submitted by Donna S.

My story isn’t one specific circumstance but a whole bouquet of ones!

I started the Leap study a week late but as we all know, there are no mistakes with God! The recent journey I have been on for a little over a year has been the most difficult by far. To say I was in a crisis of faith is an understatement. Even saying that grips my heart. I was raised in the church, so how could that even be possible to say!? Easy….what I was brought up to believe about WHO God is, I’m learning, was/is so far off the mark it’s sad. God was someone to be feared, someone to hide from, someone who can never be pleased….especially in me! I was taught that the reason tragedy hit my family was because I (or someone in my family) was sinning. So, at a tender young age of 16, I carried the blame for my father’s crippling accident, my mother’s diagnosis of AIDS (she contracted the virus caring for a patient) as well as my father’s subsequent massive heart attack. God was punishing those I love because of something I did. But I didn’t even know what it was that I did. All I knew was that people were in pain and it was my fault.

As life continued on, how was I to ever trust in this God? What I knew of Him was not love, but pain. Someone I needed to hide from because I was an obvious disappointment. There was no way He purposely created me let alone love me or would even consider blessing me!

Life found me again at Journey after 15 years and it all began with the series on the Prodigal when I started to catch a glimpse of hope. “Maybe God really does love me!?” “Maybe I don’t disappoint Him!” “Maybe what I was taught all these years was wrong?” “Maybe….just maybe, He won’t leave me!”

That series was the new platform that God has been using to complete this emotional autopsy I have been undergoing. Now it was time to take it to the next level.

For years, I have stood on the outside looking in at the goodness of God! His love, blessing, grace, mercy and presence was always for someone else to encounter but I was destined to only observe. I knew He saved me years ago but had resigned myself to be the broken down shack in the outermost parts of heaven. I had secured my eternal joy but my present joy would always be just beyond my reach. I had stopped even trying to get it. My arms had grown tired of being outstretched for it, my streams of tears that had turned into oceans of pain had run dry.

For reasons I can’t define other than I knew something was different here at JCC, I kept coming back. I found myself drawn to this Leap of Faith study and decided to give it one more try. Just once more, I will lay the deepest parts of my heart’s desires down and see if God is really there. I reluctantly allowed myself to feel those desires as I wrote them down feeling that nagging sense of “you know it will never happen so why pray?” settling in on me like a dense fog. God had strategically placed people around me here at Journey who were bombarding me with truth but I couldn’t manage to own it for myself and I’m still in that process. I have been so disappointed in the past. So wounded. So betrayed. So…..forgotten!

I made a decision to, for one week, give up a meal and use that time to specifically pray for what I wanted God to do for me, for those on my list and for the church. It didn’t take long for God to do His thing.

He took that smaller than a mustard seed sized faith and began to show up. I would spend my time praying. When I would get to reading the devotional for the day, I was continuously blown away. The very things I felt led to pray for were verbatim in the devotional for that particular day. That didn’t just happen one time; it happened every single day….and continues to happen. He is relentless in His pursuit of my heart and I am starting to see God for who He REALLY is, not who I was taught He was.

For me, taking a leap in to faith was never going to happen. This arduous journey has been an inch at a time. But with each progressive inch, hope grows. Acceptance grows. Love grows. I know that inch will grow into a foot. Then a yard. Then a stride. Before long, I am quite certain I will be sprinting towards that edge and when I do finally leap, it will be with absolutely reckless abandonment because I will know that I know that I know WHO HE IS!

My present pain drives me to keep looking. As many times as I have thought about walking away, I can’t. He won’t let me. I hate the road sometimes. It hurts. I’m tired of falling down. I’m tired of bleeding. I’m tired of sleeping but not resting. The drive within me to keep on going is not of this world. I am beginning to understand on a different level that when He says He starts a work that He will complete it……He really means it! That perseverance is from heaven downward being infused in to me.

When it finally happens, I know my leap will be something to behold and I can’t wait to see how God will use the gifts and abilities I KNOW He has given me as they are intertwined with the stuff in this life that He has allowed. Its going to be worth it.

If I could encourage folks in any area it would be this…..don’t negate the slow burn! Don’t think that because your story doesn’t have a BAM!!! moment that there isn’t one to be told or that there isn’t one building. Everyone has a story. We don’t all jump out of a boat and walk on the waves. Some of us observe the wave-walkers and the seed breaks and life begins to sprout! A single flower is beautiful on its own. A bouquet of flowers is breathtaking and its fragrance fills a room. Just like that little “faith moment” that happened in your day. Once combined with all the other little moments, it will at some point fill the room of your heart and the fragrance of Christ will be evident to those around you.

The leap is coming……I feel the anticipation building…..