I'm starting this post right about the same time that this little old event Sanctuary was starting to gather together in a church in Nashville one year ago today. It was the start of the night when my life as I knew it completely fell apart and God pieced back together a life I never imagined I'd be able to find.
I still remember everything about that night in crystal clear detail, even without reading the blog recap about it. I hope I always do.
I remember the sights, the music, the people praising God with complete freedom, sitting next to Bruno shaking as I realized God was doing something huge in my heart.
I remember walking up to part of the ministry team on one side of the stage, unsure if I was allowed to talk to them because they were guys and I'm a girl. I remember trying to explain what my need was, but barely making it halfway through before tears started uncontrollably pouring down my face. I remember the four guys surrounding me, praying God's truth into my heart when all I could think at the time is "what is going on right now??" I remember the sobs making my body shake, but in the good way. I remember realizing that guy #4 was Joe, and him holding me and encouraging me until I was ready to let go. I remember telling him I'd never felt more broken in my life.
I remember sitting back down next to Bruno, trying to calm down and stop crying, still unable to figure out what was happening, being so overwhelmed by the fact that I just knew my whole life was going to change before I left that church.
I remember hearing God scream at me to go get baptized (at least it felt like He was screaming) as soon as Adam, the singer, mentioned baptistery pools. I remember not even looking at Taylor when I asked him where to go. I remember walking directly into Brennan and not realizing he was one of the guys who had prayed over me until he said hello. I remember my voice shaking as I asked him if I could get baptized.
I remember my whole body shaking and my hand gripping Brennan's tightly as we walked from the too-hot pool behind the stage to the one in the lobby, and that only partially being because my feet were wet and it was a tile floor. I remember thinking I couldn't believe it was actually happening. There, of all places. I remember smiling as Brennan explained what I was about to do meant exactly. I remember coming up out of the water and being so overwhelmed I felt numb. I remember Brennan asking me how I felt and not being able to speak. I remember the girl I didn't know coming up to hug and congratulate me and still not being able to thank her...or say anything at all.
I remember the importance of what I'd just been a part of not really hitting me until Brennan and I got up onstage, he lifted my arm in the air, and the room packed with hundreds of strangers busted out in applause and cheers, celebrating with me. It really happened. And even more than that, I realized that for the first time in my life, I was comfortable and at peace in the middle of a large Christian community. I knew I was loved by so many people who knew nothing about me.
I remember the looks on Bruno and Taylor's faces after I changed and got back to them. I remember seeing them celebrate with me and realizing that they really were my brothers, not just my friends or a band I'm a fan of. I remembering saying I had to have a picture with them, because I wanted to remember how they were there to witness this enormous transformation and celebrate with me. It's my favorite picture I've ever gotten with those two.
I remember getting a picture with Brennan because I wanted to remember him and how I felt like God was using him specifically to reach me. A year later, so many ups and downs, and I still treasure the memories we have. I remember my friends telling me after I got back and showed them the picture that I looked like I was glowing. I remember thinking that never in my life had I met someone so instantly dedicated to helping me know the Lord better. I remember making him promise me that he would never stop helping people, and him making me promise that I'd never forget how I felt that night.
I remember getting one picture in front of the pool because I had to remember the place where I was baptized into Christ.
I remember not wanting to leave Taylor and Bruno, knowing that night would be the last time I would see them because I was leaving early the next morning. I remember the looks on Callie and Phoebe's faces when Taylor told them what God had done. I remember knowing I had to leave, getting back to the girls' house and laying in bed for close to two hours just reflecting on how one simple night went from "I'm gonna hang out with two of my best guy friends and listen to some good worship music" to "God chased me down, broke me, and I became a member of God's eternal family in the span of a few hours." I remember wondering why God thought that I was worth it when I'd spent so much of my life hating Him and running as far away from Him as possible, but being so ecstatic about what He had done. I felt secure, truly, completely, and wholly secure, for the first time in my life.
I pray that night is forever etched into my memory as if it happened yesterday. Today has been a joyful day as I've reflected on how far God alone has taken me in the span of a year. He got me back to church. He got me to trust a church family without fear. He planted and fostered the desire to read my Bible. He's taken the gratitude I had for my story before and magnified it a hundred fold as He has brought me countless opportunities, things only He could do, to share my story and tell people of the amazing, merciful, wonderful God that I serve. He has proven Himself to me time and time again even though He didn't have to, and He has surrounded me with my own "prayer team", a group of Godly, compassionate friends with whom I can be completely open and honest without fear of judgment.
Because I now have the powerful security that only He can provide, I find myself getting less and less freaked out with each medical trial. When I landed in the hospital just days after my baptism, I was so terrified that I replaced God with Brennan and Taylor. Now, I find myself learning more every day about how to use my friends as a source of support and not to shove God out of the way in order to rely on them. I've learned He really is the only one I can rely on. And because I'm learning that, I think that's why I'm having less bad, scared, weak days and more days where I truly believe that God is in control and fully trust Him. I am so far from the person I was a year ago, and I'm blessed to have several people who have walked with me ever since that night who aren't shy about reminding me of the transformation they've seen and encouraging me to keep down this path.
This has certainly been a year of testing, trial and growth. The evil in this world has tested me to see if I would hold on to the faith I have found, and while I wavered at points, I never let go of the God who has kept a tight grasp on me even when I thought He didn't see me. It's been a year full of ups and downs, for sure, but through it all, I have learned that I have a Father who is always constant and always present. It's been year of learning to let go of my false belief that I am in control. I have gone farther in a year than I ever could have imagined, but it's so fitting because that's just the kind of God I have for a Father.
I didn't fully understand all that I had been missing until it was mine. And now that I've experienced the depths of love and grace that my God has for me, I am never giving up. After all the blessings He has brought me, after He went to such great lengths to make me His fully and wholeheartedly, I owe Him everything. And no matter what the enemy tries to do to break me, I know he'll never win. My heart belongs to God, now and forever. I am His and He is mine. And it all started at a brand new church in a city I'd never visited before. Woodmont Hills will always be an important piece of my story, and I pray I get to go back and worship there in person before 2013 is over.
I first heard this song at church this semester and immediately fell in love with it. The more I listened to it, the more I thought it reminded me of my baptism and the journey I've been on since, so I think that's a perfect way to end this post.
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.
'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved. How precious did that grace appear, the hour I first believed.
The Lord has promised good to me. His word my hope secures. He will my shield and portion be, as long as life endures.
My chains are gone. I've been set free. My God, my Savior has ransomed me. And like a flood, His mercy rains.
UNENDING LOVE, AMAZING GRACE.
(If anyone from Sanctuary reads this who was there that night, please know you will always have a special place in my heart. Thank you for loving this stranger.)
(There will be a medical update tomorrow. I wanted tonight to be about this and this alone.)