It seems like a lifetime ago. That day my grandpa pulled his blue Ford pickup truck into the parking lot of the Jefferson Street McDonald’s. We often stopped in Jefferson City on our way to and from the Lake. Today was a little unusual, though. We were heading back home just before the lunch hour rather than during the late afternoon. Due to the strange nature of these plans, I can only imagine my young self was in denial because I refused to take off my Miss Piggy swimsuit. It was my clothing of choice for Saturdays and Sundays during the summer at the Lake and I loved all the compliments from total strangers on how adorable I looked. I hammed it up on my Miss Piggy days.
However, today was a little different. With my grandma trailing behind me, I bounced my way across the tile floor toward the counter, coming to an abrupt stop as I stood eye to eye with a little boy in a powder blue suit. He was a spiffy little thing. Kinda cute and just about my age, if I remember correctly. Yet as I stood there proudly puffing out my pretty swimsuit he had a look of contempt in his likely 4 year old set of eyes. I wasn’t prepared for the words that followed.
“Why aren’t you dressed up,” he asked. “Didn’t you go to church this morning?”
“No, you little nightmare, I just came from the Lake – fresh out of the water – and now I’m getting ready to douse myself in Dr. Pepper followed by a hamburger and fries.”
Admittedly I really didn’t spit those words back in his face. After all, I was four. Instead I just stared at him for a long time before I whispered in my softest, most embarrassed voice, “No. I don’t go to church.”
“DON’T GO TO CHURCH,” he said rather incredulously and much louder than I would’ve liked. “Are you a heathen?”
…and now that I think about it, how on earth do 4 year old little boys even know what a heathen is? Surely what happened next would’ve been more effective on his parents, but he hit me where it hurt and it was my turn to make him feel bad. At that point in my life I sure didn’t know what a heathen was, but I had enough sense to know he was punching at my core in an attempt to insult my lack of church attendance.
So I did what any self-respecting, defensive, highly angered little 4 year old girl in a darling Miss Piggy swimsuit would do.
I bit him. Hard. On the cheek.
We didn’t exchange any more words that day, but I’m fairly certain he might’ve lost his voice from screaming so loudly toward his mother promptly after I let go of his skin.
I’ll just leave out the part where my shocked looking grandparents grabbed my arm and pulled me out of McDonald’s.
…away from the boy in the powder blue suit.
That was 35 years ago. And while it served as a bitter reminder for all those years, I reflect on it now as a lesson to be learned. It’s often situations like this that push us away from the Light. We’ve been hurt by those who somehow feel entitled to impart that judgement upon us and end up with a false sense of what this faith thing really looks like. It was in this single moment that my emotions for knowing God were spun completely out of control.
So many seasons passed before I would ever find the courage (or the desire) to step foot in a church. I did have a handful of occasions in which I agreed to attend with friends, but I always greeted the situation with sweaty palms and a heavy heart. I was inferior. Wasn’t I? …all because of that hurt and shame from a young boy who’d obviously absorbed his words from someone older, yet it set the stage for decades worth of curiosity, guilt, fear, remorse and indifference toward the church.
Today I am introducing you to one of my first #beautifulstories. The one that started it all. Over the course of this series I’ll be reaching back in order to share a few more experiences similar to this one and how each of them pushed me farther away, yet set my heart in position to receive Him in so intimately.
While I will never understand those years before I knew grace I now know that nothing is ever wasted. I cay say to myself, “If only…” – yet I know that everything works together for His ultimate purpose.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
(Isaiah 55:8-11, NIV)
#thissideofgrace #beautifulstories #diggingintothepast #blogseries
Linking up with the following authors today: