This morning, I sat in a session at the Verge Conference, and listened to a woman named Jo Saxon speak.
Five minutes into her talk I felt a weird tugging in my heart. Her voice was familiar to me; not like, I‘ve heard her speak before, but kind of like did I know her in another life? She felt…dear to me; precious somehow.
And then I felt a suspicion creeping into my heart: is it possible?
Is it possible that the woman I wrote this story about TEN YEARS AGO, is Jo Saxton?
In 2003 I sat at my computer and wrote these words:
Soul Survivor was horrible for me. It just seemed kind of boring and intimidating and crazy. It just frustrated me, and made me weirdly resentful.
I sat there while those around me flung their arms in the air during the final Saturday night’s opening worship session. I sat there and wondered if I was the only one troubled by the inconsistencies in their version of God. This Christian God, who was supposed to be all about love, but sent people to Hell.
Pride is something that often gets on top of me, but I remember in that moment, during that night of worship, being consumed to the point that I thought I might have to leave the tent. I didn’t leave though. I sat there until the worship ended, and then a woman* got up to speak.
She talked about her father.
She talked about how he had left when she was a teenager and she had never realized how really angry she was with him until one day she was shopping for a car, and felt overwhelmed, and suddenly felt consumed with anger at her father’s absence. He was supposed to be there; he was supposed to talk her through this process and joke and help and teach. She exploded with the pain and grief and worthlessness that stems from feeling unloved.
After this happened, she sat down before God and poured out all the issues she had. She said that she did this, not because she wanted to forgive or forget, but because Jesus had offered to carry them for her. So, she didn’t have to forget or pretend her dad never hurt her; she just had to realize that someone was holding her up with a love that made her whole.
Now, I’m not a big ‘issues with my father’ kind of girl. I’m sure you think otherwise at this point, but I can only assure you that I’m pretty honest about how I feel. I’m certainly the first to tell a sob story when I have the chance. In all my drunken nights before Jesus, in all my emotional times, never once was the subject of my tears or talks among my closest friends related to my father.
So this night, I remember thinking that’s really sad. Poor girl. Then Mike Pilavachi came forward, inviting those who needed healing to stand up.
I remember feeling almost embarrassed for those people standing in front of everyone. They stood up, not with some great talent to show off, or some great trick to perform, but with nothing but their pain to make them worthy of this humiliating honor.
And then I was standing too.
I remember looking at my friend Leanne, and I don’t know if my face looked anything like hers, but she looked completely confused. Like, what are you doing? And I know that’s how I felt. I don’t know how I looked.
I remember just standing there.
Leanne stood up and took my hand. She squeezed. I don’t know if I was crying then, but within moments I was sobbing. Shaking, from my soul, and dying but being born, if that makes any sense.
To be honest, I don’t expect it to. It doesn’t really make sense to me either.
It went on for hours. I cried. People, strangers, prayed around and over me as if they cared, as if they knew every moment of my life, and as if they loved every particle of who I was.
I didn’t know I was broken. But when I went to sleep that night. I shut my eyes, and I felt healed.
I was healed.
When people ask me how I became a Christian I have no qualms telling them the lead up to that night. But, I don’t really ever talk about that moment. I guess I don’t really know what to say. It doesn’t make any sense. I didn’t come out of that night and praise God with all my heart. I didn’t attribute any healing to him. I just went back to the tent and went to sleep.
Once I stopped being prayed for, I stopped crying, and I didn’t cry again over my father for a long time.
I don’t know what happened that night. I don’t think of it as my conversion. I was just breaking, and I wanted to be held.
It’s strange. It’s really strange. I feel like I started writing about it because I thought by the time I got to this point I’d have some amazing truth to offer about how that moment changed me, but I don’t. I don’t understand and I wish I did. I do believe that was the first time I surrendered to Christ; the first time I accepted His help knowingly.
Tomorrow I’m speaking at Verge.
I’m a part of this Conference because the man who runs it asked me to come and work for him 6 years ago this September. Because I served in his church. Because I came to Austin a year after I became a Christian and wrote the story about the woman whose name I never knew until today.
Guys. God is writing stories. Big ones through small ones.
Today was one of those days where he pulled back the curtain and let me see how very sovereign and glorious He really is.