by Sharon Wilson
In my morning walk today, thoughts just began to flow and by the end of my walk, I had tears streaming down my face. These tears were a mixture of humbleness and thankfulness, tinged with a bit of sadness and maybe even longing.
Sparked by a blog post and a Facebook post, I had been mulling over thoughts about coming out of a former church organization, the same one these people posted about. I realize my sadness is for those who have such negative feelings of those times. I know my circumstances differed from others but many of us now boast of the same freedom in Christ and of grace—but we walk a different path in our understanding of it all. I can only tell my own story.
I loved my early childhood. Days on a seventeen-acre ranch in Northern California filled with carefree summers. Playing in the irrigation ditch, riding my pony, coloring cattails, watching shooting stars at night from my sleeping bag in the backyard with my siblings. Playing Double Dutch jump rope with my sisters and neighbor girls. And who can forget throwing balls over the house roof with my brothers and sisters and hollering, “Ollie Ollie Oxen Free” and giving chase—unless, of course, it was, “Pigtails”? Fiddles, guitars, country music, homemade ice cream, hide and seek, all those fun times in life.
Those days also included a long journey each Sabbath, packed into a station wagon, to a church that was over two hours away. And then there was the Spring Holy Day Season where we ate unleavened bread and spent long hours in church. Also, a trip each Fall to Squaw Valley, California to keep the Feast of Tabernacles with thousands of others. I endured long travels and long sermons but I thrived on the activities and the people connection. But more than any of that, I witnessed the dedication of my parents to serve a God they were teaching me about by their example. Much of their example was shown by helping others, and serving in any way they could—sometimes to our childhood angst of having to cram more folks in an already packed car or stay after church even longer while my dad helped somebody out in some way.
At the age of 7, we moved to Oregon, largely to honor the Sabbath where my dad’s work was concerned. We had some lean times, I am told, but my parents always made me feel rich in my soul. No more country life at that time, but a more concentrated effort on the church and I made some lifelong friends. Life was good from my perspective. I had a home, I had parents and siblings that loved me, and I had great friends and some wonderful experiences.
At the age of 12, my world came crashing down. My mother had been diagnosed with breast cancer. We prayed mightily and watched as my mother’s life shrunk away. On the night she died, God became so much more real to me. As I sobbed uncontrollably on my bed, my dad stayed on his knees by my bedside praying aloud that God would comfort me and help me to know that I would see my mom again in His kingdom.
That prayer of comfort was answered. At a pivotal age, I picked myself up and moved forward knowing that my God was very much alive and working in my life and would one day usher me into that kingdom to reunite with Mom. I also felt I had to do my part, to truly believe.
Fast forward. Fourteen years after that bedside prayer of my dad’s, he too lost his physical battle to a brain aneurysm, and one year later, my sister, at the early age of 33, succumbed to a brain tumor. Through years of maturing and learning, I realize that my parents and my sister’s faith had been perfected. I am still working on mine.
In having been a part of an organization that thought that it had the only truth and was the only true church, it took its toll on me when I determined to leave that group. Was I really leaving the truth by leaving that organization? Well, for one, that group decided to change its doctrines so I looked at it as them leaving truth. Some say they finally saw the light. I thought I had already seen that light as a child. The light of God and Christ. So, no I wasn’t leaving the one true church. I was leaving an organization. I did not leave God; nor did He leave me.
God is the same, yesterday, today, and tomorrow. My comfort comes from Him. My understanding of grace became even more real. I am convicted of the truth—truth I gained or had revealed to me while attending that organization. I am thankful that my understanding has grown since leaving, and I hope to always be growing in grace and knowledge while I have breath in me. My discernment of the Scriptures has not led me to start keeping holidays and discard Holy Days. Nor has it led me to worship on the day I choose instead of the Sabbath God has set aside for rest in Him. I don’t eat whatever I want without regard to those things He established and designed as clean or unclean. It has led me to grow in my understanding of the depth of God’s love and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and the grace extended to me. It has enhanced the hope of reuniting with my loved ones.
Since God’s love is so great, the best I can do is show Him that love in return by doing what pleases Him. “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Why would I not? Christ came to fill the law full—full of understanding of Him. No, I can’t earn my way, and I don’t even know if I ever thought that I could. I just want to please the God who has comforted me all these years through trial and blessings and has sealed me until the day I can be reunited with Mom, Dad, my sister, and so many of my family and friends who have gone on before me.
I was never in a cult, as some claim; I was in Jesus Christ, who is risen, so that He could send the Comfort that I needed. Thy Kingdom Come!