When I gave my life to Christ, I experienced rebirth, a new joy, and contentment I had never known. However, just as scripture promises, God began to refine me in fire. (1 Peter 4: 12:19) In a slow, loving, relentless burn, The Lord began to rest His finger on dark areas in my heart. I prayed, “Lord, make me like you.” He answered by illuminating sinful areas, and I was changed and sanctified. Holy is His Name.
One dark heart area was a love of money and material things. My husband, Jason, and I had made poor financial choices out of both ignorance and selfishness (wanting to live beyond our means). God was displeased by my material focus. So, in the span of a year, I lost my teaching job when my school rifted every employee that had been with the district three years or less, I foreclosed on a house, my car was repossessed, and I declared bankruptcy. All my “stuff” was burned away so the Lord could show me this: I could not serve God and the world at the same time.
After this season of purging, I could honestly say that material things meant nothing. The lesson stuck because they still mean squat. Jesus was and is all I need!
Another area that God began to work on was my marriage. I could write a whole novel about this subject, but for now I’ll just focus on the fact that I went into marriage with a totally wrong attitude. I foolishly believed the lies of culture and bought the idea that a husband would make me happy. When the lovey-dovey butterflies flew away and the daily grind hit, I was too spoiled to want to do the work true intimacy requires and put Jason first.
I was also unequally yoked. Again, I will write more about this later to hopefully encourage those out there living this reality. Life as a mid-twenties married Jesus girl whose husband wasn’t remotely interested in the things of God was tough. The hardest part of being unequally yoked was not being understood. Jason was supposed to be my best friend. Instead, there were many days I felt like he looked at me with a puzzled expression as if I were an alien. I do not want to dishonor Jason. He was always supportive and never once tried to hinder my walk with Christ (God knew what I could handle). His apathy, however, was agonizing.
During this time, I was also a mother of two children under six-years-old. God says that women are saved by childbearing (1 Timothy 2:15). When women nurture, we pour our lives into another human so that they can flourish and grow. As I loved my kids, I began to understand true love. It’s selfless. It’s raw. The act of loving can be exhausting. God’s fire burned hot and bright as I parented my children. I discovered, to my dismay, that I had a temper! I was not a naturally patient person. Worse, some days I didn’t want to be a mother! I wanted to have my weekends free to do whatever it was that my will desired. However, day after day, as I loved and served my family despite my selfish desires and wishes, the light inside me grew brighter and dark spots were swallowed up by God’s glory.
It was through these and many other trials that Father made me more like His Son. Some days I felt strong in battle. However, there were many days I felt overwhelmed and weary. Instead of running the faith race with purpose and joy, I wanted to sit down on the curb in defeat.
There was one day in particular in this season that I was completely spent. In typical dramatic Julie fashion, I sat under my kitchen table sobbing. I was literally like a child wanting to hide from the scary world outside. Pain laced through my heart. How could I continue in my marriage when I didn’t felt loved or understood? Why did God have to take my car too? Noah wouldn’t sleep through the night and I was exhausted. How would I sit through my son’s cries at 3 AM another night? “Oh, Father, I can’t go on!” I silently cried. “I just cannot go on!”
Eventually I crawled out from under the table… probably to go hide under my covers in my bed. I know I called in sick at work that day because I couldn’t face a classroom of alternative students (many of my kids had probation officers, had no real parent at home, and were always high maintenance). All my reserves had been exhausted, and I needed God to intervene.
The next day, I drove to work on a sunny morning. I watched a happy sunrise with sarcasm and brooded over the fact that the day did not reflect my mood. I knew in a few minutes I would have put a smile on my face and be present and available to students who were needier than my own children. “How am I going to make it through this day, Lord?” I wondered.
When I sat down at my desk, I opened a green planner to read the notes the sub had left the day before. To my complete shock, a stranger had written a letter. It had absolutely nothing to do with lesson plans or my students’ behavior.
As I read my substitute’s words, the hair on the back of my neck stood on end. She acknowledged that Jesus knew my life was overwhelming. She encouraged me to continue on in my marriage, and promised that God would use my husband and I for His glory. She compared us to two different fruits. Jesus had put us in a blender. She said, “The blending of the two fruits would be loud and fast. Afterwards, you, as one, will be offered as a pleasing drink.”
I was speechless. All I could think was, “!!!”
The last line of her letter read: “God sees and loves your #worship.” How… did… she… know? The simple sentence caused me to weep.
What this beautiful stranger didn’t know but the Holy Spirit did was that I spent hours a day praising God. I danced, sang, and loved Jesus passionately as a bride adores a groom. Christ had captivated my heart and I adored Him. Many days I walked into work with water stains on my top because of all grateful tears I had shed during the commute. After awhile, my daughter stopped asking, “What’s wrong, Mommy?” when she saw my puffy swollen eyes. She knew my tears were for Jesus.
The fact that Christ saw my worship and loved me back was enough to keep me going. The letter’s last line alone filled my tank for weeks. No… that’s wrong. Years.
The words about my marriage I didn’t fully understand. I did know that I should and could hang on to my vows. God had made a great promise in this letter, but it required me be strong and ignore my flesh when it told me to run. “Oh Jesus, I can do that. For You, Lord, I can do that!”
I wanted to call and thank the woman who had been there to sub for me the day before. I wanted to tell this prophet of God how much her obedience in writing had meant. I knew that in order to hear the Lord as she obviously did, it took great personal sacrifice and prayer. I frantically called my district’s sub office to get her name, email, number… anything! There was no record of her. No one knew anything about her! My coworkers had never seen her before, and she never came back to sub at my school again.
I don’t know why I didn’t save the letter. I could kick myself for not saving it. If I still had it, I would frame it. What this servant of God did in writing those words was to encourage a sister in Christ who was failing.
The letter also taught me an undeniable truth: that Jesus is El Roi- God Who sees (Genesis 16:13). Christ knew exactly where I was spiritually. He saw that I was hurting and weak. God did not leave me that way, because I am His daughter! Jesus sent His servant, a complete stranger, to both give me a day off of work and write words that still encourage me to this day.
Oh Lord God, you are so merciful and loving. I pray that those that read this story, will also know You, El Roi. We all crave to be known and understood. You, Jesus, SEE! You know us better than we know ourselves, and Your love shines and strengthens all.
All glory and honor to His Name.