Protection for a Wandering Teen – part 3

My teacher in first grade Sunday school taught me Bible stories, the Catholic church taught me about reverence, the Baptist church showed me the grace and salvation of God, but I still needed someone to teach me who God is and what I needed to do in order to live a good and healthy life (Romans 6:16).

Once I was confirmed, I attended Sunday services by myself but that was still not enough. I was looking for something more (Psalm 119:131-135). Therefore, at the age of 14, I accepted the invitation of a couple school friends to go to a weekly youth group at the local Catholic church. Our leaders were out of the hippy era and taught us relational concepts. Ironically, it was through the kids in this group that I was exposed to some of the typical sins of youth. But yet, they were my “gang.” A few of us did everything together. They were probably looking for the same sense of love and belonging that I was looking for because when I spent time in their homes, I never saw the presence of family.

At this point in my life, my mother’s drinking and the drugs she was taking for her schizophrenia caused her to stay in bed all day; and my father spent all his time watching television. Therefore, I didn’t spend much time at home.

God gave me extra grace and protection during these years as He waited for me to find my way. I was walking the streets of North Minneapolis all by myself in the middle of the night and my friend and I were getting the phone numbers of strangers off the jam line and then meeting these people in random locations (that would be equivalent now days to meeting strangers you talk to on the internet).

Those angels must have also been walking with me through the halls of North High School. When I was just a freshman, I quickly learned that I shouldn’t go into the park across the street or I might get shot, I should blend in so I didn’t get beat up, and I shouldn’t walk the halls by myself between classes. I figured that last one out the hard way when I thought “the nice girls were just opening the door for me.” It was a double set of doors that led outside. They let me through the first set of doors but wouldn’t let me out the second set. Therefore, I was trapped in the entryway with them. But God supplied a way out. Not a minute later, the fearsome hall guard happened to be in that part of the school and came around the corner so the girls quickly backed down and opened the door. After that, I can recall using the bathroom only one time during those four years of high school. Thankfully, band, writing for the school paper, and golf were not cool “sports” so I could find something constructive to do during those high school years.

After a couple years with the Catholic youth group, and at the age of 16, I wasn’t attending church much at all and I moved out from under my parents’ roof to an apartment behind their house. I was still trying to find my way without adult supervision and was searching to fill that longing I had for fulfillment and meaning. I was reading the Bible but this was the era of the New King James Version so I didn’t quite understand it all yet.

Then I ended up in a serious relationship and became a person with divided loyalties (James 4:8). This guy was antagonistic towards God and I was still that 11 year old little girl hoping and praying that one day I could have a healthy Christian home. Without direction and accountability in my life, this relationship and his words continued to entice me and drag me away from my dream (James 1:14).

As I floundered around trying to figure out life, the Holy Spirit was still present and God was drawing me to Himself. No matter what I was involved in, I still felt a strong need to read my Bible every night before I went to bed in order to calm my spirit (John 14:27). The “Cinderella” story of Joseph became my favorite Bible story. As I prayed for wisdom and discernment, I spent years in the Psalms calling out to God and in the Proverbs learning what my parents were never able to teach me themselves. In my next blog, God answers those prayers.

A Young Child’s Journey & Prayer – part 2

As I mentioned in my last blog, my hope has always been grounded in God’s love for me. Whether my schizophrenic mother was consciously aware of it or not, she also knew deep down that is where I would find hope (Psalm 71:5-6). She allowed me to go to church with an elderly neighbor woman who asked to take me to Sunday school. As a six-year-old, I did not weigh the options as to why or which church I should attend, and I didn’t even fight with my mother saying I didn’t want to go. As soon as she told me, it was just something I felt drawn to do (John 6:44).

This is where my journey with the church begins. I can still see that first grade Sunday school class and feel the warmth of its environment. Even though I had to sit in a hard pew for the next hour listening to the pastor go on and on about things I couldn’t understand and for what seemed like hours, I still felt drawn to this environment full of happy sounds and loving people. And, it could have been that I welcomed the attention and the fact that somebody cared about me. The desire to attend church was so strong that I wasn’t even deterred on the day when the neighborhood kids were lined up in my front yard yelling and spitting at me as I walked from my front door to the car waiting to take me to church.

I’m sure that woman and her family had no idea that giving a poor simple little girl a ride to Sunday school would have such an impact on her life. God truly can do big things through simple displays of love. So, it was unfortunate that after only a year or so, the elderly neighbor moved away and there was no one to take me to church.

It was in 1968 and the beginning of desegregation when I was entering the third grade. The city wanted to bus me and my brother down to a school in the poorest, and most dangerous, part of town. However, my proud and stubborn father was able to get us assistance and enrolled us in a Catholic school instead. Private education still didn’t guarantee a friendlier environment for me. I still had to endure two years of bullying by one classmate in particular. It is amazing how verbal ridicule and threats can be as scary and as painful as the actual act of physical abuse.

I was not Catholic, therefore, I was not required to go to Mass but I wanted to go anyway. As an eight year old, I would get up early and walk the half-mile alone to school so I could attend Mass before school started. The peace and comfort I experienced from being in the church was compelling and comforting.

By the fifth grade, I was pulled from the Catholic school to attend a public school closer to home and God provided another way for me to continue my journey towards Him. That was when the Fourth Baptist Church sent a bus into our neighborhood and offered rides to anyone who was interested in attending Sunday school. Not only was I excited to accept rides to Sunday school, but I also received rides to Wednesday Awana and Friday night youth events. It was at one of these Friday night events, on Jan 19, 1973, that I asked Jesus to save me from my sins and trusted Him as my savior (Romans 10:9).

Now that I had been lifted out of my neighborhood and was visiting the healthy Christian homes of the new friends I had made, I began to yearn for a loving Christian home of my own. As an 11 year old girl, I started praying and asking God to one day give me a Christian husband and family.

This part of my journey had a limited season as well. The friends I had made at the Baptist church moved away and I no longer felt comfortable going to church by myself. Therefore, since my parents didn’t like the baptist church, I decided to attend a nearby Lutheran church. As a witness to my new found faith, and since I had not been baptized as an infant, I begged my parents to let me and my siblings get baptized. It was a private ceremony with only me, my brother, sister and, of course my mother had to be there. As I hungered for more, I then asked if I could go through confirmation.

All through my childhood, God had been drawing me to Himself. As I referenced in my last blog, nothing can separate us from the love of God. However, I tried to walk away from Him and, unfortunately, I had a period of time in my later teen years where I lost my way. However, the Spirit did not let me forget who my Father was. No matter what I was involved in or experimenting with during those years in the 1970’s, I still felt compelled to read the scriptures before going to bed. I will talk about those years in my next blog.

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