Tuesday, May 26, 2015

{From Holy Cow to Holy Spirit} Knocking on Heaven's Door

It was a time when neon was in, Madonna was True Blue, and the girls would gather in the basement to belt out the latest love songs. 

Cue Atlantic Starr: "Girl you are to me, all that a woman should be and I dedicate my life to you always..."

Then we would giggle as we came to the part where they sang, 

"Come with me my sweet, let's go make a family.
They will bring us joy, for always.
Ooh boy I love you so, I can't find enough ways
To let you know, but you can be sure I'm yours for always..."

because, well, you know.

If you have seen 13 Going on 30, you will know exactly what I am describing. Perhaps this is why it is in my top ten favorite movies. (I know, fluffy for a top ten, but there nonetheless.)

I don't seem to have junior
high photos at my disposal.
This was just before then.
It was deep in the heart of the 80s, and I was in junior high struggling through the adolescent rites of passage. Strange tensions grew between friends as we tried to navigate the halls in all our pre-pubescent angst. Here lay the beginnings of all the cliques that would ever be: the jocks, the nerds, the popular crowd, the band geeks, the burnouts, the washouts, and then some that just didn't fit anywhere at all. Stuck somewhere in a mix of band geek/nerd/don't belong anywhere at all, the popular crowd was where I wanted to be. Friends, boyfriends, normal teenage activity instead of hanging at home with mom and dad - it held all of the appeal, but none of the promise for a girl like me. At the end of the day, it was a good thing, but not according to a tween/teen back in the day.

This was early high school. I really don't have junior high pics at my fingertips!
We can wax philosophical about why that might be at another date and time...

I was the one they made fun of because not only was I a nerd, but I was different. I was the one the boy asked to slow-dance with at our junior high dance, but only as a dare/joke from his friends, which I found out not too long after. I was the one the boys flirted with just for a laugh. I was the one who they started embarrassing rumors about just to see what I would say. I was the one whose invitations were rarely answered for any parties. I had my small group of friends* and we struggled our way through. Some broke out of the nerd camp and figured out the fashion of the day and the right things to do and say. I wasn't one of them. Without having a reference to the rites of passage in this culture, my parents couldn't help me navigate them with much more than reassurances that "this too shall pass" and "there is a bigger world out there." Both were right, but not of much solace on a tear-stained pillow.

My already wanting-to-belong heart just ached all the more. 

Enter Mandy. Mandy lived a couple houses down the street. Her family had moved into the neighborhood a few years before. They were Baptists, and had a large family by our neighborhood standards (though still small potatoes considering my own extended family). With six children, Mandy's family was full of life. I remember her talking about Daddy Date Nights and Family Game Nights. Though she was a couple years younger than me, and I was many degrees nerdier than her, we would occasionally hang out, especially on those summer days when there wasn't much else going on. It was through Mandy that I would invite Jesus into my life. 

As time has gone by, I don't recall the specific details of when my first encounter with Christ came about. I'm fairly certain I was about 13, and I am guessing it was one of those late summer afternoons. I do remember sitting on Mandy's deck in the shade, probably drinking Kool-Aid or Iced Tea and talking about nothing too important. In the middle of all of that, I remember Mandy asking me if I knew about Jesus and if I had ever considered letting Him into my life. 

I confess I don't recall my answer about knowing Jesus. My guess is that I mumbled something about celebrating Christmas (though in our family it had nothing to do with Jesus beyond Linus's monologue in the Charlie Brown Christmas Special) and knowing people go to church. Mandy explained how Jesus takes our care and our worries from us. There were no long theological arguments - we were 12 or 13. It was simply her sure knowledge that life is just better with Jesus in it. 

That was all it took. When Mandy asked if I would like to let him into my life, I said sure. While much of the rest of that time was a blur, I remember her instructions so very vividly. To invite Jesus into my life, to help make my life better with Him, all I needed to do was to say to Him that night, "Jesus, I want you in my life." That was it. I went home, and as I crawled into bed after another likely leisurely day, I crawled in with hope for a better tomorrow. As I lay my head down on my cool pillow, I offered those words up in earnest prayer: "Jesus, I want you in my life." I knocked on the door.

My thirteen year old self expected magic. I was seeking trumpets and fanfare and a completely transformed life. What happened next was seemingly a whole lot of nothing. My troubles were not behind me. I was not instantly popular nor did I have a greater sense of peace or belonging. Rather, it seemed that nothing at all had changed, and I continued to struggle through the ranks of high school. Over time I forgot about that night and the words I had uttered and simply moved on with life, one step at a time, each one closer to getting out of small town Iowa as fast as I could. 

It was only in retrospect that I discovered the power in my prayer that night. God knows us and our needs. His timing is perfect, not ours. At a time that was perfect for me in His sight, my knock on heaven's door would be answered. In retrospect, I have no doubt in my mind that it was that innocent and unformed prayer that led me to where I am today. I just couldn't see it in the moment.

Until next time, let's get out there and love 'em like Jesus...because life really IS better with Jesus in it. Pass along an invitation this week to someone struggling, won't you? 

*To my friends during this time: Please know how much you were/are loved and appreciated. I would hate for the moral of this story to be that I just wanted an upgrade - that isn't true. I just wanted a deeper sense of belonging, which to a young, teenage girl (well, me) was popularity. This in no way is meant to slight the friendship and fun we had.

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  1. Rakhi! You've hooked me! I'm a firm believer too that any form of knocking on the door gives God a much firmer foothold than we probably realize. Ah, can't wait for the rest of this!

  2. Oh I love this so much! Looking forward to reading more - it's so compelling and beautifully written :)

  3. Thanks for sharing. This is inspiring - to love well & share my story. Much love to you and your family. - Juliana (Mecera) Federoff

  4. Yes, life IS better with Jesus! I am looking forward to the next installment. And thank you for the Atlantic Starr memory. I will probably be singing it all day now! :)

  5. Wow!! Your story has been expressed so beautifully, I cannot wait to read the rest of it. Definitely makes you realize how your simple words and actions can help another's eyes and heart be opened to faith. Thank you for your sharing! :)

  6. Sounds like somebody needs to write a memoir. I would totally read it.