Some places are just places.
Not this one.
This place has meant many things to me. Pain, loss, escape . . . Most of my worst memories live here. Looming in my mind and heart has been this plot of earth representing all the darkest parts of who I am and of who others can be.
The year I turned 17 my family moved to a small town in rural Montana. The next year was full of broken things. Broken relationships, broken family, broken dreams, broken values, and broken belief.
In this place I lost all hope, and then lived like hope had never existed in the first place. It was as if I allowed my soul to drift away to sleep, and I didn’t care if it ever woke up again.
But, something shook me awake. Now, I believe that something was God. But, then? I just found myself awake and fiercely convinced I needed to run from whatever was keeping me in darkness. So, I ran – physically moving 500 miles away with my family in retreat.
Not long after that day, I met Jesus. He changed everything for me. I started to learn the voice of God and saw how faithfully He had been present in my life at every turn.
Cue: fast forward sound effect . . .
My husband and I took a trip to Montana recently with some friends. We found ourselves staying just an hour away from this tiny town I ran from 13 years prior.
It was as if a magnet I desperately wanted to shake was pulling me toward this place I’ve spent more than a decade trying to forget.
My husband reluctantly drove us the hour out of the way, north on HWY 93, so I could follow the pull.
As we rounded the familiar corner into town, I was surprised by how SMALL everything was. In my memory, the buildings were taller, sparse as they were. The valley, broader. The air, thicker.
Don’t we all tend to make things we are avoiding so much bigger in our minds than they actually are? We give power to things that are powerless.
We pulled over at this bridge that marks the edge of town. I got out of the car, walked to the viewpoint, and sat down to feel what drew me there.
I expected to feel regret, or sadness or all the old wounds fester once again. What I felt was none of those things. What did I feel?
Gratefulness that I am not who I was. The poignancy of that truth was thick staring at that bridge at the end of town.
In the place I once could only see darkness, I carried with me the light of Life.
In the place that once felt dead and hopeless, I had inside of me the Hope of the Resurrection.
In the place I once could not wait to escape, I now stood victorious knowing the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead lives in me. Who should I fear?
For me, that moment wasn’t about going back – I didn’t have anything I wanted to see. It wasn’t even about moving forward. God has been moving me forward for the last 13 years. By his grace and power, I have been made new.
That moment at that bridge was about Jesus and his victory over the darkness in me. I wanted to stand in the place I once rejected him and say thank you for loving me and choosing me – even there, even then.
That town may be just a place, but it’s a powerful thing to picture Jesus with you in even your darkest of days – to know that even when we refuse to recognize his presence he cannot stop being Emmanuel, God With Us.
“If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is.” – Paul, a leader in the early church, talking about God.
He cannot deny who he is.
Maybe you’ve spent years denying who you are. I know I did. I believed the lies that I was alone, deserving of any destruction I experienced, not ever enough, too far gone . . . I lived as if hope was dead.
But, Hope is alive. His name is Jesus, and he has conquered death. There is no such thing as too far gone. There is no place Jesus wouldn’t go to bring you back to life. There is no darkness too dark, no hole too deep and no loss too great to keep Jesus from loving and choosing you – even there, even then.
Jesus tells us who we are: alive and worthy of living, chosen and worthy of being chased, loved and worthy of being loved. No matter what. Then, now, and always.
Now, when I think of that place – the plot of earth that was once home to some of my worst memories – I will think of the greatness of my God and the lengths to which he has gone to make me new. When I think of that place, I will overflow with gratefulness to my Jesus.
What a gift it is to be loved by God.