Editor's note: Do you follow Cristina Baker (@itscristinabaker) on Instagram? She is full of prayer and encouragement from the Word of God! Enjoy this excerpt from her new book Hope in 60 Seconds about the people God used to love her when she felt unloveable and plant seeds of faith in her life.
By the time I showed up in Pennsylvania, I’d exhausted every option and was more than my family members could handle. I felt lost and confused, and the deeper my pain and isolation went, the less often I spoke. I found communication with people painful. I completely lost my voice. By this point I had totally shut down and refused to let anyone in — it was just easier that way.
If you have ever felt like this, then you understand. However, amazingly, God was at work for me behind the scenes. I had no idea that
- the same God who hung the stars and filled up the oceans saw me, heard my voiceless cry, and put people in my path to demonstrate His great love for me.
I walked up the porch steps, my brother and Coach Manzer behind me, and approached the front door, feeling nervous and scared all at once. I wasn’t sure what to expect anymore, and, quite frankly, I expected the worst. Before I even made it there, the front door swung open.
“Hello!” a woman said, a little too enthusiastically for me. “Welcome to our home!” I stood there with my head down, the visor of my hat pulled down low, covering my eyes. I managed a slight nod of acknowledgment. We walked into the house, and Sharon introduced me to her three sons, all grown.
“Come on in,” she motioned. “Can I take that for you?” She pointed to my duffel bag.
“Yes, ma’am,” I answered and handed it to her. She led me to the couch and invited us all to sit down. She sat down across from me, and I stared at the carpet. “Okay, we have just two rules. The first is that your curfew is 11:00 p.m.”
“The second is that you have to come to church with us every Sunday.”
I froze. Church? What? Why? I looked at her from the corner of my eye, totally shocked. But I’m an atheist! The thought of having to go to church every week seemed like a nightmare.
“Does that work for you?” she asked. I looked up at Coach Manzer, who had driven me there, but his face gave away nothing. I searched my brother’s face, but he just shrugged like, “You’re on your own, kid.” I let out a sigh. I needed a place to stay. I wanted a warm bed. Food.
“Okay, I’ll go to church with you.”
From then on, every Sunday, I would come down the steps wearing pajamas, fuzzy slippers, and a black hoodie with obscene things on it, always expecting Sharon to say, “You can’t go to church like that!” but she never did.
Instead, as soon as she saw me, she would say, “Great! Let’s get in the car!” Then she would hand me some breakfast and head outside. Every Sunday.
In church I usually fell asleep on her shoulder. She would reach over with her other arm and place a finger on my forehead to keep me from falling forward into her lap. But she never complained, never told me to wake up or insisted I dress appropriately; she just wanted me in church.
The people at their church were friendly and genuine. One lady made a point to find me every week and tell me how happy she was that I made it to church and to thank me for coming. I would avoid eye contact at all costs and pull my hoodie over my head when I saw her coming. I listened to the pastor and would think, How can this be real? How can God be so good if there is so much evil in my life? I knew nothing but pain, rejection, and disappointment.
- I just couldn’t reconcile a good God with a life plagued by traumatic experiences.
But Sharon never gave up. She loved asking me questions about my life, including why I was an atheist. She countered my reasons with “The Bible says...” I didn’t believe the Bible. I always believed it was a fictional book, so I didn’t care, but the words were spoken over me nonetheless.
Sharon valued my opinion. I had never experienced that before. She would talk to me for hours, and slowly, I began to release my voice. I started talking. God was thawing out my frozen vocal cords just like He was thawing out my frozen heart.
- I received love and acceptance from this couple — unlikely heroes, angels unaware. They opened their hearts and their home to me for three years. They were Jesus to me, loving me for who I was, just as I was, without any pressure of trying to get me to change or be someone I wasn’t.
Sharon let me wear my hair whatever color I wanted, and she never tried to change how I dressed or the music I listened to. She never asked me to stop wearing black clothes and black makeup. One morning I woke up, went to my closet to get dressed, and said, “I don’t want to wear this stuff anymore. I don’t want to wear all black either.” Just like that, I was done with being a punk or a goth.
I stayed with them until I graduated from high school. When there had been absolutely no hope for me, and I had burned through all my family relationships, God positioned them to show up at just the right time.
- I needed to be at the end of my rope before I was willing to be loved.
The Hess family saved my life. From them I received approval, affection, comfort, and protection. I had rejected religion completely, but they demonstrated the love of God to me tangibly like I had never experienced before.
It would take ten years before the seeds they sowed sprung through the soil of my hardened heart and burst into life, but God knew the timing. He knew the seeds needed to be planted, and He used them to point me to Him simply through being solid and steady and kind. When life separated me from my family, God answered and provided for me through a different kind of family.
Adapted with permission from Hope in 60 Seconds by Cristina Baker, copyright Cristina Baker.
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You are loved by God right where you are! He loves you so much that He will put people in your path who will show you His face. Come to Him!
Friends, never never quit praying for your friends and loved ones who aren't walking with Jesus yet! And, be willing to be inconvenienced for the sake of others. You never know how much it will impact them for the Kingdom of God! Come share your thoughts with us. We want to hear from you! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full