I had back-slidden for years.
For anyone who’s not a born-again Christian out there, “back sliding” is where you stop going to Church. You stop going to Christian gatherings. You effectively stop following Jesus and start making your own way in the world…without Him.
My back sliding was influenced by a controlling, abusive guy I was seeing at the time. He “love bombed” me, got me “hooked” and then cut me off from everyone I loved…including – at the time – Church; and everyone in it.
3 years later and I was “living in sin” with the guy. Unmarried. I hardly saw my family any more and was forbidden from seeing my friends. Gavin tried forbidding Church too, and for the most part he was successful…
But I felt a great calling on my heart to go back to Church that Sunday. I felt it every Sunday…but that Sunday, I rang my Dad and asked if he’d drive me to Church.
Dad was delighted just to hear from me (bless) and was unusually on time that fateful Sunday morning. Dad used to drop me off every Sunday so he knew the way. Dad had the routine down.
We drove. Dad sang along to the radio. Dad didn’t attend Church and often said (with a laugh) that “Christianity is a load of bollocks, Chook” but he was so pleased to spend time with me that he was more than happy to take me to Church after years of me not going.
I think that was the first blessing from God that day.
The second is who this blog is lovingly dedicated to.
A tiny boy.
I went to Church, shaking. I didn’t know what to expect. I thought there would definitely be judgement. There were a lot of people there I didn’t know. Church had changed a lot in the 3 years I’d been away. I felt uncomfortable there.
The music started and music is something that will always speak to – and comfort – my heart, because I love to sing.
I lifted my voice in Church that day.
Usually, it doesn’t take long for me to lose myself in the music, no matter what I’m going through, but this Sunday I couldn’t shake the feeling of discomfort. I felt so inadequate. Uneasy.
Everyone will be looking at me in disgust I thought to myself.
I looked around and was relieved to see that actually, noone was staring. Everyone was singing and focused on their own things.
I tried to relax.
Calm down, JD.
That’s when I spotted him.
A tiny boy about 2 rows ahead of me.
I was in a row of others, but I felt a profound sense of loneliness that day. I remember wrapping my arms around myself that morning; trying to comfort and calm myself.
The little boy 2 rows ahead looked to be maybe 2 or 3 years old. He was absolutely adorable. He had pale skin, bright blue wonder-filled eyes, thick lashes and these gorgeous blonde curls. He looked like a doll, he was so perfect.
He was looking at me openly, with curiosity.
I noticed the little boy who was looking at me had an identical twin. His mirror image was holding hands with who I assume were their parents; a young, good looking couple. Picture perfect. The other blonde little boy had his Dad’s hand in one hand and his Mom’s hand in the other and was swinging them as the music gently rose.
The little one looking at me was sitting facing me and looking towards the congregation instead of at the stage.
I looked up to follow the words on the screen.
I looked back again and saw that the little boy had moved. His parents were singing and hadn’t noticed; but this little boy was now at the end of the next row of seats…closer to me and still watching me carefully. As the little boy gazed at me, he tilted his head and put a tiny thumb in his cherub mouth, sucking thoughtfully – as if he was making his mind up about me.
I wasn’t sure what to do. 3 years ago, I would have smiled broadly (I love children), maybe waved or pulled a funny face to make him laugh. I have always found a way to laugh with children and have always been comfortable in their presence. But on this day…I was an empty, broken version of the girl I used to be.
The realisation that I was losing who I used to be brought unexpected tears to my eyes. I blinked to fight them away and stared hard at the blurring words on the screen.
Focus, JD. Don’t cry, you weirdo.
I again looked down, and my eye was drawn immediately to the tiny boy now on the end of my row.
He smiled and an overwhelming sense of peace came over me. My anxiety disappeared.
His smile was so bright and so welcoming. It was as if he recognised me and was so happy to see me again – which of course can’t have been the case, we’d never seen each other before.
What was happening?
The little guy was still smiling and was now again on the move.
As the songs went on, the little angel moved closer and closer to me.
He was on a mission!
When the little boy with the blonde curls and blue eyes got to me, he stood next to me. He looked so happy about it, that it melted my heart.
In my loneliness, God had sent His smallest servant to stand with me.
Now I really was crying.
I felt a tugging on my dress.
I looked down and the little guy had tugged to get my attention. When he had it, he held out his tiny arms to me. That “pick me up” gesture recognised world-wide. From family to family; across races, ages, countries, seas and skies.
Without a second thought, I reached down, gathered the little boy into my arms…and picked him up, holding him close to my broken heart 💔
There is a certain magic when a child puts their arms around you. To me, it felt like being granted a very special prize.
I looked over to his Mom and as he nuzzled happily into my neck (oh my heart!) I mouthed “Is this ok?” while gently gesturing at the child in my arms and breathed a sigh of relief when she smiled, nodded and turned back to the stage where the band was starting another song.
My heart began to mend with that little boy in my arms. I didn’t realise how badly I needed a hug until I felt those little arms around my neck.
It was incredible and just what I needed.
I was honoured to be able to hold that wonderful child all morning, because by the next song – he was asleep. When praise and worship was over, I walked the little one to his Mom. She gently took him from me and lowered him tenderly into a twin pram.
“He’s out cold” I smiled down at his perfect little face.
“So weird because he’s normally so shy!” His Mom laughed.
I don’t remember anything else about that day.
But I went back to Church the next Sunday. And the next…and made it back on to the worship team.
God freed me from the abusive guy.
…and my life slowly got better.
I’m so thankful for God’s hand upon me, even when I tried to run from Him. I see God’s beauty in everything around me.
There are things I find hard to remember but I will never forget that Sunday morning or how that little boy took my aching loneliness away for one very special morning.
This blog is to you and for you.
Thank you for saving me, little one.