Lately I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what gives my life purpose. I work from home, I’ve been isolated for months (due to COVID), my interactions with friends and family have decreased and I’ve been left with my work related to-do list, laundry, and grocery shopping. And please don’t get me wrong, grateful doesn’t even begin do describe how I feel about my marriage, my job, my home, every moment I truly see as a gift! But the interruption in my normality has left me examining my life. The shut down slowed all of us to a screeching, fearful halt. And then, all out of sync, we began again, limping along in the post-pandemic reality, trying to find a rhythm. I desperately miss rhythm, but honestly without this grand interruption in my plans and patterns, I really doubt I’d be sitting here writing these thoughts to you.
So, back to purpose. All this upheaval has led me to deeply ponder my purpose in life: what am I here for, and am I fulfilling it? I’ve been brought back to the bare bottom of who I am, which is my faith. All I’ve truly ever known about myself and been fully confident in is that I believe in God, and I love and follow Jesus Christ. He is my ultimate purpose in life—to know him and be known by him. But as a person who really likes to know that they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing, that’s still pretty vague. So without the explicit answers to the question of “am I wholly fulfilling what I’m made to be,” I’ve begun to consider how my whole faith story began. Because in the face of all that massive uncertainty with the pandemic, it wasn’t gratitude or positivity or belief in the government (lol) or science or whatever that gave me the stability to believe on each new day that things would truly, eventually be alright. It was my faith that held me fast to hope. And still holds me fast to hope. It’s my faith in God—in his power and love–that is my anchor in storms.
Then I started to think…what if I didn’t believe in God? What if I didn’t have this hope beyond hope and confidence that there is One who has power over everything I go through? I mean, that’s the only thing that kept me sane in the pandemic. And in all of life for that matter! Knowing that I’m not the ultimate authority—that no one is but Jesus–that gives me all manner of peace in a world fraught with horrors. So really, this has brought me to think of the dear hearts in and around my life who do not have what I have, the anchor in the storm. Who do not know the Lord or have faith in him. So I just wanted to share about my first true encounter with him because maybe that it will give you hope enough to try for yourself. Because we do need an anchor. And I can state with absolute confidence that nothing in this life can keep us secure but Jesus and belief in him. So without further ado: my first ever encounter with God!
It begins with Emily as a gawky teenager. //Pause// Have you ever noticed that there are fewer and fewer gawky teenagers? I mean, they all are so very hip and well dressed and just not nearly as awkward as they used to be. What is that about? I paid my dues with enough awkward to fulfill a lifetime. //Unpause// Anyway, I was a gawky teenager. About 14 I suppose. Going into my freshman year of high school. So glad to finally be on the Colorado camp trip with my youth group after years of being too young to go. I’d made it, gawk and all.
After each nightly service at the camp, our youth group would pull away to our own little corner and end the night sharing stories of how everyone had witnessed God that day. I don’t know who termed it this, but we called them “God sightings.” Well, after sitting in that circle for so many nights hearing about how my fellow students had had actual, personal moments where God talked to them or they saw him move or they felt his presence, I really began to think. I mean, I’d been a “Christian” my whole life. I knew I was save. I’d confessed my belief, I’d even been baptized, all that good stuff. But this was something I’d not really heard of before. You can feel God to yourself, like personally? Like, just you and him? Intimate? I was soon consumed with desire to have and share my own God sighting. It was like I could only stand outside of the best candy shop in the world with my faced pressed against the window while all my friends got to experience the decadence of tasting and seeing the colorful, satiating, perfect candies inside. And I loved candy.
So I did something I’d never done before. I got alone (I still remember the spot on the trail with grasses growing over my head and ants crawling around my feet), sat down, and prayed the first earnest prayer of my life. It was pretty simple. I said, “God, I want to see you. I want to feel you. I want a God sighting.” Maybe I said more, but that was the gist. I intently asked God to show himself to me. And then I got up from my hidden spot on the trail and looked for him all day long. I remember anticipating the moment it would hit me like BOOM, GOD! But it didn’t come. Day passed into night and I was standing in worship that evening when I heard a commotion behind me. I turned around to witness one of the most splendorous things I’d ever seen: a rainbow. But not just any rainbow, it was like the end of the rainbow was sitting in the yard of our camp. I mean, it was right there, in the yard. If the whole pot of gold thing were true we’d all have been rich. That’s how close it was. And it was in that moment, surprised by the beauty of that rainbow, that I knew I had my answer. You know that feeling when you just know in your heart? When you know that the thing that you know is it? That’s what it was like. I just knew in the deepest recesses of my heart that God sent a rainbow to show me, in the most beautiful, technicolor way, that when I seek him, earnestly and truly seek him, I’ll find him.
And that was my very first real encounter with God. And I’ll share with you that rainbows have continued to be a way that God has responded to me, affirmed me, and encouraged me all my life. Isn’t that sweet? It’s kind of flirty actually. I mean, how romantic of God to repeatedly employ rainbows in his kind, thoughtful assurances to a seeking daughter. And that knowing feeling—the one I had at camp when I knew that I knew that the rainbow was his glittering response to my pursuit of him—I’ve had that feeling countless more times in my life. I’ve sought and I’ve seen. And I’ve been anchored, deeply rooted in faith in God.
This whole blog post started with musings over purpose. Do you know yours? If I’m allowing full honesty for myself, I really only know a tiny portion of mine. That tiny portion (which actually, though simple is pretty all encompassing) is to know God, be known by God, and help others know him too. I’m really fortunate that as a gawky teenager my heart got set on fire for God in just one moment. But what I know about God is that it is never too late to try. It’s literally never too late to ask for your own God sighing and to begin anew in life, but with an anchor of hope this time.
So really, that’s it. Today, I just felt compelled to share my first rainbow story with you. Giving God a chance really only takes a true desire to see him, and then to look for him to show up. He’ll take care of the rest.