I think it’s inevitable that we are reminded of our past. There are memories that will forever be the paintings hung in the galleries of our minds. The events of our past are, in a lot of ways, what shape us into who we are and who we become. For some, the paintbrush of a memory was joy, and for others the paintbrush was pain. For some, the canvas is family, and for others the canvas is abandonment. And for many people there is a beautiful mix of it all. Walking through the galleries of our mind in remembrance can stir an array of emotions for all of us, but sometimes the perspective in which we look back is what makes the difference. It’s only fitting that the Lord has been inviting me to look back to the beginning of our relationship over the last few days. To me it’s almost symbolic of the resurrection we celebrate today, Easter Sunday. I have pondered over what the start of my journey with Jesus looked like by looking back at who I was before I knew Him, who I became when I encountered the Love I couldn’t deny, and who I’ve grown to be over the past few years. I’ve shared some that my life before knowing the Lord was a wild one. I was proud to be a partier, and there wasn’t a weekend (and often many weeknights) that I spent at home. I was identifiably unchurched, and I wanted nothing to do with Christians. As I began to be drawn to the Lord in His pursuits of me, I can remember the thoughts as He began to speak to me more and more clearly. I can remember praying back “but I don’t want to be a Christian, Christians are so boring.” Eventually experiencing His love grew bigger than my own concerns and I fell in love with Him, and didn’t care what people thought of it. When I got saved, I went all in and filled my schedule with as many ways to learn about the Lord as possible. I was going to four different church services in a week and joined both a women’s bible study and a community group. But outside of all of the things I added to my schedule, my life away from there didn’t look “churchy” since most everyone else in my life was not Christian. I’m so thankful that the friends I made weren’t representative of my previous interpretation of Christianity. Many of my new friends would actually come with groups to the bar I worked at, and didn’t treat people like they had to “do” or “be” any specific way in order to be loved. They lived the gospel, and it grew in my heart.
Looking back at the first year of walking with the Lord is honestly quite hysterical. I can remember so clearly the nights driving home at four in the morning after closing the bar and sitting to have a drink with my coworkers. Sometimes those drives were spent crying in prayer, others singing praise and dancing to the radio. I remember how ridiculous it probably looked that I would get tipsy and talk about Jesus. Or when I drank too much and danced around worshiping. I was absolutely real with the Lord, and since it took a while for me to feel bad about how foul my vocabulary was, I never hesitated in dropping F bombs in my prayers or telling the Lord that what I was going through felt like sh*t when I was hurting. I remember how free I felt in prayer before going to bed after drinks with friends, then waking up only to put on music to worship and write all morning. It wasn’t until I was taught to feel ashamed that I began feeling guilty in the mornings. It wasn’t until a new friend began sharing that every time she drank even a glass of wine she woke up feeling shameful that I began to wake up and hide from the Lord instead of running to Him excited about the new day ahead. I began to change and chalked all of it up to the refining of faith and character that of course should increase and mature over time. I slowly identified with the shame and self-condemnation, not of my past like one would think, but of where I was at the time. I began to place “should’s” on top of my head and measure myself and my growth. Over time, the “unchurched” woman I was began feeling bad about it – I became ashamed that my relationship with the Lord didn’t look like the PKs (pastor’s kids) I met here in ministry school. I became ashamed that my knowledge of scripture wasn’t as profound as the powerful women beside me who could cite it in a moment as the Lord gave them references to share. I became ashamed of a part of me that the Lord delighted in so much, and in my looking back He has invited me into the resurrection of what my relationship with Him was always supposed to look like. While I do believe I was definitely meant to walk away from many of the decisions I would make in regards to how much I drank and how vulgarly I spoke, I think unchurched and tipsy Abigail knew a part of the Fathers heart that I somehow forgot in the Sundays spent in bright lights these last few years. Unchurched Abigail woke up every morning listening to worship music, sometimes praising, sometimes falling back asleep, sometimes opening up Jesus Calling, and sometimes opening up the Bible. I never felt bad if I fell back asleep, or if I didn’t read that morning at all. I didn’t put pressure on myself to be anything. I just was who I was and knew that God loves me. I talked about Him constantly because His love changed my life, not because there was a pressure “to evangelize.” I didn’t compare myself with “churchy” people because I didn’t even like them yet. But the truth is, they liked me. They opened their arms to me and accepted me. Just like Jesus accepted me and didn’t care if I got it right. He just cared that I showed up. I’m not saying it’s time for me to go back to behaving like a new Christian, but it is time to go back to believing like one. Most of all I hope my sharing this maybe takes you back, too. Back to a time you didn’t have to be anything but loved. Because the truth it, that’s what matters the most.