I boarded the plane from Seattle to Atlanta on a warm September day in 1997. I spent the next five hours watching the plane fly away from my pain and my hurt and my fears faster than I ever could have run. I arrived at the airport and was immediately greeted by my dad with a hug and a “welcome home,” and I spent the next few months in a confused, depressed daze — wondering what on earth had just happened and simultaneously doing everything in my power not to think about it.
Or pray about it. Especially pray about it.
I loved God and believed in Jesus and was a fan of most things Christian. But it wasn’t my own walk yet — it wasn’t my own relationship. I wasn’t praying, I wasn’t seeking, I wasn’t in community, I wasn’t learning, I wasn’t reading. Everything I believed was based on residual fumes of my church-based childhood. My house was built on sand and nothing more.
I found enough distractions to keep me from the harsh realities of what I had left behind. And it worked…for awhile. I avoided and stuffed all the problems and carried on as if nothing was wrong. But the funny thing about avoiding and stuffing problems is that the root is still there — always there — and the weed keeps cropping back up and eventually you’re exhausted from trying to cut it and are ready for some deep seed to remove it completely.
So I began to implode. And my house collapsed right on the sand, and everything I owned had sand in it. There was sand in my mind and sand in my heart and sand in my hair and I just couldn’t get all the sand out. No matter how much I shook and how much I vacuumed, sand remained and irritated every area of my life.
And one summer day, completely broken and irrational over one single grain of sand I couldn’t remove, I reached the end of myself. I got on the floor of my glass-green-walled room and settled onto my knees with my head on my bed, tears soaking my white down comforter.
And I finally decided to pray.
And I gave up. And I gave it over. And I gave myself over. And I asked that God remove all the sand because I hated the sand but didn’t know how to get rid of it all.
And when I got up and walked out the door, there was peace in my heart. And I found a church and went every Sunday night — only Sunday nights, for six straight months — and sat alone in the very back and cried and wept and got all the sand out.
And when my time of weeping was over and all the sand was gone, I began to heal. And I began to pray and seek and read and learn and be in community. I began to remember where those childhood fumes came from and soon I was fueled by the gas itself, not just the fumes. And I began to really love God and really love Jesus and I became a real follower. It became my own walk and my own relationship. And I loved every second of it.
I was ruined for normal. Nothing has ever been the same since.
In the greatest way possible, absolutely nothing has ever been the same since.
For so long I believed that if I really decided to follow Jesus I’d have to give up so much, lose so much. But I had already given up so much and lost so much, and the things that remained were wisps of reality and puffs of truth. What I had been holding so tightly wasn’t anything worth holding. It was like trying to hold onto sand…and it slipped through my fingers no matter how hard I grasped. Even if I could keep it in my hand, all it did was create irritation and pain. Why would I continue to grasp pain?
But when I finally pulled up the root of that stinking weed and let it go, the scales fell from my eyes and I could see. I saw Truth and I saw Wisdom and I saw the deception for what it was — a thin veil designed to keep me from the hope and future already planned in advance for me.
There’s such freedom in following Christ, not simply being a fan. It’s hard yet yielding, painful yet peaceful, challenging yet clear. It’s a straight and narrow path protected by hedges of grace. The freedom that comes from walking that path is found in the absence of shame and the absence of condemnation and the absence of fear.
In being a fan we think we’re doing Him a favor — isn’t He so lucky we’re fans of His? But He wants followers. Because when we follow Christ, it is for our good, not His.