This month I’m excited to share Chara Watson’s God Story with you. I met Chara in college and have gotten to know her better since we both became mamas and are in the same mommy group on Facebook. She has fantastic kiddo advice! By it you can tell her heart is to be more like Jesus and to do her best to show Him to her children.
I pray you find encouragement today from her God Story wherever you are on your walk of faith but especially if you are struggling right now. Chara’s story reminds us that God is always there just waiting for us to turn to Him.
This is the story I do not tell, and it is the story I want to tell. It is the story of how I met God. I was baptized at the age of 13 and before that I grew up a preacher’s daughter. I knew the books of the Bible, the twelve apostles, and all the lyrics to “Old Rugged Cross” from the time that I was very small, but I didn’t really know God. There were some things that I just didn’t understand about Him, despite the fact that I had committed my life to him. The result was predictable. I lived the life I thought a Christian was supposed to live: I didn’t drink or swear, I went to a Christian college after high school, and I expected that I would get married to a Christian man. My shallow understanding of Christianity was based on the belief that I would commit my life to Him and receive certain benefits in life and heaven in the afterlife. And that’s the way it stayed until I was 21 years old.
I was supposed to have been married in August. I was supposed to be spending my Saturday evenings with my husband, searching for mission support, or making him dinner. Instead I came home from work that Saturday to an empty and dark apartment. And that’s how I felt: empty and dark.
I’d met my fiancé in my freshman year of college and we were engaged before school let out for the summer. I was entranced with the idea that someone wanted me. What was even better was that he wanted to be a missionary. Suddenly, I had found my life’s purpose. I could love this man and latch on to his good works. Looking back, it should have been obvious that this wasn’t really a good idea to begin with. Even worse, the longer we were engaged, the harder it became to keep our relationship godly. By the time the wedding actually approached, we were both crumbling spiritually. I had convinced myself that everything would be okay once we got married.
But we didn’t get married. How it all dissolved is a long and tedious story. I saw a counselor for a while, though I’m not sure how helpful it was. I spent a lot of time alone, that fall. I stagnated, unable to face the process of cleaning up the mess my life had become. Every day I became more and more bitter, and that bitterness was pointed straight at God. He had taken away my purpose in life.
I’m not sure, anymore, what finally set me off. Twelve years later, it doesn’t really matter. I let the dark and empty part of me have control and it was ugly. Like a child, I threw a tantrum. I tried to clear any trace of the boyfriend out of my life. I threw out photos and books and anything of his that had been left in my space. I listened to sad music and angry music and hateful music. I spent the evening crying and breaking things and finally just ranting out loud to God because he didn’t give me what I wanted, when I wanted it.
It wasn’t until late in the night that I finally gave up. I was exhausted. I was lying on my bed, in the dark, finally completely alone with myself, when I stopped crying the angry, blaming tears, and I started to cry the humbled, hurting tears.
It would be impossible to remember everything I said to God that night, but I do know that I poured my soul out to Him in a way that I had never really done before. I would like to be able to say that our relationship is what prompted me to draw away from God but long before I’d ever met the boyfriend I believed that I didn’t need Him. In fact, I believed He needed me. He needed me to be a missionary’s wife, or a good example, or to worship Him. I believed that I was somehow essential. But I had done all of those things for Him and He had still allowed my relationship to crumble. I was angry with God for taking away the relationship I wanted. I blamed Him for the emptiness I felt, and I accused him of not caring for me.
But that night, late in November, I was finally able to recognize that I felt empty because I didn’t know Him. I hadn’t obeyed his commands, and I hadn’t taken the time to cultivate a relationship with him. I had chased after something that looked better, but had driven a wedge between my God and me. I lay in bed and confessed my hard heart and my need for Him, and my own sinfulness.
Here is the part I don’t tell anyone. As I lay there in bed I heard God speak to me. He said that my life didn’t have to be like that anymore. I was forgiven and I needed to move on now. He was asking me to spend the time to get to know Him. He promised me that He could love me deeper than the relationship I had constructed for myself. He told me that He had been there all along. I had never really been alone. I had turned away, but He was still there, watching me, knowing that things were going to fall apart, and trying to use all of it to show me how much I needed Him.
I could suddenly see how God had placed several godly Christian women in my life, very close to me, so they could be there to guide me and comfort me. I could see how another friend had made it possible for me to get away and retreat to spend time alone with God at the time that I should have been on my honeymoon. I could see the kindness of my family, and the letters of encouragement that I received from Christians that I didn’t even know very well; Christians who had experienced difficult break-ups of their own.
As I fell asleep, I felt as though I was lying, not on my own bed, but as though I were lying in his huge hands. I slept better and felt safer and more loved than I had felt in a long time.
A lot of people would say that God showed up in my life at that moment to draw me close to him, but the heart-rending truth is that He was always there. He’d been with me from the moment I came up out of the water at 13 years old, and His spirit began to live in me. When I opened my heart to him in repentance, I was finally able to hear His voice and see Him for who He was. Admitting that my heart had been set on my own desires, and not on the doing the will of God was a process that was painful and humbling, and I thank God for it every day. I thank God every day for the small still voice of the Spirit of God who convicts me over and over, and never leaves me.
As I said, it’s been twelve years since God held me in His hands while I confessed my sinfulness. Since then God has given me a wonderful, godly man for a husband. He was the kind of man who valued my purity and didn’t hesitate to wait on God’s timing to bring us together. We’ve had three children and built a life together that I hope God finds pleasing.
I’d like to say that I never stray from the closeness to God that I found that night, but truthfully, I am still a sinner. There are seasons of time when it is harder than others for me to see that God’s way, and His plans, and His love are better than anything I can scrounge up for myself. I have to step back and remind myself that I need to spend time with God to hear His voice. When I do, my love for God sits on the surface of who I am. I can hear God’s voice asking me to know Him and I can feel the hands of God holding me.