I’ve been thinking recently, as I often do, about the many ways God has been kind to me. His greatest kindness, of course, has been in drawing me to himself. It’s a story worth telling.
Early on, my parents were not religious people, at least not so’s you’d notice. Dad was a Westerner, orphaned at 13 and shepherded through his teen years relatively haphazardly by his older siblings. Mom’s family was devoutly Universalist—my uncle, Carleton Fisher, was the last president of the Universalist Church and thus one of the founders of the UU’s, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, back around 1960. As we kids were showing up, the family bounced around southeastern Washington State, living in towns with names like College Place and Colfax and Diamond and Elberton and Trentwood and Greenacres, as Dad followed work available in his two professions, the railroad and printing.
As the kids got a little older, my parents thought it wise for us to go to some kind of church, so we attended a church in Opportunity, of which I have dim memories, but we did not hear the gospel there.
They became interested in politics—like most Westerners of that day, the conservative kind—and there they met a few people who spoke, oddly, of something called being born again, and they began to realize that not all churches were like that. I remember playing on the kitchen floor as they were sitting at the table discussing whether their minister knew about this “saved” thing.
They found a church that was what we today would call evangelical, and one Sunday we all showed up. Fourth Memorial Church in Spokane was officially Presbyterian, but they had just voted to leave their denomination over liberalism, so they were ecclesiastically independent—and I was much older before I realized that an independent Presbyterian church is an oxymoron.
I was 6 and was shuffled off to the age-appropriate Sunday school class.
And none of the other kids showed up that day.
The teacher—I remember her as an impossibly old lady, maybe as old as 60!—set aside her planned lesson and joined me at the table in one of those little kiddie chairs. We just sat and talked. As the conversation progressed, she realized that I knew nothing of the gospel, and so, simply and kindly, she told me The Good News.
I didn’t know much of anything; I knew nothing about the Bible or theology or supralapsarianism.
But I believed. I believed simply and awkwardly, but I believed in the same God as Peter and Paul, the covenant-keeping God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
And so, due to the mission focus and caring shepherding of a little “old” lady, I became a child of God, with spiritual life.
I don’t even know her name. I look forward to thanking her in person one day.
There was a lot of growing ahead. I faced a long period of behavioral problems—I suppose I was ADHD, although they weren’t diagnosing it in those days. Shortly later, in the same church, I was removed from another Sunday school class because the teacher couldn’t control me—I like to say that I was the only person I’ve ever heard of who was expelled from Sunday school—and in first grade, at that! I drove my older sisters to tears and frustration with my pestering ways. And once, at 16, I walked away from the faith for a year—or tried to, anyway.
But through those years, a long line of faithful servants of God poured grace and truth into my life, in a series of churches, large and small, on both coasts, and in a Christian school in New England. They endured my shenanigans—I wasn’t malicious, just, well, exuberant—and patiently discipled me, tiny step by tiny step along a rocky path, made so by my own selfishness and general lack of self-control.
That time I walked away from the faith? It was just after graduating from the Christian high school, just after receiving all that care from all those selfless people. Sheeeeeeesh.
I can never repay them. Nor can I ever repay the God who gave them life before he gave it to me, who arranged for them to be alongside my life’s road, and who used them as instruments of his grace.
Who is worthy of such things? How can it be anything but grace?
I am grateful. And content. And satisfied.
The world is broken, and all its people are broken, but God, God, is infinitely good.
Michael R. White says
You have a gift for drawing people into your story. I saw myself sitting in one of those “kiddie chairs” (and yes, that would be a catastrophic fail today). I understood your struggle as a teen and I totally get that ADHD thing. Great post, once again.
This article was such an encouragement. After a long week of behavior issues with a certain little one, I was in tears praying about how to shepherd this one’s heart. Reading this reminded me that God works in many ways through many people and often over a long period of time to accomplish His work.
Cathy Dey says
I have a son who is mostly homeless, a drug addict and a sociopathic liar. He has 3 illegitimate daughters who we heartbreakingly have not been able to meet. The Lord has consistently sent good, Christian people in his life to help and minister to him but he has thus far rejected Christ. He is currently in jail and that is all we know. I pray that his heart will be softened enough to allow the Holy Spirit to convict him. He is 30 years old and I never give up hope that he will be saved and give his life to the Lord.
Dan Olinger says
We can certainly pray to that end. God is sovereign, and sovereign people never have to be in a hurry–God is not Alice’s White Rabbit. God hears and answers the prayers of his people, in his own good time.
Grace Hargis says
What a blessing to read of God’s good work in your life. Thank you.