Tuesday, September 1, 2020

I thought there was no hope. I was wrong.

Every time I hear Lauren Daigle’s song, “Still Rolling Stones,” it takes me back.

Way backforty years.

That’s because she has a line in it that indicates she thought there was no hope for her because of all the things she’d done. I’ve been there.
Photo of the Garden Tomb, Jerry Varnado

Forty years ago this week I fully surrendered my life to the Lord. When I wrote Faith in the Fashion District, I said it this way, “I had surrendered my life to God after a few years of wandering in a far country of rebellion. The altar had been the side of my bathtub. I knelt, bowed my head, and let the water from the overhead shower wash over me while God also washed away the sin that had so firmly gripped me.”

In that book, I don’t tell it all because it doesn’t fit the tone of the story, but at that point I had lost hope believing that I had done too much, too fast, and too far out to be redeemed. I don’t mention two years of nightmares, one of standing on the side of a vast ravine unable to get to the light on the other side. I don’t talk about the drinking alone and the not being able to figure out how I was ever going to get out of the bombed out mess I’d made.

I committed to the Lord years before as a teen but that commitment devolved into a “show-your-face-on-Sunday-read-a-devo-every-now-and-then-slide-into-heaven’s-home-plate” kind of life. Can you say “hypocrite?”

I hadn’t sold out to God. I was afraid He would take away my happiness. I laugh to think of it now.

Finally, I was so miserable, so down, so hopeless, there was no happiness to take away. I felt old, worn out, and uselessat twenty-five, younger than my children are now. And I didn’t know if God could or would forgive me. I didn't understand the word “grace.” Don’t think I’m overly dramatizing the situation. When I say I was at the bottom, I was. That night I slumped in the bathtub, broken and distraught, it seems a world away in one respect, but in another, it seems as if only yesterday. I prayed, “Lord, I’ve made a disaster of my life. I don’t feel as if there’s anything left. If you can use it, you can have it.” I would later read in C.S. Lewis’s The Problem of Pain, “He (God) is not proud. He stoops to conquer, He will have us even though we have shown that we prefer everything else to Him, and come to Him because there is ‘nothing better’ now to be had.”

That was where I’d beenpreferring everything else to God. That evening in the bathtub, there was no flash of light, the heavens did not part, and an angel did not descend. The next morning I rose, took a stab at reading the Bible and a devotion in the Upper Room Magazine I happened to havea habit that has continued these forty years. In those days, I read on my knees with tears streaming down my face, because the words were so convicting. However, they were also hopeful. Because the Upper Room was important to me early on, it has been one of my greatest joys to have my own devotions appear in its pages.

There were pastors and their spouses, who came alongside to help heal my brokenness, Warren and Jane, Gary and Diane, Grady and Doris, Walt and Martha. Thank you all for loving me when I was so unlovable and so broken. In every book I write, I hope to honor you by mentioning you as the ones who helped bring me back from disaster and despair. In fact, a Christmas novella releasing in December, A Season for Everything, is dedicated to Grady and Doris.

In addition, this is the thing that is so very hard to explain. In the days, months, and years, ahead, my life opened to wonder in a way it never had before. It’s not that all my problems went away. It’s not that my circumstances weren’t still hard, but the way I experienced life changed. And joydid I mention joy? Did I say that my heart felt as if it had been made new?

I could have never imagined that in little more than a year I would hear an attorney give his testimony who also had a life changing experience almost exactly the day I did. He would ask me for a date a few months later. Happy “giving our lives to the Lord” anniversary, Jerry. Can you believe forty years?

So, when I hear this millennial, Lauren Daigle, sing the song, this boomer feels as if it could be her song. God is “Still Rolling Stones.” He is still bringing dead people out of tombs of their own making. He is still giving hope to the hopeless. If you’re in a place where there seems to be no way out, look up. Confess your sin. Give your life to God. He can open a window to heaven and deliver you into unimaginable joy.

I know. I am living proof. With a heart overflowing with gratitude, I say thank you, Jesus. Thank you for doing what only you could have done. Thank you for this amazing life I never imagined I’d have because I thought there was no hope.

I’m so grateful I was wrong. To God be the glory.


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