Recently, my friend Brenda sat across my kitchen table and said to me, “April you recently wrote about God pursuing us. Perhaps you should write about pursuing God.” I’ve pondered that thought for several days and here is what I’ve come up with. I don’t have 1-2-3 formula to share. I don’t have a 10 step plan to becoming a victorious Christian. I’m neither a theologian nor a bible scholar. I’ve never taken a single religion class in my life. All I have is my story of how I’m trying to follow God, mess and all.
I grew up in a Christian home and we were at church every time the doors were open. I began following God as a child of nine and thought that “being good” was good enough. Fast forward twenty-five years when our family began attending a local church. I was still recovering from a two year battle with depression, our kids were preschoolers and I felt lonely. I began to pray for God to send me some friends my age with kids.
God answered that prayer with an invitation to join four other women for a book club/bible study. I knew once I sat around the kitchen table of that drafty farm house, drinking coffee, and making new friends (some with kids) that God was about to change me.
It was there among those women that I turned a corner with my walk with the Lord.
One of my new friends was much younger than I, yet she possessed a peace and understanding of God that I wanted and craved, but I didn’t know how to get there. Every year, she would ask God for provide her with a verse for the coming year. That was a novel concept to me, but a concept I quickly embraced.
All my life God had been pursuing me. But in that old farm house I began to fully pursue God!
I knew of God, but I wanted to know God personally. I wanted God to know my thoughts -oh wait, he already does. But, I wanted to know His thoughts. I wanted God as my BFF. He had already proved himself mighty by slowly and tenderly pulling me out of a battle with depression a few years earlier. However, I knew I needed to be around others. I needed to talk it out. Meeting these women provided a platform for me to share and understand what God was doing in my heart and their heart too.
Slowly, I began to read the bible and not just “a verse a day to keep the devil away.” I would read long passages beginning in Matthew and ask God to show me what he wants me to know. I began praying for others. I know that sounds basic, but up until this time, I was so “me” focused that I never considered what other people may need. The previous battle with depression left me weak and weary and had left my heart scarred. But God was about to heal all that! God began to show me that He would my battle scars as a platform to help and understand others. During that time I also began to turn off the television and other noise making nonsense in my life. An amazing thing happens when you do this…you can hear God more clearly.
I also took a step of faith and attended a women’s retreat. As an introvert, large groups or people cause me to feel uncomfortable. I prefer small groups and deep discussion rather than superficial small talk. I hate small talk. Small talk is fake and plastic and meaningless. I want authentic talk. I want to hold real conversations with real people, who may look perfect on the outside, but is honest and vulnerable enough to tell me their life is a mess. I can relate to a mess. I cannot relate fake. I don’t have margin in my life to not be authentic. I know double negatives are not proper grammar, but you get my point. I cannot relate to fake and I don’t have time to relate to fake. (Hence, one of the many reasons, I no longer view television. Besides I have enough reality drama in my life I don’t need to add to it.)
It was at that women’s retreat nearly six years ago that God showed me I had been anointed, transformed, and redeemed.* This was powerful and life changing event in my life. I knew I had been transformed and redeemed when I began following God as a little girl, but the idea of being anointed was a radical concept. This was a concept that a recovering depressed girl with two preschoolers needed to hear. Somehow God knew that I struggle with being a mom…oh wait He does! God chose me to be who I am, at this season of life, doing what I’m doing. Wow!
After this retreat, I began to purposefully set aside time to spend with the Lord. I began to set my alarm for thirty minutes earlier and began a true quiet time of reading, praying, journaling, and reflecting. At first, it was not easy. Most days, I am awake by 5:00 am and sometimes I can sleep in until 6:00 am. God has shown me that if I commit to make a coffee date with him every morning. He will commit to showing up. He has never stood me up! Every night, as I dump out the used coffee grounds and prepare a fresh pot of coffee for the next morning, I pray:
“Lord, I thank you that “your mercies are new every morning” (Lamentations 3:22-23). I thank you for a new batch of blessings and mercy every day. Lord, thank you that I don’t have to drink left over coffee nor live on left over mercies. I thank you in advance for what you will do tomorrow. Amen.”
God used each woman from our initial bible study to help me grow in different areas. The five of us possess a unique personality and approaches to life. We each possess our own differences and struggles. We didn’t sit around drinking designer coffee planning posh Pinterest parties. We shared life and we prayed for one another. These were real women with real issues. We shared about marriage struggles, future spouses, broken relationships, and wayward children, loss of jobs, and illness. Yet, through it all God used each one of these women and the lessons shared to catapult my faith to where I am today.
I still don’t have all the answers. I still have not taken a religion class. All I know is this:
Jesus me this I know, for the bible tells me so.
~April Dawn White
* The bible study taught during this retreat was titled Anointed, Transformed, Redeemed by Priscilla Shirer, Beth Moore, and Kay Arthur.