“There are no wrong turnings. Only paths we had not known we were meant to walk.” – Guy Gabriel Kay
Our small house church has been together for over 20 years. People have come and gone, but there’s a core group that has been together since the beginning. Lyle and I had one son, Joel, and other families had 4 more young lads, all of whom are now adults and grew up with this context as their “church”. It was quite different from what I grew up with, and all his life, Joel has been steadfastly thankful for Watershed.
This week I’ve been pondering where God has been at work in the lives of these fine young men who I’ve had the honor of watching grow up. When I was a kid growing up in the 60’s and 70’s, church-going parents had the hope that their children would “accept Jesus as their Savior”. I wrote about the story of my own coming to faith in one of my first blog posts. Suffice it to say here that I “signed my name on the dotted line” and “became a Christian” one summer during Daily Vacation Bible School at my neighbor’s house with my best friend’s mom, Tante Bargen. It was supposed to be the straight line to God, but what followed were many times where I was afraid that the conversion “didn’t take” or that I hadn’t asked with enough sincerity or piety. It’s kind of a humorous story now, but I remember the fear I felt at the possibility that I wouldn’t “get in” to heaven.
The lasting boon of that decision however, has been that thanks to many people in my life who loved God, I have always been encouraged to search for God. I remain forever grateful for the faith that has been given to me. More than anything, this is what I wanted to pass on to my own offspring.
One thing I’ve learned (and I began to figure this out already as a teen), is that coming to faith is not a one time decision like I thought it was as a 7 year old. There
are many twists and turns on the faith journey. I have seen this in Joel’s life.
The most basic lesson we taught Joel is that “God is everywhere.” I still see that as a great foundational lesson, one that guides me each week as I comb the week for where God was. There are no experiences where God isn’t, even difficult and dark ones. As a child, Joel had no trouble trusting us on this one. “Where is God?” we would ask the cute kid just learning to talk. Without hesitation he would enthusiastically answer, “Everywhere!”
The challenge for any child becoming an adult, as it was for me, is to make faith their own. We parents nurture these precious lives, instilling our values as best as we know how and watch as they inch toward the edge of the diving board, ready to launch into their own adult life. Lyle and I have watched Joel’s own faith life unfold as he’s begun to dive off in recent years. As my parents no doubt witnessed in me, we have seen an interplay between faith and doubt. Don’t get me wrong, he’s grown up to be a good person and I am incredibly proud of him, but I’ve been reminded again and again of the twists and turns on the road to God.
On Monday of this week, some Watershed folks were together planning the next worship meeting and the conversation fell to talking about the kids and how they were doing lately. Some parents in the group expressed worry over these now adult kids. Worry over their decisions, and worry about the twists and turns. Paul (pastor and teacher) had a good word of faith when he reminded everyone of the big picture. “No one ever gets to God in a straight line,” he said. There were prayers for the guys, as I know my parents often prayed for my life with its twists and turns. I wasn’t at the meeting, but my own heart got more settled as I heard about it.
This image of the crooked path to God stayed with me all week. I’ve been on holidays this week, so I’ve had more reflection time, and it’s an image that has given me hope and patience. I remembered that God is the ultimate loving parent and has been watching over Joel’s path all his life. One of my favorite Psalms says that God sees our every step, “You know when I leave and when I get back; I’m never out of Your sight.” (Psalm 139:2) Every step, including missteps, can be used in God’s creative nurturance of our lives.
In my impatience, I often want things to be more straightforward and clean-cut. But of course, life is not like that. Most days, life is more like a messy plate of spaghetti! The important thing is to remember that everything can be taken up by God’s providence. Every meandering path can lead to God as surely as the river leads to the ocean.
I will never quit praying for Joel and for the other great guys I’ve watched grow up: Sean H., Sean P., Kelsey and Erik. My #1 prayer since before he was born has been this: “God, in Your great love, keep drawing and pulling Joel and all of us to You like a magnet.” As I pray, I sometimes remember the first God lesson that Joel got, that God is everywhere, and I am strengthened to know that this magnet surrounds all our lives.