This is Not Where I Thought I Was Going

The Part Where Things Get Weird

Here’s the point in my story where I have to write about something kind of weird so that the next installment will make sense. I’ve tried half a dozen times to get this post completed, and I’ve chickened out each time. Because writing about faith can get, well, weird.

I’m no theologian. But God and I have a history. I talk to Him all the time. And there have been a few times in my life when He’s talked back. Not in the out loud, “I hear a voice from heaven” kind of way. It’s always been more of a complete thought that just pops into my head, out of nowhere. Unexpected. Unexplained. Undeniable. And persistent.

I know…weird that I’d believe that, right? It kind of freaks me out, too.

Middle aged, middle class, conservative women – even Christian women – don’t just get messages from God out of the blue. And if we do, we don’t talk about it.

But, in order that the rest of my story will make sense, I have to share my convoluted journey of faith. It’s not my intent to proselytize. My responsibility is to tell my story. Whether or not anyone believes it is not my business.

Because I believe it. I believe that what I’m going to share is the primary reason that I was able to recover from an unexpected betrayal and do the one thing that no one would have ever expected of me. There wouldn’t be a white knight to save me. I had to trust the message and save myself.

A crazy flat-topped and disturbing storm cloud, lite from inside, rolls across a rural landscape.
I see God in nature’s fury.
If God can create this storm, I’d be crazy to think that He can’t talk to me if He wants to. Stock photo.

A complicated path

When I was a small child in rural Missouri, we went on Sundays to the little Baptist church with hard wooden pews and sang the old traditional hymns to the music of an ancient upright piano. Women still wore hats and gloves, and men wore their best suit of clothes. I answered the alter call early, but probably didn’t understand what “getting saved” meant. However, the seed of faith was planted. I still have the King James Bible that mom gave me on Good Friday, 1968.

After my parents divorced, mom’s second (and third) husband took us to his speaking-in-tongues Pentecostal church. I clearly recall the ladies grabbing my brother and sister and I when we walked in. They prayed mightily in words we did not understand for our salvation. As a divorced woman, it was “too late” for mom, but but there was still a chance for us.

I got saved again in self defense. We said we were lucky that they were not a snake-handling congregation. Lucky, too, in that mom’s marriages to that man didn’t last long.

Then one of her cousins married a Church of the Nazarene preacher who was shepherding his first church in our town. It was a less frightening theology, but one with a lot of rules. Of course I was too young to dance, drink, or smoke anyway, so it wasn’t very hard to comply.

We were cheerful attendants at church and sat in the front pews and sang with gusto. That poor man had to relay a request from the pianist that I not sit directly behind her. My singing was throwing her off key! Worse, I mistakenly got the idea that God could only love me if I followed all the rules.

There was a brief stint of time that I lived with my dad near Las Vegas, Nevada. We again attended the Baptist church. Some of my 4th grade friends invited me to Summer Bible School at the huge Mormon church. They gave me a red-lettered New Testament, and never, ever, invited me to regular services.

When I moved back to Missouri to live with my maternal grandparents for a while, we went to the Methodist church. So I’ve had a fairly broad introduction to God’s word in several Christian theologies. But none of them told me that God might, someday, talk to me. Or if they did, I totally missed the message.

Anyway, if God did still talk to people, He would probably only talk to important Christianslike preachers or the really good and faithful people. No way would I ever get a personal message from God.

” Faith is a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure and certain that a man could stake his life on it a thousand times.”

~ Martin Luther

Drifting away

Our church going became sporadic in my high school years. We moved around a lot. Husbands number four and five were not religious.

The man I married had been raised in the church. His mom was rabidly Southern Baptist and didn’t allow for any other “real religion”. She always claimed that I was not really married to her son because the Methodist minister I chose to officiate at our wedding had us say “I will” rather than “I do.”

My new husband and I didn’t get to church much. After a good friend of his had a for-real, life-changing conversion experience at a revival we were all at, we stopped going all together. Seeing that play out in real life is intense, and frightening if you are not prepared for it. Sometimes God does it that way, making a radical and very public change in a person.

And sometimes He coaxes us along, pursuing our hearts over a time span of many years. And He sneaks in when and where we least expect it.

Hearing from God in a hospital bathroom

I almost died the winter I turned 30. Unbeknownst to anyone, I had been growing a benign uterine fibroid which eroded a hole in a blood vessel and as a result, I nearly bled to death. Over several months my health had deteriorated, and I’d been admitted to the hospital with a hemoglobin count of 6.9.

To put that in perspective, a healthy adult woman has a count of 12 to 14. And a count of 5 is generally considered to be the point at which survival is unlikely, regardless of how much blood is transfused. Because I’d worked in health care my entire adult life, that information terrified me!

Of course, I was a generally nervous and fearful person anyway.

My medical chart was thick, in part because we got a full physical every year at work. Also, my family history has some worrisome trends. My dad had a fatal heart attack at the age of 42, and my annual EKG always had some non-specific, but concerning changes which required followup. Sometimes I would lay in bed and listen for my heartbeat and worry when it skipped or fluttered.

Consequently, when my husband had leave me to go 60 miles home and take care of our 3 dogs, I found myself alone in a strange hospital room with an IV drip in one arm and a transfusion running into the other. The plan was to get 3 units of blood into me before surgery. But they were prepared to bump me up to emergency status if I got worse in the night. So, I was alone, frightened, and could not go to sleep.

In the early morning hours, I pushed my IV stand into the bathroom, and that’s where I had an epiphany that I had a hard time reconciling to my life experience. After all, I wasn’t what anyone would call “a good Christian”.

But here’s what I know without doubt. God chose to comfort me in my distress. I returned to bed knowing that it didn’t matter what happened in surgery the next day.

If I lived, it was Good – with a capital G. But if I died, that would be Good, too. Because I knew in my bones that whatever I am – my essence, or soul – would be just fine. That part of me is loved and supported by the God who created the universe, and all would be well. I returned to my hospital bed and went to sleep.

Forever changed

Friends who saw me the next day say that I looked better coming out of surgery than I had going in. My recovery was uncomplicated. I wish I could say that my life was the same. But God didn’t promise uncomplicated. Just Good. And it is.

Since that night, I’ve been relieved of most of the fears and anxiety that used to plague me. I don’t worry so much about all the ‘might happens’ anymore. I have an inner peace that’s lasted 30 years now. Because whatever happens will be Good.

My relationship with God is still a work in progress. He still pursues me when I drift. I still drift and flounder. And it’s still complicated and so Good!

And so, when years later, I got a strange new message that I didn’t expect or understand, I did pay attention.

In my next post, I’ll share the second time God gave me a direct message, and how it prepared me for what was to come next. I hope you will hang in there for another episode of weirdness so that I can get to the fun parts of my story. Those are the parts where I learned how to be who I really am. It’s so GOOD!

4 Comments

  1. Margaret Smith

    I just want to give you a giant hug right now. Can’t wait for the “rest of the story”.

    Reply
    1. Linda Bittle (Post author)

      Thanks Margaret! I’ll take a virtual hug. I think the story will flow a lot faster now. I appreciate your moral support to tell it the way I need to do it.

      Reply
  2. Eileen Nelson (friend and neighbor)

    Enjoyed your shared story. Sometimes it can be hard to share very personal parts of our life, especially when it involves the spiritual side of us. Looking forward to hearing what God has spoken to you.

    Reply
    1. Linda Bittle (Post author)

      Thank you! It is a challenge for an introvert to be so open,for sure. But the stories that move me are the ones where the author is brave enough to share those parts. I think the story will be easier to tell now that I’ve made it this far.

      Reply

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