Every kid between the ages of 3 and 5 says it at least a thousand times a day. And everyone knows those parents who truly believe reasoning with a three year old as they begin to run out in front of a moving vehicle is a good idea, even when their life could potentially be on the line.
Jeromy and I are not those parents. We are more of the type to physically remove the child from the situation, administer consequences and then teach, depending on the specific circumstance.
Much like a child of this age, I can remember when I started asking why in regards to God. Memory is shady at best before the age of eight. I know people who have memories from the first slap on the bottom. That is not me.
I remember visiting my grandparents’ church on special occasions, Easter and Christmas. I remember the smell of the Sunday School classrooms. I remember the markers, crayons, papers, felt boards and figures detailing the life and times of Jesus. I remember learning songs and routinely sitting and standing through the liturgy of the Presbyterian Church. All the time, I remember thinking, “Why?”
From what I could tell—just because. Because it was the right thing to do. To worship, to serve, to go. But, my young mind didn’t get it. What does Jesus have to do with any of it?
In the third grade, three significant events froze time for me and my memory is extremely vivid. First, my baby brother, Matthew was born. Marshall, my younger brother by two and half years, and I were excited about this big bundle of newness coming into our house. He was truly an adorable butterball of a baby. Both parents were thrilled. My parents. . .I guess I should backtrack a l little and tell you about them.
My mother, for all practical purposes, was favored as the first grandchild and only girl for years to come, with grandparents who would cater to her every whim for the most part. My father, a South Georgia son of a peanut farmer, was proud of who he was and wasn’t about to change for anyone. Their worlds collided in Douglas, Ga. at South Georgia College. Love struck, marriage vows were repeated and in no time they landed squarely back in Jacksonville. Less than two years later, I came along followed by my brothers.
My mother was brought up the daughter of an elder in the Presbyterian Church. My father, to my knowledge, did not attend church at all (maybe on Easter and Christmas). My mother’s family attempted to acclimate my father to the church culture, but I don’t believe it took. I do remember Dad as a rebel of sorts, daring anyone to tell him “no” and turning up more than one beer in a sitting. He wasn’t willing to play the church game for anyone.
However, God was working in the life of my mother. I remember watching her on her knees in the double wide trailer on the dirt road in Middleburg, Fl. Charles Stanley spoke truth from the old 1980’s turn dial television with rabbit ears. He explained words like repentance, salvation, relationship, eternity. He spoke directly to her heart where the Holy Spirit was already at work. One day, she sat Marshall and I down at our little dining room table and explained salvation and what it meant to ask Jesus into our hearts. I remember a dawn of understanding warming my heart, but it wasn’t full yet. It was just the beginning of an answer. Determined, Mom set out to find a church we could be a part of. Sunday after Sunday she would get us ready and take us—alone. Daddy didn’t go, because as already indicated, Daddy didn’t play at anything. If he was in, he was all in. If he was out, he was all out.
One night he came home inside out—literally. I could tell he had been crying. I’d never seen him cry. Again, he sat us all down and explained that God spoke to him that day as he was driving down I95 to work. He would never get another chance to except Him if he didn’t pull over right that minute. So, my father did. He was thirty-three years old. In my little girl mind, a different daddy came home that night. I never heard him cuss again, never saw him take another drink.
Life changed drastically after his salvation. All that fire and passion was ignited by the Holy Spirit and Daddy was searching for some place to combust. We visited many churches, but finally landed at Westside Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Fl. It was during this time he told my mother he was being “called” into the ministry. She wasn’t convinced. Eventually, she believed him and he enrolled at Luther Rice Seminary. Under the training of Dr. Harold Hudson, my father began to minister in nursing homes and youth detention centers. By this time, I was ten years old. Every Sunday morning and Sunday night, I sat at Westside Baptist Church and heard the gospel preached. One Sunday night, during the invitation, my heart felt like it was going to beat out of my chest. I tried to stay in the pew, but simply couldn’t. I walked the aisle and talked to a deacon, stating that I wanted to ask Jesus into my heart. He counseled me to make sure I knew what I was doing. I did. The next week I was baptized.
This part of the story is critical. I was introduced to my Savior that night and felt that sweet peace come over me. However, like any new believer, I wanted to know why. In the telling of this story, I will blame no one but myself.
Sitting under preaching with very little teaching involved is dangerous, especially to a preacher’s kid where the humanity of their parents is lived out in front of them every day. My “whys” did not get answered. Instead of drawing closer to my Savior, I drew further and further away.
I began sixth grade at a large public school in Orange Park, Fl. During that year, my friends brought my parents’ “fanatical” ways to my attention. It was the height of the 80’s and punk rock and excess were at an all time high. Because I wasn’t allowed to watch certain popular shows or listen to certain popular music, I was considered “weird” and therefore treated as an outcast. The anger and confusion in me began to build, and was ready to flow over with an announcement my father made one November day.
We were moving to Georgia in December for Daddy to pastor a small church in the town he grew up in. In the middle of my sixth grade year, we moved from the safety and security of family, my grandmother, who I was very close to and landed in a hundred year old farm house in the middle of nowhere, as far as I was concerned. Lost, abandoned, lonely, and angry are words I would use to describe myself during this time. Tears were prevalent and I directed them at everyone, including God. I wanted to go home. I blamed my father for moving us, I blamed my mother for not fighting for us to stay, and most of all I blamed God for orchestrating the move in the first place. This attitude of anger and rebellion was the beginning swirls of a downward spiral that would last well into my twenties. All the while the whispers of the Holy Spirit echoed through my young heart, “I love you.”, “I know you’re sad and I’m sorry.”, “Trust me.” Ignored. All of them. Hands over ears, pig tails in place, full-fledged “la la la” I don’t want to hear what you have to say. Oh, if I could go back and grab that child by the pig tails and say, “Stop. You are going to be okay. This moment in time is a moment. Don’t let this see of anger take hold and grow. Get to know the One that loves you more than you will ever be able to understand.” But those forty-one year old “wise words” were thirty years down the funnel of time.
The Galatians 5 challenge is all about pursuing one fruit during 2016. Mine is peace and through the telling of my story I hope to share a little of what this journey looks like for me. I invite you to join me.
Galatians 5:22-23 The Message
But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.
Amanda Williams is a forty-year old wife and mother of two who can still swing her pony tail and display just a tad of sass. She is also a Jesus loving girl who realizes she is nothing without the One who saved her. Amanda has two degrees specializing in serving students with special needs and is currently working in the field of Leadership Development. She is a Christian author, speaker, blogger, and publisher who loves serving beside her husband at her local place of worship, First Baptist Church of Ocala.