, and we hadn’t even come to grips with the fact that loud noises of all kinds would be poisonous to us as we advanced in years and had to share our eardrums with little people and all their natural audio). But what should come pouring out of the speakers? Jesus music. I nearly threw up my hand in protest. I couldn’t turn the station fast enough. WMMS, please. And we left it there for them, turned way up so they could get at least a few seconds of good music. That was the present we left them. Nice, huh?
I was the kind of person you’d think would never, ever come around to God. To say I spoke in the dialect of sailors would be an extreme understatement. I used expletives more liberally than article adjectives and offended anyone misfortunate enough to be within reach. Here’s an example. Chrismas shopping at a mall with half the number of parking spaces it needs. My little sister chats happily next to me about what stores she wants to visit, and my 1-year-old gibbers in her car seat. Neither one seems to notice or care that I’m in parking hell. Every time I see an open space it’s taken before I can even shift up into first gear. Stupid stick shift… I am swearing, and not under my breath. Wait. Up ahead. An open spot. As I fumble with the clutch, lurching into 1st gear, a woman sprints by my car. That’s not surprising, but what is, is that she bolts past my very obvious turn signal and plants herself in my spot, hands on hips, feet wider than hip distance apart.
I politely tell her to move with my teeth clenched and a face not unlike Jack Nicholson’s in The Shining. I’m here.
“I’m saving this spot for my mother,” she tells me.
“I don’t see your mother,” I say, “and I’m here, with a car. Right now.” The idea of saving a spot with your body broadsided me, I must confess. I think I lost my head for a minute because I warned her that if she didn’t move I was going to run her over.
She, unlike my sister, didn’t believe me.
I won’t bore you with the details, but let’s just say I parked the car and commenced our Christmas shopping experience. This is the person God took seriously. When I say God can love the meanest person, I know.
Here is a trustworth saying that deserves full acceptance– Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst. — The Apostle Paul, 1 Timothy 1:15