One of my favorite things to do is walk with a friend. I walk with my neighbor, Dede, several times a week down a dirt path that is is accessible from our neighborhood. This path is high up on the hill and runs parallel to the valley below us. Our conversation flows as our feet are moving and our eyes are taking in a lush, green valley.
There is something very comforting when a friend walks alongside you…. not in front of you and not behind you but beside you. I believe that when Jesus called me to follow him, his invitation was not with the intent for me to follow him breathless because I’m trying my hardest to keep up with his pace, but instead I believe that Jesus called me to walk beside him as a friend.
There is a song called Come to Jesus (Link to Come to Jesus) that I often listen to during my morning Bible study and prayer because it softens my heart and gets me ready to spend time with God. This song perfectly describes what it is like to walk beside Jesus in your life. It starts with a person’s conversion to Christ and ends with them taking their last breath. As this person lives out their life, they turn to Jesus with each life experience whether it be full of joy or pain.
In this blog post I would like to take you verse by verse through this song and relate each verse to my life. But before I do this, please listen to this song. I love the version by Chris Rice.
Weak and wounded sinner lost and left to die
Oh, raise your head for love is passing by
Come to Jesus, come to Jesus, come to Jesus and live
I was 19 years old and attending Western Illinois University when I came to Jesus. It all began with a Bible Study in my dorm that was hosted by the local Church of Christ. The co-ed dorm I lived in was 18 stories, and I shared a tiny room with my roommate on the 11th floor. I saw a sign by the elevator that advertised a Bible Study in my dorm, and my roommate and I decided to attend the next meeting. Having very little knowledge of the Bible, I did not know what to expect. One of the verses the minister read was Galatians 5:19-20.
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
While in the elevator after leaving the Bible Study with my roommate, I told her that all of us in this dorm are going up in smoke with the way we live our lives. She just laughed with a shrug of her shoulders, but I was really shaken by this verse. It described my life. What surprised me was that jealousy and envy were listed as equal sins to all other sins listed in this verse. I thought jealousy and envy were normal human emotions rather than sin.
When I read the gospels and learned how much Jesus suffered physically, spiritually and emotionally for me on the cross, it moved me to come to Jesus. I didn’t want to miss this opportunity to respond to a love that so deeply touched my heart, so I felt compelled to respond.
After studying the Bible with some of my new friends in the Bible study group, I decided to confess Jesus as Lord, repent of those sins listed in Galatians 5 and be baptized into Christ (fully immersed in the water) to raise up to a new life.
Now your burden’s lifted and carried far away
And precious blood has washed away the stain
So, sing to Jesus, sing to Jesus, sing to Jesus and live
I’ll never forget that first Campus Ministry Christian conference I attended after I was baptized. It was in Charleston, Illinois at a hotel. When I walked into the room, the atmosphere was electric. The Christians were singing with all their heart, the lessons were stirring my heart to live as a disciple of Jesus, the hugs were warm and inviting and the smiles were contagious. A soloist in the choir from Gainesville, Florida sang “Oh Happy Day” with a deep and soulful voice, and my heart swelled when she sang, “Oh Happy Day when Jesus washed, he washed my sins away.”
Now four decades later, I’m still singing to Jesus every Wednesday night and Sunday morning with my fellow Christians.
Like a new born baby don’t be afraid to crawl
And remember when you walk sometimes we fall
So, fall on Jesus, fall on Jesus, fall on Jesus and live
The biggest lesson I had to learn as a Christian is that falling into sin and messing up is unavoidable. For several years after I was baptized into Christ I thought, “I shouldn’t be struggling with this because Christians don’t struggle with this or think this way.” I thought I was better than these “sins.” I thought I wouldn’t struggle with them anymore, so rather than admit I was weak, I kept quiet about them and didn’t get help for a period in my life.
Pride is a dangerous sin to leave unchecked in my heart. When I think I’m above a sin, then it is sure to have its way with me. My sinful nature wants to appear strong and together to others, but freedom comes with transparency. Now that I’m divorced, I can clearly see that I tried to create a life with Kevin that didn’t exist, but I chose to be deceived because it was easier for me to step around our issues and cover up our sins rather than to deal with them until each one was resolved.
So now in my brokenness, I have fallen on Jesus and he caught me before I hit the ground and fell apart into little pieces. My heart is torn and I’m healing, but I’m still present, whole and grateful. I’m relying on His grace and mercy to help me deal with the sins of my heart. Hebrews 4:16 says:
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
Sometime the way is lonely it’s steep and filled with pain
So, if your sky is dark and pours the rain
Then cry to Jesus, cry to Jesus, cry to Jesus and live
For all my life, I found it very difficult to cry. In fact, I was a bit embarrassed that I didn’t cry in the appropriate times when a person is supposed to cry. It was as if I didn’t have any tears in my tear ducts. But in the past five months I have experienced some very traumatic losses in my life, and now I cry every day. Losing my sister to cancer, my mother to dementia, my husband to divorce and my dog to a tumor within such a short period of time knocked the wind out of me and got my tear ducts working.
During the past 5 months, I was not walking beside Jesus.
Because He was carrying me.
Footprints in the Sand Mary Stevenson, 1936
One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky. In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, other times there was one only.
This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints, so I said to the Lord, “You promised me Lord, that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there has only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?”
The Lord replied, “The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, my child, is when I carried you.”
When the love spills over and music fills the night
And when you can’t contain your joy inside
Then dance with Jesus, dance with Jesus, dance with Jesus and live
There are so many moments in my life where love spilled over and I couldn’t contain my joy inside and I celebrated with Jesus and gave him thanks. The moment my daughter Lian was placed in my arms in a hotel in Nanchang, China in 1998 was one of them. I loved her the second I laid eyes on her. I couldn’t believe this beautiful 16-month-old child was my daughter.
Another moment I felt overwhelmed with joy and love was when my daughter and I were visiting my mother in her home in Port Richey, Florida in July of 2013. It was the evening of July 4 and the air was extremely hot and humid and a thunder storm was raging outside. My mother’s air conditioning unit broke two days earlier and was not scheduled to be fixed for another couple of days. There was no escaping the heat. The fireworks on the TV were as good as it was going to get this 4th of July. So why was I overflowing with love and joy? Because my 16-year-old daughter, my mother and I were not complaining but rather enjoying each other’s company. This imperfect but precious moment gave me a reason to dance with Jesus.
With your final heartbeat, kiss the world goodbye
Then go in peace and laugh on glory’s side
And fly to Jesus, fly to Jesus, fly to Jesus and live
The last verse of the song gets me emotional every time I hear it. I was able to talk to my sister via Facetime on the day she died on November 3, 2017. I was in Oregon and she was in an Indiana hospital. I told her how much I loved her and that she was soon going to be with Jesus. It was time to let her go. She did not want to be on life support. They removed her breathing tube and brought her into a hospice room in the hospital and made her as comfortable as possible. As she looked around the room and saw the fear and sadness in the faces of her sons and their families, she said, “Why is everyone having a cow? I’m good.” Joey and Angie were alone in the room with my sister when my sister passed away. Joey called me within minutes of her death to let me know that God answered our prayers. Joanne’s death was peaceful and beautiful. She wasn’t in pain anymore.
My mother’s passing occurred on Saturday, February 10, 2018. I was not there when it happened. I received the call from my brother at 8:30 a.m. Oregon time. My mother was in the advanced stages of dementia when she died and had lost the ability to talk and express what was on her mind. The Monday before she died my brother called me via Facetime from her nursing home room. My mother whispered, “I love you” as she was looking at my face on the screen of the phone. I snapped a picture of this Facetime moment. Little did I know that was the last time I would see her alive.
I know some day I will be ready to take my last breath. Like this verse says I’ll be ready to kiss the world goodbye and laugh on glory’s side. One thing I know is that Jesus will be by my side to the end and then I’ll fly with Jesus and live.