(The title of this blog was supposed to be written in cow handwriting, but they didn't have that font!)
The other day Brandon and I stopped at a Chick-Fil-A in Georgia as we were making our way home from Birmingham and a third assessment with ARC (more about that experience later). It was a Tuesday night, and the dinner rush hadn't yet arrived (if there is a dinner rush at this by-the-interstate store on a Tuesday night). We got our food and sat down in the area that is NOT next to the children's playground. Ahhh....adult time! Can I get a HALLELUJAH? AMEN!
The employees were all hard at work restocking items and cleaning, but since there were not many customers in the store (maybe 4 or 5 counting us), they were just chatting away as they worked. This is what we heard:
Pretty teen-aged girl #1: Well, he says he thinks he loves me and that he might want us to get an apartment together and see how it goes.
Pretty teen-aged girl #2: So, what are you going to do?
#1: I don't know. I mean, I think I love him too, and it would be fun to move in together and test things out. But I would never tell my parents. They'd dig their own graves and jump in if they knew I was moving in with a guy and NOT MARRIED! So I'm a little confused as to what to do.
#2: You really think that you could move in and them not know who you're living with?
#1: I'll just refer to him as my roommate and make up a different name until I sign the lease. Then I'll be in at least until the lease is up.
I mean, we weren't trying to eavesdrop or anything, but she was talking pretty loudly. Brandon and I kind of looked at each other, stunned, mouths a little open (yes, even with chicken inside). This girl couldn't be more than 17 or 18 years old. I know we were both thinking, "oh, if Ella or Allie did that..."
And then the Holy Spirit nudged me. He reminded me that teen-aged girl #1 could have been me. You see, when I was a teenager, I was into a lot of things I shouldn't have been into, and they were in my life to fill voids that I didn't have filled with the Lord because I didn't really know Him yet.
For instance, I had way too many boyfriends growing up, and allowed way too much physicality to happen with too many guys. No, I didn't go all the way before marriage, but that was only because I was scared to death I'd get pregnant and not get a soccer scholarship to play in college. Seriously, that was the only reason I said no on many occasions. But I was looking to feel secure and affirmed, and did that through always having a guy to be connected to in some way.
I remember when the Lord got my attention and brought people into my life who invested into me to help me have a firm grasp on walking with God daily and allowing Him to be Lord over my life. That happened in college. As I grew closer to the Lord and allowed Him to become my security and my affirmation, I realized that having a boyfriend all the time wasn't as necessary as I had once thought it was.
But what if it hadn't come to know the Lord in this way? Where would I be? Who would I be?
I allowed my mind to go down that road briefly while we sat in that Chick-Fil-A listening to this girl who is obviously confused and trying to fill a void in her life that will never truly be fulfilled by any earthly relationship. (And please hear my heart in that I am not trying to judge this girl or anyone else who has moved in with a boyfriend/girlfriend before marriage. While I don't recommend it because it usually ends in heartbreak and a lot of messy issues, I know many people who know and love the Lord now who walked that road at some point in their lives, and God worked through it.)
I relayed the fact that the girl behind the counter (or many other sad stories I've heard in my years of ministry) could have been me...I could have been the one who was confused and decided to move in with my boyfriend. I could have slept around and gotten pregnant as a teenager. I wasn't far from being hooked on alcohol or drugs. I didn't know the purpose for my life when I was that young, and could have gone in a totally opposite direction from my destiny...All of these scenarios and more could have defined my life easily.
He intervened in such an awesome way that my life was never the same. Even when I didn't know Him, He was protecting me in many ways. He knew the plans He had (and has) for me, and kept me from falling off the cliff on so many occasions. Then He saved me, He raised me, He filled me with His Holy Spirit, and He set me on a solid path, helping me along the way.
I felt silly for crying in Chick-Fil-A, but I just couldn't help it. God has brought me so far; such a long, long way. But there are so many people who don't know Him yet. They don't know what a life of freedom really is. And it's my (and your) job to help them get there.
I prayed for that young girl as I finished my meal. I didn't judge her because I saw myself in her. But as I prayed, I thanked God for that unexpected reminder of the way He's made me into a new creation. Not a perfect one, but a new one swimming in His grace.