Thanks Be To God. May you find Him now.
I walked around my old stomping grounds downtown Toronto last week when I was visiting the city. I took this picture of the Old City Hall. In the basement of this building is a jail cell that held me while I awaited a court hearing. I was a messed up, broken, addicted young woman - so very lost. A Salvation Army officer, Lt. Col. Joyce Ellery worked at the Headquarters just down the street and she came to visit me.
She came armed with a lawyers card and a hug. She hugged me and whispered in my ear that she loved me. I did not get it. It would be very true to say I did not receive it. I was too hard, too lost, too broken, too high. But when Joyce left my cell, I was all alone and that's when He came. Jesus showed up in that cell. I can't really explain it to you. But somehow, I had an experience of a spiritual nature that felt VERY real. He showed up in my jail cell and did the exact same thing that Joyce had done. He hugged me and whispered in my ear that he loved me. That's when everything started to change. I describe it as someone turning on a light.
Now, when I say this we go all Disney in our heads. We imagine that Jesus sprinkled magic fairy dust on me and I was forever changed, transformed in an instant. This is not what happened. What happened was the false image of God I had was shattered. I thought God was mad at me (for good reason). I thought I was in trouble (I was in jail!). But Jesus came with open arms and unconditional love. He welcomed me home.
So, it's true to say that I began to see things another way. I even saw my own pathetic condition. In my drugged rebellion I thought jail was kind of badass. I was excelling at it. But love opened my eyes to see the truth of the situation I was in. I woke up to who God was and who I was. I saw that I was broken and messed up and all alone and locked up. I suddenly saw things for what they truly were. Perhaps this is what Jesus means when He says the truth will set us free?
So, I began a journey. The invitation to follow Jesus started in a holding cell in that City Hall all those many years ago. It's been a long road since then. An adventurous life filled with pain and joy, success and failure, and one I wouldn't trade for anything.
Thanks be to God. May you find Him now.
As I stood outside that building I couldn't help but remember the words of Psalm 103 which I'm writing on thanksgiving day in Los Angeles 26 years later.
Let all that I am praise the LORD; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name. Let all that I am praise the LORD; may I never forget the good things he does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!