But God

On Sunday morning, Karin emphasized one phrase in Ephesians 2: "But God." Throughout the Bible, that phrase shows that despite mankind's rebellion, sinfulness, willfulness, foolishness, or frightful circumstances, God establishes His will and purpose for our lives. He rescues us, He comforts us, He shelters us, He guides us, He plans good things for us.
At age 20, I felt so strongly about my faith that I decided to add a Biblical Studies degree plan to my already-busy pursuit of a chemistry degree. At age 22, I was so disillusioned with the divisiveness, judgmental character, and closed-mindedness of the denomination I'd grown up in, that I turned my back on God and declared myself an atheist. 
At first, it felt awful. I was at odds with my family, my mom cried herself to sleep every night, and I'd lost my entire culture and worldview. Then, for a while, things got better. I settled in, found new friends, and hit my stride. My relationship with my family improved, mom tamped down her misery and started praying herself to sleep at night, and I thought life was pretty good. Yet still, I felt this aching sense of need. Work & marriage & social life just didn't feel like it was enough. I tried taking on side jobs - piano teaching, crochet teaching, selling needlework; I tried taking on more responsibilities at my "day job;" I tried adding more social activities. All I got was more stressed and less fulfilled.
Fast forward to age 30. God blessed me with a beautiful baby girl. Looking at her miraculous little face, her tiny little fingernails, her sweet-natured personality from day one, I started to doubt my atheism, but I'm stubborn. Gradually, though, my life began to disintegrate. My marriage was tension-filled and falling apart, my anxiety was through the roof, my dissatisfaction with work was at an all-time high, and my health was on a rapid decline. I'd lie awake at night, my heart pounding through my chest, and pray, "God, I don't believe in you, but please don't let me wake up tomorrow." I left behind my marriage, my job position, and where I was living. I was at the proverbial "rock bottom."

But God...

But God had other plans for me. Looking back on that time, I can see that God was ready with open arms to welcome me, forgive me, and nurture me back to life and health. He'd heard my mother's prayers, and in His timing, He scooped me up. He put the right people in my life at the right time, and they loved me enough to ask me hard questions about my lack of faith. They asked me to examine everything - my work, my side-projects, my way of life. And here I am, ten years later, telling you stories about how much I am flourishing. My husband is amazing, my daughter is a challenging-but-wonderful young human, my work is fulfilling, and God permeates every day.
Never underestimate God's desire for you to be whole. Never underestimate His ability to pick you up, dust you off, and set you on a path of His design.
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)... (Ephesians 2:4-5, NKJV)
Sarah Jo Smith; 2 March 2020; Austin TX

1 Comment

Barbie tompkins - March 6th, 2020 at 1:02pm

Dear sweet Sarah. Such a testimony to Gods power in our lives and his faithfulness. Was praying right along with your Mom and still am for my daughter. Love you! Aunt Barbir