I was completely without hope, an empty structure filled only with shadows. A skinny chain-smoking old lady at the age of 25, exhausted really, not due to my physically challenging work running a restaurant or the mentally tiring job of trying to be a good mother during the 36 minutes a night I had with my kids after working all day. I was worn out by life. At 25, I had seen a lot, felt a lot, and experienced a lot that had beat me down. Growing up with abuse, neglect, and alcoholism had left scars that pulled at me like too-tight stitches, reminding me of their presence even while I fought to cover them up and get on with what I needed to do to survive. It was the push and pull that exhausted me and then someone close to me died, someone I felt I had failed, not been there for, when he needed me, and the wounds of not being good enough, of hurt and failure broke open. I was losing the battle on all fronts and I became a walking zombie, dried up, going through the motions with an ache piercing and deep, I just wanted to lie down and go into a sleep where I could not feel. I was completely without hope and too tired to care. Not everyone needs to be in such a place of darkness to find the light. This is just my story.
This was the futile place I was existing in on the day a tall man wearing a brown fringed jacket walked into the cafe and stood near the door waiting for me to help him. I was swamped with customers and our other waitress had not shown up yet. I had just received a call that the dishwasher had called in sick, and unprofessionally hollered this fact back to the kitchen where my partner was frantically cooking. It was one of those days. “I will be right with you.” I spoke to the man in a whirl as I carried plates of food to the family seated near the window. I stopped on my way back to take an order from three ladies out for their weekly lunch and when I headed back to sit the guy at the door, he was gone. Darn! I thought. Just lost a customer!
I walked back towards the opening that led to the kitchen and was shocked to see this stranger at the cafe’s kitchen sink. He had his arms covered in suds and was intently scrubbing and loading dishes. What? “What are you doing?” I asked. He looked up from his task. “I heard you say your dishwasher called in sick so I thought I would help.” What? I thanked him and told him I would buy him lunch for helping us. “I didn’t really come in here to buy anything or to eat. I am hitchhiking into Salt Lake City (common practice back then-not anymore and for good reason) and just wanted to know if I could park my truck in your parking lot for a few days until I get back.” I glanced out the front window to where he was pointing at an old rusted-out gold-brown ’52 Ford pickup.
“Of course you can.” I looked at him again ‘He certainly put off a harmless vibe. “But, hey, since it has slowed down and the other waitress is here now. How about if I give you a ride halfway?” Again, this is not a safe idea, but it is the truth of what happened so I am telling it.
As we drove for the hour it took to get to Provo, I rattled on about my present life in an attempt to not allow any uncomfortable silence. I think back on it now and can’t believe what I was telling him. I poured out anger, frustration, bitterness about things that were happening around me with very few drops of my own accountability. I was mad at the world and it showed. He, on the other hand, said very few words. I kept expecting him to flirt with me a little bit (remember the murky mirror? Yep-still there) or tell me something about himself, but he just listened and nodded every so often, until we pulled up to where I was letting him off.
As he reached for the door handle to get out, he looked me square in the eye and spoke authoritatively, “You know what you need- you need Jesus in your life.” Who? What? He said it without judgement. He said it without disdain or drama. It was not an eloquent statement or backed with scripture. It was just stated with such absolute assurance that I was taken aback. He thanked me for the ride and started walking towards the freeway entrance to continue his journey.
I had an hour drive back the other direction to think about what he said. What? He must be crazy! He must be a religious fanatic! He must not like girls! He must think I have real problems! Somewhere along that hour drive by myself, my thoughts changed from “he” to “me” and I started thinking again of how much I had failed in my short long life. I went back to work, but could not get his words out of my head. I got home late that night after everyone was asleep.
I went into my bedroom and knelt next to my bed- the whole time telling myself this was nuts. “Okay, Jesus, if you are really there, if there really is a God, I need you now. I have made such a mess out of my life and really don’t have anywhere to turn, but to You. So, if you are real, I need you in my life.” Surprisingly, I climbed into bed and went to sleep.
As strange as this might seem, I woke up feeling lighter. I truly did. That is the best way to describe it-lighter- without as heavy a burden weighing me down. A few days later, the stranger came back to get his truck and walked in and handed me some reading material on the Gospel of Jesus and inviting Him into my life.
I have reminisced much over the years about the miracle that happened to me. I have heard stories of similar transformations and stories of quiet faith growing over time. I have wondered if, for me, the darkness to light was so dramatic because I had never given Jesus much (if any) thought before this day. I did not grow up hearing of Him in my home. I did not travel in circles where He was talked about. Again, I had just never thought about Him before.
I believe the other factor was my starting point of complete hopelessness- an empty vessel unable to even imagine that things in my life could get better. All of a sudden I had an “expectation of hope”. For me, this was life-changing glorious.
I fell in love with Jesus. In addition to hope, I started to learn about His grace, His unconditional love, His guidance. I learned that not everything I was doing was a failure. I was being so hard on myself. I learned that everyone falls short-not just me- but that His forgiveness (with trust and repentance) is all encompassing- makes me clean again- whiter than snow. I heard with new ears (I remember specifically listening to common Christmas songs that December with a joyous first-time understanding of what they meant); I saw with new eyes. I wanted to know more.
The truth of this miracle was that some parts of me were healed instantly. I was given hope, a new life, the unconditional love of a Savior. Some things took years: self-forgiveness, understanding grace, learning the many aspects of the nature God. Some of my most broken parts, including my self-worth and people pleasing tendencies, He is still healing bit by bit-washing them slowly with rivulets of mercy.
Jesus is called, “the Living Water” that fills our souls in such a way that we will never thirst again. There are many places in the Bible related to water flowing, cleansing, miracles. I am so grateful that turning my “Failure Faucet” life over to the “Fountain of Faith which is Jesus Christ- my Lord and Savior- has created a cascade of forgiveness, growth, peace, and joy. Oh, I have still made plenty of mistakes (big ones) and have had some huge challenges and tragedies along this journey of healing, but never again have I felt that complete emptiness, complete hopelessness, complete darkness. Not for all these years. It is a miracle. Thank you, Lord.
Thank you so much for joining me. Next week, I will take you with me to a mountain cabin with no electricity and no running water where I lived for close to nine years. If you want to read the password protected chapter “Turning Off the Failure Faucet” please message me or text me your email address or comment on a post and provide your email on contact area. I am so grateful for your understanding, grace, and support!
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 NIV
If interested, check out the companion mini-study to this blog. “Turning on the Fountain of Faith- Study”