|Baby-sister and I in 1970.|
The Sweetest Bridegroom
I grew up mostly in the Pacific Northwest and rural Alaska. Dad was a pipe-fitter/welder with a union, so we moved with the jobs (every six months to a year). I had two sisters, and I was the most fearful child—shy and scared of almost everything, especially of moving.
My parents cherished us; they were capable, accomplished and excellent providers—for that I'm thankful. But it didn't help my fears that they drank often and were extremely adventurous. We camped in the wilderness every weekend for years, banging coffee cans with spoons to chase bears away. Dad's boat was the fastest and loudest around (built by his scary cousin who pioneered jet boats on the rapids of the Snake River). Dad's vehicles were even faster and louder. Dad didn't drive; he passed traffic! We didn't sight-see; we roared over the logging-roads, catching air on the other side of the mud-holes—the music blared, the tires skidded, spun and slipped along the mountainside, and I stared out my window at wrecked cars in the canyon below.
I had an ulcer by the time I was in my teens.
But there was a time I wasn't quite so fearful. We weren't Alaskan Natives, but when I was seven or eight years old I first heard the gospel from a family who ministered to Athabascan Indian children in Gakona, Alaska. This was the brightest, most peaceful point of my childhood. Mom dropped us off at mission outreaches and even sent me to Bible camp. There was only one television channel in town: the PTL (Praise the Lord) Network. It was weird, but soothing; it gave me hope. When I was nine years old I confessed Christ as my savior. I was very excited about Jesus. In daydreams my adult-self stood (fearlessly!) before crowds, imploring them to embrace Christ and beware of communism. (Someone gave us a pile of comic books: The Hiding Place, The Cross and the Switchblade, God's Smuggler and others. Most were about Christians martyred under communistic governments. I read them over and over again.) I too wanted to bring the light of Jesus to a dark world!
We lived in Gakona longer than most places. But we moved again when I was about ten. Along the way I lost my comic books; soon I completely forgot about Jesus. (Not only did I forget to follow Him, my memory of who He was, and of ever being in church, was plucked from my mind.)
Without Jesus, my overwhelming fears collaborated with the other quirks of my nature to turn me into a liar and a thief—and a serious chain-smoker. I started having boyfriends, and my preaching daydreams were replaced by a desire for a handsome prince on a white horse to come and carry me away. When I was eleven I went to an evangelical outreach to Eskimos for a short time (in Bethel), but I was no longer listening. By the time I turned eighteen I was a weary atheist, a stubborn know-it-all and a single mother trying to get away from a violent, alcoholic boyfriend.
But then when I was nineteen, by the mercy and grace of God, while on a short trip out of Alaska (trying to escape, but failing), I met a young stranger whose passion was street-witnessing; he was really good looking, so I let him read his Bible to me. He explained the Four Spiritual Laws and (I think) the Roman's Road.
Afterward the Scriptures haunted me.
Through God's mercy, I was suddenly aware that God was real and near. It was frightening, but comforting as well. I didn't deserve God's love, but He'd given His only son as a ransom for me anyway. He paid my penalty so I could be forgiven and brought near to Him—as His body and bride. I was overwhelmed with shame, but also with fear and a strong desire to repent and accept His offer. So I gave my heart and life to Jesus, and my daily goal became to know Him, at all costs. Right away my lost childhood memories of Him returned, and He began freeing me from my habitual sin (and the violent boyfriend). He also freed me from my many fears; they were all replaced by just one thing: Fear of God.
Since then my understanding of the gospel and of Christ has grown, but my goal is unchanged: I want to know Him and (with the strength He gives) to serve the rest of the body of Christ—even if that puts me before crowds, fearlessly imploring them to embrace Christ.
I want to walk worthy of being what He calls me: I am His bride, who waits for him to come on a white horse and carry me away.
No, I don't have all the answers to your questions---nor to my own. But I know this for sure: Jesus is God, and He gave His life so that I could know Him. If that's all I ever know for sure, it's enough. Because of this one absolute and unchanging conviction, regardless of cost, I’ve “set my face like flint” to seek God, through the atoning work of His only begotten son, Jesus. The power of His Holy Spirit within me both compels and carries me in this direction. I might never know my exact purpose or calling, but if I know the God of my purpose, that's more than enough.
I hope to know more tomorrow, but today I can promise you this: He sparkles more brightly; His beauty alone is unspoiled; He beckons gloriously, without guile or guilt; He rends the heavens to come down, rescuing all who cry to Him; He purifies hearts and carves new channels for our lives; He brings floods of living water from piles of stone. I'm bathed in his dazzling light and drenched with His beautiful love time and again. Therefore, I’ve determined to follow hard and present Him with the fruit that is rightfully His, despite the many foxes that sneak in to devour time, weaken devotion and extinguish love. I've failed, some; this doesn’t surprise me. But I'm deeply astonished at how often I’ve not failed; it's a miracle—a result of His power extended through His amazing grace.
Friends and children, imitate me as I endeavor to imitate Christ; He knows you’re but flesh—He’ll help you.
Love your Creator with all that you are, and then some. Cherish what He cherishes, despite the little foxes in your life.
“Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord,
at the presence of the God of Jacob,
who turned the rock into a pool,
the hard rock into springs of water.”
Psalms 114:7-8 NIV
The above is a brief excerpt from Lord, Prepare Me, by Cheryl Sasai Ellicott. Read the entire story in Victory in Jesus, or in, Lord, Prepare Me (coming soon).