Puzzle Pieces: Come In
This week marks the 22nd anniversary of my becoming a born again Christian. Thankfully, I’m a lot smarter now, than I was then. Back then, I think I was actually quite offensive. The Master has worked on me these past two-plus decades, softening my edges and hopefully making me a vessel of blessing rather than sandpaper and splinters to those I come across.
Before I made the decision to be a Christian, I struggled a great deal with “belonging.” So often, I felt like a misfit. My real father (Nick) did not want me. My adopted dad acted like he did not want me. My adopted mom was always trying to change me. The kids at school, with a couple notable exceptions, preferred to laugh at me and exclude me, rather than include me. It really kind of sucked. Pardon the language. (and yes…I will agree and admit that I was not always a nice person at school either. That is to my shame.)
At some point, I think I was 12 or 13, I remember crying on my bed over some hurt – probably a fight with my dad or something. I had gone to Sunday school at the Baptist church in Hawley with my girlhood friend Cindy (one of many Cindys to bless my life) and for whatever reason, decided to memorize Psalm 23. I recalled it that evening through my tears, and in my mind’s eye, I saw that green pasture, and I saw Jesus standing there, motioning for me to “Come!”
To make a long story short, eventually, I did. It wasn’t until years later, but I did. I went to the little Baptist church again, this time as a grown woman who was very broken hearted and in despair. I won’t tell my war stories because frankly, I was a wimp…my life wasn’t so bad. I’m embarrassed to admit how little it took to “break me.” At any rate, I felt I was a fraud. God certainly didn’t want me. And that same Cindy friend coaxed me into going to church with her that night. I went to appease her.
I had been there off and on, so while nobody was a stranger to me, I definitely was a stranger to them. They did not know my story, and if they did, they wouldn’t want me there. The old pastor, gentle, godly Merle Watkins, sat down at the piano and began to play a song that would follow me the rest of the days of my life: Surely Goodness and Mercy.
“A pilgrim was I and a wand’ring, in the dark night of sin I did roam….when Jesus the kind shepherd found me…and now I am on my way home…surely goodness, and mercy, shall follow me, all the days, all the days of my life….”
Wait – Jesus wants me even though I’ve been in sin? Of course. His message has always been…Come. Come in.
Last week I was sitting in church at Lords Valley, thinking of all the trite cliches that churches put on their display boards in hopes of enticing someone on the outside to come in. Well, what if they gave up with the cliches, and just gave that simple message: Come. Come in. You Are Welcome Here.
Once you come in, regardless of where you’ve been and what you’ve done, once you come in, mercy and goodness will follow you.
Yes, it most certainly has. I still screw up. I still bring shame to His name. Yet, He still forgives, He still leads me beside the still waters, He gives me a drink and soothes my soul…and He continues to lead me in the paths of His righteousness. And if I get stubborn, if I wander off, His shepherd’s hook is always there, gently pulling me back. All the days, all the days of my life.
I could not find a really nice version of Surely Goodness And Mercy online. However, I found this old song by Steve Green that fits as well – I have loved Steve Green’s voice for years and years. Enjoy – “That’s Where His Mercy Begins.” I think I even sang it at Cole, the Baptist church once; back in the day, I used to sing a lot. Songs have always been a blessing to me…hope this one will be a blessing to you.