My tone has changed as of late. If you have been around me long enough, you know that the holy roller seems a bit fetched, if not out of character for me. I was likely to quote Andrew Dice Clay before I ever quoted scripture. Oh! I digress. Funny thing about character is how we evolve. Changing with the seasons, age, enlightenment of our environment, as if a light switch was turned on in a room of pure darkness. Life for me seemed to be spiraling into that room. I was not walking with God as I am today.
Walking wasn’t easy either. I tripped along thinking karma would float me along through the nethers of the universe. A magic carpet ride of listless engagement on my part, that basically if I lived a decent life and acted as a decent person everything would turn out alright. Even if I effed up royally, in the end my karma bank would be in the black.
Or so I deluded myself to believe.
The deeply human part of me was calling for something bigger, to be a part of something bigger. My purpose was far greater than anything I could imagine. Not that I would break out into a leotard jumpsuit of red and blue with fabulous hair like Linda Carter (who was friends with my grams by the way), more so that I knew my purpose in the mortal realm was temporary, there was more to life than me.
Truer words could not have been spoken to me one summer evening while visiting my brother. The Chad and I sat out on the back patio slash balcony of my brothers home in Northern Arizona in a small town called Show Low. His home is on the side of a mountain with breathtaking views. Overlooking a bluff, Show Low creek, and sprawling meadow lands with tall, wild grass, spotted with feral sunflowers, littered with sage and speckled with wild horses, elk, and an occasional jackrabbit. A view so picturesque, one could only paint with their imagination. We sat in the cool night air listening to the pines whistle in a monsoon storm as rain patted on the roof above.
Our conversations were light and airy, typical chit chat to warm up the tone of the evening. Just then, my brother fired a grenade into the conversation. “When I die, I want to know that my sister will be joining me for eternal life. I want to know you will be joining me in heaven. I love you Karie and I am concerned you don’t have salvation and we won’t be together forever.”
He took my breath away as I sobbed. I knew exactly what he was saying and I knew my life needed a change. We discussed the outlook of karma, living a good and honorable life, being good to others in spite of ill will or harm. Further discussion about how The Chad and I have embraced various religions and their sound beliefs. Not that anything was wrong with Christianity, but at the mention one might be confused with extremists due to media exploits.
For the years leading up to this moment I was engulfed in a rat race of desperation to grapple to the top of an imaginary corporate ladder. Hyper-focused on a goal that would offer me what? Happiness, success, notoriety within the corporate realm? Further separated from my family in order to serve the overlords of big bank. Aching in my heart, a burning in my chest, my eyes bled tears as my soul felt as if it were ripped open to expose a truth I had been denying myself.
Our discussion tripped further down Alice’s rabbit hole yet rose towards the Kingdom.
The next morning I attended church with my brother for the first time in over 15 years. His pastor spoke of living a life under the idea of karma, a life devoid of the Holy Spirit. Could he have been at our table on the balcony last night? I took communion for the first time in over 20 years, I was a small girl shortly after my baptism when I took part in this ritual to honor my Savior. Fighting tears to prevent others from seeing my brokenness as my brother and I held hands during the service and worship. I left the service that day feeling a sense of redemption, as if I came home.
The week after was a struggle. My renewal was tested as I returned to work and I struggled with situations that would push my every limit. I prayed to tolerate my boss just a few days longer. Yearning to be in the word again, to hear what my soul was craving, I needed strength.
So I found my home at Central that upcoming Sunday. I walked in alone and afraid, my uncertainty felt like a 600 pound gorilla. The message was more than appropriate and befitting to where my situation lay. After the service I knew I had found my home. Week after week I attended and sat in the seats alone. I took the time to soak in the message, but felt an emptiness that I couldn’t share my new understanding of the world. My life felt like it was moving forward but my marriage was askew.
The Chad is the love of my life, but I felt as if we were not connecting on the same plane. Mostly due to my Sunday absences. So we felt a strain, until my prayers were answered. Praying for Him to touch Chad, open his heart and mind. He agreed to attend with me, upon the condition I kept the hellfire, brimstone and flames at bay as he entered the worship center. Pft, as if I had a say with The Big Guy on what happens.
His decision was not light, but he was surprised at his lack of spontaneous combustion as he entered the worship center. We discussed at length the message our senior pastor shared and he thoroughly enjoyed the rich history that came from the simple Bible teachings. One of the many qualities that drew me to Central.
My heart was full and my soul lightened as I could share this evolving part of my life with my best friend once more. Our conversations engaged a new level, we saw changes with our children, this new life we were living was infectious. Even our best friends joined our fellowship and our relationship with them changed. A strength, peace and love we had never felt before engulfed our way of living. Transforming our professional lives. Infusing our spirits.
These changes were not without a cost of pain or death. A slow and excruciating death to the person I once was in order to envelope my life with Christ. Spiritual warfare at some level raged on between my old self and the person I was becoming. My career began to change on the most drastic levels, so much so that being fired is just what He wanted to truly ensure my proper path in life. Even then I had unrest. Bouts of darkness as I would retreat to my head with thoughts of not being good enough, a failure, self deprecation seemed to be normal. Prayer seemed in vane. Staying the course because there was no turning back. Following Christ came with a stigma that seemed to spark shame at the mention to others, hushed tongue…I am a Christian. Realizing so many had brought shame to the the true word of God, Christ; their misinterpretation would not be my shame, I would sing the praises of what being a follower of Christ truly represents.
What He was telling me taught me about faith, hope, patience, trust and love. In all of this was whimsy. Life seemed to have a bit more spontaneity and I found a new appreciation for people, community, and the richness we offered each other as a collective. Above all else he showed me that had I stayed my course I would have found more pain than happiness, more destruction than what we were building as a family, and the semblance of myself would be far from recognizable.
As a follower of Christ, walking with God has been the most rewarding and challenging transformation to my life and that of my family. With every change comes the exit, or death, of the former self.Â I wouldn’t change my choices for the world and am ever grateful for the summer evening on my brothers balcony.