The story of these two individuals came together when they both ended up in the same tiny town Celeste was from; Jeremy by accident, and Celeste for a quick stop to help her grandmother in her final days.
This is a story. That’s it. A story that I’m desperately trying to write, and have been working on (on and off) for years. It’s a story about pathways. Of choosing whose path you are going to follow: yours, or God’s.
I’m intrigued by the use of the path in Christian life. I love that God’s Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. In Jeremiah, God tells us to stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls (Jer. 6:16). David prays to God in Psalm 25 saying, Show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths… (v. 4a). Even Proverbs jumps in by advising, In your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:6).
I followed a path, one that was led by God. The thing is, I didn’t really notice it until I looked back at where I had been. God directed my steps. I was always a believer, always loved the Lord, but I realized one day that I hadn’t completely accepted Him. Everything that led up to that day was directed by God. Unbeknownst to me I was following His path (with a few detours on the way), and I’m still on it, only with more awareness and intention. Even after I accepted Him I can look back and see how He continued to lead me to this day, and I’m looking forward to where He will be leading me until I’m with Him in heaven.
I call my journey the “Case of the I’ll Nevers.” It’s very interesting what God will do with your “I’ll nevers.” At least it was interesting what He did with mine.
For starters, let’s go back to 8th grade. I knew I was going to college. I was going to be a defense attorney. My local mall was having a College Night, and I made sure to be there. I picked up information from colleges close by (or close enough) that had a pre-law program. From that time on I started receiving information in the mail about different colleges. Some were interesting, some not so much. For some odd reason I had just shoved some of this information under my bed. Well, to be more specific, between my mattress and the wood that kept it in its place above my sister’s bed (as I was on the top of a bunk bed).
I remember saying, “I will never go to a Christian college.” Not because I didn’t like Christian things, but because my sister, who is nine years older than me, went to a local Christian college for a year and I didn’t want to do what she did (I won’t go into the reasoning for this…it’s complicated…ish). Well, my senior year came, and I still didn’t know what I wanted to do (you would have thought I would since I was planning since 8th grade!). My major changed (I now wanted to be a high school English teacher), and I didn’t really look into schools. Because of this, when I graduated, I became a full time employee of the daycare I had worked at since my junior year of high school, and after a year of that I quit and spent another year at a local sub shop. While I was cashiering at the sub shop the thought, “I’m going to college” popped into my mind. That was it. I was going to do something with my life. During that time I had seen a news piece on a college that was a little over an hour away from my home. It piqued my interest, and I checked it out. Long story short, I moved in to my dorm room to start my first year at, well, a Christian college.
So it was Christian. Okay. Remember those papers hiding beneath my mattress? Well, I finally looked at them and found that this particular college was among the papers. I didn’t even remember seeing it before. Interesting.
Here’s the next thing. I was a Catholic heading to a Weslyan college. The majority of the students were Protestant, so I made it a point in my mind that I would never date anyone at college because I didn’t want to marry a Protestant. I also said I was going to graduate with a 4.0 GPA, but that’s another story. 4 years later I married my college sweetheart. And, yes, he’s Protestant. (Side note: I’m not going into the whole Catholic v. Protestant debate here. I’m just going to talk about my personal walk).
Growing up I had attended the same church since I was three, the year my family moved to a new city. During our first years of marriage, my husband and I attended this church, but not all the time. These years were a time of struggle for me in my faith. I never stopped believing, but the walk was difficult. My husband knew that I was never going to leave the Catholic church, and that our kids were going to be raised Catholic. I didn’t want to leave him out, however, so we searched out churches for him. We attended one once or twice, but it wasn’t really for us. When we moved into our first house, which happened to be in a town I would never move to, we attended the Catholic church just down the road from us. We looked into churches close by for my husband and decided to try one just in the next town, a non-denominational church, about ten minutes away. The problem I had with that church was that I liked it. Strange problem to have, I’m aware, but it was a problem to me. It didn’t help the game of Tug-of-War that was going on inside of me. We attended (on and off) for a few months, but then just stopped going to church altogether.
That was 2008. In 2009 I lost my dad, lost my grandfather, and my 5 year old son was diagnosed with cancer (other things happened that year as well which I won’t mention here). That was even harder on me, but in February 2010, the week after my son returned to Kindergarten cancer free, we went back to church. We decided to go back to the church that we had chosen for my husband (going to two on the same day was difficult), and though we still weren’t very consistent, we were getting better. I reminded my husband that I liked the church, but I would never become a member.
In 2011 I met with the pastor to talk about something that had bothered me, and that talk was when I had realized I hadn’t fully accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior. Shortly thereafter I made that courageous step forward and then enrolled in a class offered by my church on Sunday mornings. We talked about being baptized in the Holy Spirit. In my church we show this by standing in front of the congregation giving a testimony about this commitment, and then heading to the back of the stage/altar and getting dunked in a large tub for all to see. I was never going to do that.
After my baptism I continued to experience more and more of Him, and I grew stronger in my faith. My husband and I are now members, he’s in charge of the video ministry, and I started and co-lead a group for girls in grades 6-12. I laugh now about my “I’ll nevers.” God really does take those and shows us what He has chosen regardless.
I know, O Lord, that a man’s life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps (Jer. 10:23).
In Jeremiah 29 God says, For I know the plans I have for you…plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future (v.11). God’s path is always right. We may not always see it, at least not until we look back, but it’s there. If we allow Him to guide us, our reward will be great. He has a path for each and every one of us. He knows each one of us as he tells Jeremiah, Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart (Chapter 1, v. 5a). He will guide you on your own individual path if you let Him, even giving Him just a little control over your life. In time you will see how great His way is. He will never lead you astray.
Want to know my recent “I’ll nevers” that He has laughed at me about?
“I’ll never let people find out at church that I can sing” – I’ve been found out and have had a couple of solos already (I couldn’t help but join the Christmas choir…I love to sing!)
“I’ll never join a worship team” – I’m on the newest worship team. I start this month
“I’ll never give a Thanksgiving Testimony” -- Did that right along with my first solo away without the choir
What will Jeremy and Celeste choose? Perhaps one day God will lead me to the end of my book and allow me to have it published. Then maybe you’ll be able to find out. That’s my dream!
Look at your life. Look where you’ve come thus far. Do you see God’s hand in your walk? Do you see the path that you’re heading down? Is it God’s path? Or is it your own? Are you giving Him control, allowing Him to lead you, or are you fighting Him? God draws us to Him, we just need to walk. I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness (Jer. 31:3b). He has placed the path at our feet. We need to use His words as our lamp (Ps. 25:4a).
Heavenly Father, we thank you for knowing each of us individually and placing a path at our feet. Your ways, Oh Lord, are straight, and all we need to do is trust in You. Thank you for drawing us to You. In Your heavenly name, Amen.