God, reveal yourself to me! I want to know what your will for my life is!" she prayed as she hoisted her large backpack onto her back. Today was going to be different, she determined. She was going to witness for Christ today. She walked to the bus stop, praying for a divine encounter. She sat next to a woman on the bus who was reading her Bible. Confirmation! God does love me! She gently inquired about what church she went to, but after two more sentences, she had to get off and go her own way.
A twinge of loneliness crept up to Melissa's heart, but she tried to remind herself that Jesus was with her. Plus, youth group was the following night and they were going to have a late night worship time. Just as she awoke from daydreaming, her stop came.
She waited for her next bus, trying to not inhale the smoke wafting towards her. She was street smart. No one can hurt me... except, if she was honest, she would tell you that some people did make her uncomfortable. She pulled out her "Now-and-Laters" that she just got upstairs and chomped down on one. Yum. A small nervous habit? If it was, she didn't know it. I don't have any cavities... right now, and I have sealants, so it's fine.
Climbing onto the strangely empty bus, she realizes it will be a quiet ride. She would have read her Bible... maybe, but she hadn't finished her homework. With a little pit in her stomach, she tried to speed-read through the chapter and whip out a couple of paragraphs in response... Not the best, but it's ok.
Off the bus, she hoisted her bag and walked briskly through the park and over the bridge. She prayed as best as she could as she looked up at the trees. Fears were gone as she saw the rose bushes and the squirrels scurrying about. But then, once she reached the big metal doors of her high school, dread silenced her joy. It always felt as if she left Jesus outside... no matter how hard she tried. "I just want to be a 'bulldog for God' and witness for Him." But when she tried, she'd always end up isolating herself, and so from time to time, she'd just give in to all that peer pressure and do what felt good. As long as it wasn't a big sin, you know, like drugs and stuff.
At youth group, they'd dim the lights low and the worship team would play electric guitar and drums so no one had to see or hear each other. They could just worship to their heart's content. Sometimes she'd feel awkward but she never told her youth group leader.
Melissa felt led to skip lunch sometimes (not knowing it was also anorexia tempting her bones). She'd either make pottery up on the third floor, for which Ms. B praised her exceedingly, or go out under a tree and pray. Peace would cover her like a baby's blanket. Standing up, hoping to not be late, her peace fled away like the wind. The leaves swirled around her. She almost cried, but she didn't have time for that.
The flyers went up. "I'm really doing it! A Bible Study in the most liberal school around!" She made it sound inviting. "Come, make friends!" It was called "Circle." She didn't know why. She just wanted to live a more open life, having heart-to-heart conversations with a group of people with the same mind. Well, like-minded they were not. One was a Catholic, one was a Pentecostal, and she was a middle-of-the-road Protestant. The other girl was "Non-Denominational."
It only lasted a couple of weeks. Melissa was a senior and she wasn't interested in learning about the myriad of "Christian" faiths. She put four sugars in her coffee as she went on the Internet again to search for scholarships. Such a rat race!
Nicholas College or bust! She stuffed way too many possessions into the trunk of her parent's rented van. After the roller coaster ride of two years in school, she was headed for Indonesia to study abroad. No, it wasn't a missionary trip. (She later found out that most of the people there were already converted.) She was going to live in the mountains along with some locals, have classes, hike, and, to some extent, live like a Papuan. She'd been to other foreign countries before, so it wasn't a surprise for her to see poverty, disease, or even hear of witch-doctors, but what struck her, making a long-lasting impression, was the gatherings they had. They'd meet in a circle, talk and sing and she didn't feel that feeling of having to keep up appearances, as she had in church growing up. (Her father would always stop the arguing right before they went in.) It felt like a big family. Oh, did the tears roll down when it was time to say goodbye... There it goes again, the peace and security, left in Papua this time.
Back in America, materialism was reaching its annual peak. It was Christmas time. "Oh, no," she thought, "I want nothing to do with this." She held her breath until the season passed. Her possessions, far less this time, soon went into the trunk of her parent's car. Her cat, Misty, hesitantly rubbed up against her legs, but then quickly scampered away. She wasn't used to Melissa anymore, and her luggage still smelled like Papuan grass.
Four hours later, she kissed her mother goodbye. The school looked a little different. She went to chapel the next morning. Row by row, all the students looked up and sang, not caring whether there was love or hate in their hearts for the person two rows back. One heart and one mind? She thought. She started only going because she had to.
The little house church she began going to was nice for a while, until the self-condemnation started turning her hair gray. She didn't sleep well at night. She felt like a dud of a Christian. Eventually, she found excuses to slip away from their "fellowship."
The next Christmas break, her mother eagerly brought her to her newly found treasure -- the Common Ground Cafe! Golden upside-down basket lamps lit up all the angles of wood. It was beautiful, but Melissa was there for another reason. Her mother had told her these people were Christians who lived together. She privately confided in a couple having their lunch break. "I know that I don't love Jesus enough," she said. She went on, spilling out how she felt paranoid about overeating, with a zip-locked half of a sandwich sitting on the table in front of her.
They did not preach at her. Actually, she hardly remembered what they said; all she felt was compassion and acceptance and she knew she'd never felt that before in all her young life. She'd never seen such sweet smiles and such a life that backed up the words of the Bible. The couple handed her a folded invitation to their house for a Sabbath Celebration. She dared to consider moving in with them, but her friends told her not to do anything stupid. College life swallowed her back up again.
Her last semester was filled with vigorous studying, anxiety, and too many cookies. She only had one friend, who was soon to be lost, too.
She graduated and was forced to return home to Boston. Receiving your Bachelor's degree does not guarantee you a job better than Brueggers Bagels, so she chose not to work. Pottery! She'd revert to her old idol. All she met was misery and despondency. One night, she stayed up late searching the Internet for "How to live the true Christian life." Misty jumped up onto the desk. "Not now," she whispered, "Go away. I have to get to the bottom of this," swatting her away.
Scarfing down a piece of banana bread slathered in peanut butter and honey, it hit her. Those people at the cafe! She looked up
twelvetribes.com and rapidly read their FAQ. She wanted to decide for herself. She was filled with life as she read, each explanation causing her heart to leap. She was no longer interested in her mother's unfounded concerns. She opened up the well-worn invitation. It tore in her hands as she read for the last time. "I'm going," she said to herself, and went to bed.
The next night came quickly. "Bye, Mom! Don't worry!" she called out as she left, taking the bus and then the train to their house. The whole time, it had only been fifteen minutes away from where she grew up. She immediately noticed how impeccably clean the house was. The children were kind and happy. Every new find drove her love deeper. She made friends that night.
Had it really only been one night? In their gatherings, where they met in a circle, they spoke openly about the deep things they were learning. They were actually being healed and sanctified by their heavenly Father!
They had a lovely meal together and she told them she'd be back. A few days later she moved in. No, her family did not understand. Her brother tried to deprogram her, and his wife screamed at her. Melissa's sister wept. None of her family knew anything about them, though.
A sacrifice is something you give up for something that is greater. Melissa cared for her family, but she would not deny the chance to live a life that was pleasing to God. She chose to follow Yahshua.
Yes, this story is about me. Now, my friends call me Amtsah Tamiymah, which means "determined and sincere." I'm thankful to be enrolled in the "University of Yahshua," where I'm learning how to be pleasing to God. I've been a disciple now for nearly seven years, and like peeling away the layers of an onion, the Creator of the universe is taking His time, healing me more and more deeply.
I want to bring honor to Him, and I would never have been able to do it without my faithful brothers and sisters!
We learn a lot, every day!
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