As a thirteen year old teen whose parents were in the middle of a messy marital separation, fleeing was a regular part of my life. I fled from home, I fled from school, and I fled from reality. Drugs became my alternate reality – a safe place where I could temporarily flee from the pain of a confused life.
I will always remember the “charismatic coffee house” that a friend and I attended weekly. Her parents were faithful Christians and undoubtedly they believed this was a great idea. However, they weren’t fully aware of what exactly it was that we did there. Though it was a good environment for two wayward teens to hang out at, we snuck outside and smoked dope, returning to the service with a new perspective on the cool things happening inside. There were always plenty of “munchies” and the combination of Pentecostals, Methodists, Baptists Lutherans, and even Catholic nuns, speaking in tongues, raising their hands and praising God, was, well, “Far out!”
I was drawn to the power and love that I always felt in that place, even before I got high. The people all seemed so genuinely happy, and the other teens that were there, even though they were totally “square” had something I didn’t. They were completely confident in being hopelessly square, and “born again Christians.” How can it be?
One night, I had an experience that was so compelling, it drew me. I knew for the first time what I was experiencing was the awesome presence of God. One of the teens talked to me for hours about Jesus and I could sense his presence. By the end of the night, I had prayed the sinners prayer, and had accepted Christ as my Savior. I vowed to live for him.
It lasted about two weeks.
Far from the Christian environment, far from the unity among those believers, back among my friends where my acceptance was gained by dealing drugs and giving them away, back among the chaos of my home life – my new-found faith was very far away. “What are you some Jesus freak? Come on Jamie, get over it.” Acid was much more real to me in that time and place than faith. I was alone.
Jamie, hear my voice. I am. I AM. Relentless pursuit.
There are those who would argue I was always “saved”, there are those who would argue I was never “saved”, there are those who would argue I was “fallen away” – doesn’t matter what doctrine you choose – it’s not the point – the fact is I was far from God living a life of sin.
He however, was not far from me. Relentless pursuit.
That experience created in me a never-ending desire to find that peace again. I never stopped looking – from southern Christian churches who turned me away by their non-acceptance of my cigarette smell, dirty jeans or bra-less t-shirts, to Eastern Religions like Buddhism and Baha’ism, I was on a quest.
I have loved you with an everlasting love. (Jer. 31:3)
God brought Dave to me to teach me unconditional love, to challenge my morality, and to question our place in eternity.
God set us next door to Christians who daily helped us by bringing us water when the well in our new home ran dry to teach us about him, and how his church functions. (Rom.12)
And even though we found Jesus in a Christian cult and spent many wounded from it, God brought us person after person, event after event, situation after situation to confirm His existence, and his never-ending grace.
The more we run, the more tired we get. Eventually I chose to fall into the embrace of the God who loves me, I chose to live a different life, to let him change me, mold me, deliver me from the harm I was going to myself.
“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit…” Eph. 1:13
Just like the song – where can you flee, where can you hide, God is there. He is pursuing you. Fall into his arms.