The rain is pouring tonight and my house is cozy and safe and forever strewn with little piles of clean laundry, toys, and sticks that the boys have whittled into spears of all sizes. The man I love sits across the room, with his eyeglasses on, tapping keys as he fills out forms. Candles flicker on the mantle and I know, really know, that I am mighty blessed.
My freshman year of college, and the summer following that first year, challenged all of my thoughts on being a Southern Baptist Christian.
The first thing that rocked my world was having a middle-aged, single, lady as the Baptist Campus Minister.
Single. Middle-aged. Woman. Minister.
She must be of the other persuasion, I thought to myself.
Or worse, a liberal.
Only single, middle-aged, liberal, women become campus ministers, right? (I’m truly embarrassed that I ever had these thoughts, but I’m trying to be as honest as possible.)*
It only took one hug from that campus minister to make those crazy, narrow-minded thoughts evaporate from my very soul. When Ms. Geneva wrapped her arms around my little frame, I melted. She became my home away from home.
And with every hug Ms. Geneva gave me, my Southern Baptist theology became a little more blurry.
After a few months of sitting in her presence and soaking up every word she said, my neat little life was turned upside down.
And I saw Jesus in a different light: moonlight.
Ms. Geneva was the first person to ever laugh at me for believing that in order to be a good Christian, I needed to get up at 5 am and sit at His feet.
“Who told you that?” she laughed. “If you’re a night owl, embrace it. Be a night owl. Seek Christ before you go to bed.”
I sat across from her desk and looked at her kind of wild-eyed. She just smiled.
“I have my quiet time with Jesus before I go to bed,” she said. “You should,too.”
I slinked out of her office like I had just been privy to a dirty joke. What in the world was she talking about?
Soon after Ms. Geneva had spoken those words of freedom, I discovered the place that would eventually become my sanctuary.
Tate Street Coffee House.
I rarely made it there before 9 in the evening.
And my walk with Christ grew more intimate as each minute ticked by.
After a year of sitting at the feet of Ms. Geneva and the feet of Jesus, I spent my summer at a Baptist summer camp and the Lord rocked my world again.
The same summer camp where I served and starved and lost myself, I somehow managed to find Jesus in the melting pot of Baptists from all over the great state of North Carolina.
The summer staff consisted of liberals, moderates, conservatives, evolutionary-minded Baptists, tattooed Baptists, pierced in all sorts of places Baptists, Baptists dressed in all black, and me.
Me, the rule following, conservative to a fault, narrow-minded girl, who committed all sorts of sins in the dark of night and in the deepest parts of my soul, Baptist.
For the first time in my life, I was face to face with other Christians who didn’t believe the same way that I believed. They didn’t attend a church like mine. They didn’t grow up in rural America and attend the church of their grandparents.
I wrestled with how we could all be called Christ followers and yet, be so radically different.
As my summer came to a close, I not only wrestled with my body image, my self-worth, and my relationship with the red-headed boy, but I also came home questioning all that I knew to be truth.
When my parents picked me up from Camp Caswell, my dad had a severe headache that he couldn’t seem to shake.
And he would never shake it.
*Ms. Geneva is truly a woman who loves the Lord, loves others, and serves without ceasing. She poured into this heart of mine and gently taught me truth. And all of those crazy ideas I had about women in ministry, well, she radically changed my way of thinking. I love this lady because she first loved me.
And on another note, after BSF tonight, the lady in front of me turned and said, “You sing beautifully. Just beautifully.” I haven’t been told that since 1996, right before I auditioned for the UNCG school of music. Ironic? I think not. God just reached down and wrapped this girl who doesn’t sing anymore with His amazing grace. And He chose to extend grace the same day that I chose to take a risk and tell you a part of my story that I have, in years past, chosen to leave out. Amazing grace.
So with that said, what about you? Has Satan whispered a lie to you that you have bought, hook, line, and sinker? Is there a part of your story that you would rather leave out for fear of how it may be received?
I sit here tonight, basking in the amazing grace of a God who chose to use a woman I barely know to remind me that He does know. He knows my whole story-He’s the author.
I quietly encourage you to trust Him with your story.
And we-the body of Christ- need to hear it.