In less than 10 years (8 1/2 to be precise) God has taken me from being homeless and living in my van to graduating law school. Periodically people tell me how much I’ve changed and I shrug it off. I see the change, but God made it effortless on my part, that it just is. Matthew 11:30 (NIV) says “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” And truly is has been. AT LEAST the last few years.
The first weren’t as easy. I was like a horse fighting against the bridle. I tossed my head pridefully, stamped my foot, and wouldn’t cooperate. I kept running to the wrong side of the pasture. But then I became a puppy instead of a horse. I wanted to PLEASE my master. Because that’s a true love relationship. I learned to love and be loved.
I honestly think the hardest part for me has been learning to accept love. I still have my struggles with that. I started out feeling pretty unlovable. God was the first who had ever unconditionally loved me. Even when I was unlovable. Eph 2:4-5 says “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” Wow. His grace, not mine.
That’s what always amazes me. He loved me like a parent to a child. When I had my children, I loved them immediately. They came to love me. But children don’t love when they’re first born. The parent loves first. 1 John 3:1 (a) “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” He is my parent. He is your parent. Let that sink in. Not the parent that called me lazy or fat or predicted that I would be a colossal failure. Not like my earthly parents.
This is a parent who said in Jer 29:11-14 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 1You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”
Before I knew God I was an exile. I was exiled from God. Our purpose here on earth is to come to know Him and love Him. And I was adrift. I had never know true love. My earthly mother had never given me a true compliment in her life. “Michelle you would be so pretty IF ONLY you would lose weight.”” Michelle you would be so smart IF ONLY you would finish college.” I have heard her voice echoing for my entire life. Darn it. I am pretty. I am smart. You don’t graduate from law school being dumb. But I sit here, crying as I write, her words echoing in my mind. Why, oh why, didn’t she just love me enough to appreciate what I was?
I tried so hard to be good. And it was never enough. So finally I rebelled. But that just left me even more broken. Finally, I went to the cross and grabbed onto it for dear life. I have this mental image of me laying at the foot of the cross with my arms wrapped around it. That’s what made the difference in my life. The Cross.
Whenever people me question me about my faith and really want to know I explain that prior to becoming a Christian I use to think Christianity was the best PR campaign of all time. One of the things that led up to my becoming a Christian was Peter. By the way, NEVER denigrate Peter in front of me. I love Peter. Peter was a fisherman. Have you ever met a fisherman? Well, what about a construction worker? You know, they’re coarse, tell dirty jokes, cuss, etc. That’s Peter. Jesus saw beyond his loud bluster and saw into Peter’s heart. But it gets better.
The night before the crucifixion Jesus was arrested. Judas an apostle betrayed Jesus. Then there were 11. Nine apostles ran away. Then there were 2. Peter and John. John was a cousin to Jesus and a cousin to the high priest, so he could follow along closely. Peter hung back BUT HE FOLLOWED. Yes, he denied Christ. But he didn’t run like 9 other apostles. He had enough courage to follow, it just faltered. Rather like many of use humans. Probably a lot like me. The last two months I have thought of quitting school, of running, of going back to hiding. But I didn’t. I’ve had a lot of tears. But I had two months. Peter had the night. And we all know that the night makes things worse. I don’t know why, but my biggest fears become even bigger at night. And so they did for Peter.
But ultimately, like Peter, I stuck it through. Peter apologized to Jesus when Peter saw a risen Christ. Peter, the man who denied Christ three times, the blustery fisherman, uneducated, course, crude, fisherman, on Pentecost gave a speech that caused thousands to accept Christ. What had happened during that time? PETER SAW A RISEN CHRIST!
Did you know that Peter was crucified upside down, because he felt that he didn’t deserve to die as Jesus died? This is from the man that was too afraid to acknowledge Christ. What changed Peter? He saw a risen Christ. The other apostles. All of them but John died horrendous deaths, martyrs for the cross. These are men that RAN before. They too were changed by the resurrection.
And finally, I was changed by the resurrection. And Peter. Peter convinced me. Peter keeps me convinced. That blustery fisherman reminds me that Jesus is risen.
So today, when I receive my diploma, there are many invisible people with me. First, there are Jesus and Peter. Then my children. And then all of the people that believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself. I may be walking across the stage alone, but there are many that I am carrying with me in my heart. And by the way, hang onto the cross today.
P.S. After I wrote and published this, I began to cry. My daughters are coming to be with me, but I wish Joe and my Mom could be here. Then I realized that’s the chain of life. I believe that they are watching me today and proud.