Welcome back to part 2 of my faith journey.
If you missed part one you can catch it here.
Before I dive back in I want to start by giving you some context of where I was at this time in my life. I was 26, living on my own since I was 19, unmarried with one child who was 2 years old, and was in grad school at Columbia University getting my masters in real estate development.
Life had been cruel to me in a lot of ways so I built a fortress around my heart and emotions for years to survive. From not being raised by my biological mother to the death of my father, favorite aunt, and grandfather all before age 12. Then the loss of my grandmother who was killed in a car accident that I survived when I was 12 and being adopted by an aunt and uncle when I was 15. I had been through a lot, but consistency or strong family ties were not a part of my story.
I considered myself tough and independent by necessity, because I was all I had, not realizing it was also because I didn’t want to feel, and at this point didn’t even know how to feel.
That fortress transferred over to multiple areas of my life, at school and work it became a good thing, I never took no for an answer, I was persistent, determined and extremely ambitious, knocking down walls and busting through ceilings, pushing my grades and my resume to be the best ALWAYS, but in my personal life the fortress was a hindrance. I had so many “friends” but very few people knew me beyond the surface. They loved the fun, fearless, mouth with no cover that I was and I never complained or talked about my problems.
In dating, it was also an absolute hindrance. I knew I wanted to be married one day, but I dismissed potential suitors for any and everything. You did one thing I considered wrong I kicked you to the curb, no warning, no explanation, no phone call, just completely acted like you no longer existed. I tolerated very little and compromised NEVER.
Ok so back to where I left off in part one.
After that call with Keara she invited me to her church in Queens, the Greater Allen Cathedral and I took her up on her invitation right away attending her church that very next Sunday. I can’t remember the message anymore but all I know is when I walked in there, it felt like I was carrying bricks on my shoulders.
At the end of the service when they called for people who needed prayer I walked to the alter clearly carrying every single burden I had in life… I had never been a cryer, but the rush of emotions I felt that day all came pouring out at once.. hurt, pain, sadness, abandonment, unhappiness, disconnection, regret. It was like someone found the combination to the safe where all my feelings had been locked away and let them all out at once.
I moved from a few tears to beyond crying at this point, by now I was on the floor sobbing uncontrollably.
Keara and her mother both ran over and began to cover me.
They started praying for me and crying out to God about me without even knowing me. It’s impossible to capture in words that moment or the impact it had on me but I knew in my spirit I had come to the right place and God was going to help me.
It felt like I cried for an eternity and when I finally got up to leave I felt 10 times lighter. I signed up for new member classes and within 3 months was a member of the church.
I attended as often as possible because I felt every time I walked in the door the message was for me! When I couldn’t drive to queens I would watch the sermons online.
I was soaking up all the messages like a sponge and could never leave my house without tissues because every week I was crying. Every week for like 5 years straight. I regretted any Sunday I missed because it felt like I missed out on my weekly cleanse of emotions and spirit. I would tell my friends God is definitely in this place because I was being affected so strongly over and over and over.
However I still had a lot of spiritual housekeeping I needed to do. I remember one week completely rationalizing cursing. I used to curse like a sailor Monday through Saturday and still have an expletive slip out every now and then when I’m angry, but I remember saying to myself it’s just words, what’s the big deal. There’s no way God cares about these simple words us humans have given definition to…
Then that Sunday I went to church and the Pastors sermon was on the power of the tongue and why as a christian, our tongues, the strongest weapon we have should not be used for cursing… I don’t think I ever hung my head so low in a service in my life.
The sermons were always relateable to what I was going through in real life and I loved that, but I soon learned that even that would only be for a time.
I still wouldn’t consider myself born again during that time but God was definitely meeting me where I was..
I had a whole new perspective on church, spiritual feeding, prayer, the bible, and grew in understanding of how Christianity should reflect in my daily life.
I even put God first when it came to dating and opened up emotionally. I threw away my list on how I wanted someone this tall, with this degree who made this much money and replaced it with much softer qualities, someone with a pure heart, who would be there for me, who was honest and faithful, that I could grow with, who believed in God, and would put family first really caring whether or not he made it home in time for dinner.
I promised God that if he sent me someone with all of that I wouldn’t be dismissive, I would be committed, loving, willing to compromise, work through problems that arose and stick with them no matter what. The person he sent was the most unexpected so I rejected him for almost a year, but lo and behold his own determination would tap into the deepest part of my spirit and he would read me like a book. I knew he was the one because it was like Jesus gave him the cliff notes to who I was versus who I displayed through my toughness and independence.
11 years + 6 kids later I am still sticking to my promise. Hi DJBLOC 😉
God also gave me a spiritual mother throughout all those years who consistently pushed me to get closer to Jesus, outside of church. To spend time with him daily, praying, reading, listening to music, or just mediating on the word, so I increased my commitment to God in all those areas
Then on Friday Feb 21, 2013 she asked me for what felt like the hundredth time, Lily have you given you heart to the Lord? I was confused, of course I had, hadn’t I? I was in church, I had gone to alter call, went to membership classes, was reading, praying listening to gospel music. Wasn’t that what it meant to give your heart to God? I thought so, so I always said yes I had given my heart to the Lord, I think.
She usually accepted my wishy washy answer but that night she did not. I was on my way to a house party and had just come from the liquor store, but I always made time for her calls so I parked up and just listened to her tell me what it meant to be born again. That it was an internal process that started with the heart that changed you completely. It was a voluntary giving of your heart and life to God and trusting him wholeheartedly with every inch. To move from being a slave of sin to being at war with it.. by repentance and being born again by water and the spirit. She explained to me how we unlock the fruits of the spirit, the full armor of God, the true power of prayer and the holy spirit. All things I still was not learning about at the church I now loved so much….
Our call lasted for 3 hours and when I got out my car I walked to the house party with my bottle in hand and said, “God its obvious you wanted me to hear all that she said so take my life. Do with it what you will. I give up my own way and will stop running from your way. I don’t want to just have a feel good church life, I want to be saved!!”
I went to the party that Friday, ran errands on Saturday, went to church on Sunday but when I woke up that Monday morning my life was FOREVER CHANGED.
Stay Tuned for Part 3