A Slight Rebellion
I adored my first summer job, working on a roller coaster at a local amusement park. They could have asked me for payment, and I would’ve agreed. Mostly, I loved my coworkers. It was an early exposure to befriending people I hadn’t grown up with, and the diversity gave me a thrill. I grew up in a Christian home and had long settled my mind about affairs of juvenile rebellion. I wasn’t going to drink, smoke, or roll around in a backseat with boys, but I still had a tendency to live right on the edge of where I knew my parents drew their lines. Which was why I was frustrated when they told me I couldn’t attend a party one of my coworkers was throwing after work one weekend. Didn’t they know I was a good girl? No matter. I had my ways. Why they weren’t suspicious when I told them I was going to spend the night at a friend’s house that same night is a testimony to their good grace, but it left me free and clear to go to the party.
The amusement park was only a mile or two from my home, and although I was sixteen, I hadn’t done much high- way driving, so I arranged to follow a friend out to the party. Cincinnati, Ohio, sits on the Indiana border, but it still was a bit of a shock later that night to cross state lines and eventually land in Lawrenceburg, Indiana.
It didn’t take me more than twenty minutes to realize this wasn’t my scene. The gnawing in my stomach and the loneliness of not joining the revelry left me regretting my choices. It was too early to ask to follow someone home, so feigning bravery I didn’t have, I told my host I wasn’t feeling well and was going to head back. I vaguely recalled how to get from his house to the highway.
On the drive toward Cincinnati, there was a place where the highway split. Having never driven this far away, I relied more on the city names on the signs than the direction the roads were leading. One way led north to Columbus, Ohio, and that didn’t seem right. The other way led south to Cincinnati, and that felt more familiar, so I took it. Turned out, as I crossed the Kentucky state line, I was wrong. This night of deception was going from bad to worse, and three states later, I was lost.
This was before cell phones or GPS. My choices were extremely limited, and my prayers grew frantic. I made some crazy pleas to Jesus: “If you get me home, I promise . . .” But he had more for me this evening than a direct route home. Finally, realizing I couldn’t get myself out of this mess, I fished around the car for a quarter, pulled over to a dark corner where the telephone booth was, and, taking a deep, humble breath, called home.
I started to cry when my father answered. “Dad, I’m lost. I’m sorry. I know you think I’m with Angie, but I’m not. I crossed the bridge and now am somewhere in Kentucky, and tonight I’ve been to Indiana and I know we live in Ohio and I don’t know how to get back to you . . .”
God bless him. He answered calmly, “I’m glad you called me. Just tell me where you are, and I’ll lead you home.”
Just a Reflection
My Dad was great, but he was still just a dim reflection of the Father who stamped his nature in him. God is where that coming-for-you feeling originates. He was only a shadow of it.
On certain days, I find myself spiritually having traveled to three states on my way to doing things on my own, and I get lost. Eventually, I have to metaphorically pull over and humbly call my heavenly Father, who always answers with something like, “I’m glad you called me. Tell me where you are, and I’ll lead you home.”
For me, the fight comes between the decision to do the wrong thing and the realization I am lost. That conversation with myself needs to get shorter. It can consist of self-loathing (Why am I here again?), self-defense (I deserve to make a mistake every once in a while), self-righteousness (I am better than the other girl; she’s been lost a lot longer), and self-pity (I am always lost). Whichever direction it goes, it’s wholly focused on me. I can’t get to a place of surrender until I acknowledge how my pride, fear, or whatever it is that tripped me up today got me here. Then when I throw it at the cross, it changes into a conversation about God, and I begin a journey back home.
(an excerpt from the author’s book, Start With Amen)