What a journey, what a discovery!
I got this email the other day from a life that Jesus is transforming in a wonderful way. It really touched me and I knew it would encourage so many others who feel as if they believe a reality in their head, that their heart has not embraced. I hope her story opens the door for many others to recognize the ways in which God has already expressed his love to you, even if you might have missed that at the time, and how to recognize ways in which he’s making love known today:
My name is Melissa and I’m from Oklahoma I met you when you came to Oklahoma a few months back. I have found your podcast and books most helpful in this journey that I have been on, which started about 2 years ago. That would be the journey out of religion and into relationship. Also, The Shack had a profound impact on me, but not in the happy emotional good way. My first response once I had finished it was feeling very jealous. I knew that this was a fiction story, and this hadn’t actually happened, but I knew that God ‘could’ do this for real if He wanted to.
He could come to me in some sort of physical way and spend time with me they way He did the guy in The Shack. It was through all of these different things, podcasts, books, experiences, etc that I realized that what I was really searching for was God’s love. I have been working my whole life on trying to make myself lovable to God, and my head was starting to understand that I already am deeply loved by God, and that NOTHING could change that, but my heart had a VERY hard time grasping that. I found myself asking what many of your readers and listeners ask themselves… how can I make myself “get” that? I wanna make myself feel unconditionally loved by God. I know from listening to you and talking to others that I’m not going to be able to “make” that happen.
So, I’ve found myself here, in the place where my head knows the truth about God’s love towards me, his affection, his favor, and slowly but surely, my heart is starting to get it too. I most certainly can say that there are days where I know it inside and out, and there are days where I don’t. But Praise God there are actually days where I do! That’s a big leap from never feeling it at all. During all this searching, and grumbling to God how I was jealous of those who have had a very supernatural kind of experience with Him, and how I desperately wanted that too… guess what happened?! God brought back to my memory something that happened to me many many years ago…. and I had forgotten about it until recently. As soon as I started rethinking the story, I suddenly realized that He HAD done that for me, and at the time my heart just didn’t get it. WOW…. I couldn’t believe it. I had my own ‘shack’ type moment with God, and am just now realizing it. Here’s that story….
Once upon a time there was a teenage girl named Melissa. She spent most of her life trying to earn God’s affection. Her view of God made her think that her mere existence alone wasn’t enough for God, she would have to do the right amount of Bible Study, Prayer, Church Attendance, and all around general kindness to be able to come close to the heart of God.
One day however, God did something very strange. It was back in the year 1997… Melissa had a close friend, and they had gotten in a little disagreement, and weren’t speaking to each other. Naturally, Melissa felt like this was completely unacceptable to God, to not perfectly get along with someone, and knew that God was probably mad at her for not living in complete harmony with a friend.
After school she went to the mall. She was on the way out the door, passing by the food court on her way…and an elderly man at a nearby table stopped her. “Hello there,” he said. She smiled and waved at him and said “Hello”. He kept looking at her as if he had something else to say… so she slowed down and he asked her, “Where are you from?” and she said, “well, I live here in Lawton, but I spent most of my life in Ohio.”
Now, Ohio was very very important to teenage Melissa. Growing up there her whole life, she struggled in the early years to make friends, but around age 15 finally started getting attention from the more popular crowd, and was starting to have more friends and aquaintances. When someone is working really hard for affection, popularity is a wonderful feeling. Melissa was starting to feel like she fit in somewhere! However, in 1995 Melissa’s parents got a divorce, and her mother decided she wanted to move back to Oklahoma where she was from so she could have the support of her family. I’m sure you could imagine how well that went over with Melissa. She was, hm…. how do I say it… unwilling to move. She thought about trying to live with her Dad, but of the two parents, he was the one she was most uncomfortable around. Deep in her heart, she knew there was more to this than just deciding who to live with. She knew that God was asking her to take a huge leap of faith and trust him and move with her mom. Through a lot of anger at God, tears, and feelings of losing everything, she did move. And I imagine you can guess what ended up being the best thing that ever happened to her… but that’s another story for another time…back to this one…
The elderly man looked at Melissa and said, “Ohio, huh? That’s the buckeye state isn’t it?” “Yes it is!” Melissa replied, thrilled to come across someone who knew about Ohio. And he said, “Well, do you have a buckeye?” And Melissa said, “No, I wanted to get one before I left, but I didn’t get the chance.” (they weren’t in season when she moved in the summer). The man reached into his jacket pocket and held something in his hand. “Well, here you go!” he said, as he held out his hand to Melissa. Melissa put out her hand, and into it he dropped- a buckeye. Melissa stood there with her mouth hanging open…she coudn’t believe it! A buckeye, a real buckeye! “THANK YOU!” she told the man, smiling from ear to ear. He smiled and said, “your welcome.” And Melissa walked away, still in shock.
Melissa looked at the buckeye and tried to wrap her mind around what just happened. What are the odds that a man in Lawton Oklahoma would be in the mall as a girl from Ohio who just happened to really miss Ohio would walk by and stop her, and ask her about Ohio, and just happen to have a buckeye in his hand, which is the one souvenier from Ohio that she didn’t get before she left?
Later that night, while still pondering this, she wondered… was that an angel? Or maybe just a regular human being, a divine nobody who God had asked to help him out? Why on earth would God want to be nice to Melissa while she is in the midst of a disagreement with a friend, and hasn’t done anything spectacular for God lately? What was God trying to tell her?
It would be years later, the year 2009 to be exact before she would be able to answer those questions. Now, grown-up Melissa realizes that all of that ‘doing’ to earn God’s affection really got her nowhere with God. You can’t earn what you already have. She now knows that her existence alone is enough for a God, a heavenly Father that loves her very much. And through good times and bad, wrong choices and right, loves her all the same…. that buckeye said that and so much more. Maybe it was also a ‘thank you’ for giving up the life she wanted in Ohio and taking the life that God gave her in Oklahoma, the life that led her to her soulmate husband, her beautiful children, wonderful friends, and would be the exact path to this new journey she is on where she gets to see God for who he really is, and how he really feels about Melissa, and where the buckeye makes sense.
I just wanted to share my story with you, Wayne, because you are part of the journey that helped this event in my life make sense to me. Thank you for sharing God’s love with me. I mean, REALLY sharing God’s LOVE with me. I grew up hearing all about it, but now, I’m starting to ‘get’ it. Thank you.
Wow! I love the ways God makes himself known, even if it takes a few years for us to grasp what was going on.