At eight, I knew I needed Jesus. The Good News Club lady said I would miss out on heaven if I didn’t get saved. I certainly didn’t want hell, and Jesus offered an escape plan. That’s about all I remember about that day, besides the cookies and punch and the stain on the carpet I peeked at while praying the sinner’s prayer. I didn’t know much, but I knew I was a sinner. I needed Jesus at eight.
At fifteen, I knew I needed Jesus. My friend, Melody, and I had signed up for our first missions trip—Vacation Bible School for Native Americans in New Mexico. We were supposed to meet with the church deacons and share why we wanted to go. I had heard of life verses and I figured it might help me to have one in the interview with the deacons. I prayed and opened my Bible, and like a Holy Ghost miracle, there it was:
“And He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf” (2 Corinthians 5:15, NASB).
There you have it, Jesus gave all, so I must do the same. That made sense to me. It still does. Shortly afterward, I told my mom, “When I grow up, I don’t mind being a missionary. I do mind meeting a snake on the side of the road.” Years later, living in Papua New Guinea, I remembered that conversation when I spied a snake outside my hut. (I stayed inside the hut.) At fifteen, I needed Jesus to help me surrender it all, snakes included.
At twenty-four, I knew I needed Jesus. Walking around the school track under bright stars in Central America, I had it out with God. “Lord, you know I’m yours. I’m here, after all, on another missions trip. But I don’t want to do missions alone. In fact, you know I don’t want to do life alone.” The stars became blurry at that point. I kept walking and arguing. I remembered my life verse:
“He died so that they who live might no longer live for themselves.”
Some arguments are not meant to be won. Tears streaming down my face, I cried, “You win, Lord, I want to be Your woman more than I want what I want. Whatever, whoever, wherever—please help me be Yours.” I gave in and gave Him all I was—broken, heart-bruised, with little to offer. I was awkward, uncool, and I didn’t shine much in the ‘talents department.’ None of that seemed to matter to Him. What mattered most was my trust. He wanted me. I needed Jesus to help me see that at twenty-four.
At thirty-five, I knew I needed Jesus. A man in a silver Honda appeared from Iowa and proposed, of all things. A good man. A stalwart man. A man approved by God. Yet, afraid to disrupt my good, single life, I hesitated. Driving down California freeways, I prayed aloud, both hands on the steering wheel: “Lord God, if I can serve You better by getting married—all right, then!” I said it loudly, and my hands hit the wheel for emphasis. I was always one for emphasis. Dumbfounded, I knew that was a Holy Ghost prayer; it couldn’t possibly have come from me. At thirty-five, I needed Jesus to pray that prayer.
At forty-three, I knew I needed Jesus. I’d felt sick all week long. By Saturday, I realized I was pregnant. I walked down the hall after taking the drugstore test and told the man from Iowa. “You had better take your vitamins, he replied.” So practical, my man. We were finished having kids, we thought. Two were good, two were enough. I had begun new ventures: speaking, teaching, writing—all in their infancy, but on their way. Instead, Mary Grace was on her way, a beautiful and different kind of infancy. I needed Jesus to guide my mind shift—to be a mom again. To give me the wisdom to navigate the passions and hormones of these three girls. To give me perspective and provide for my daughters’ needs even when I fail, because failure was inevitable. At forty-three, I needed Jesus to give me peace in the moment and peace for the future of three, not two.
At fifty-two, I knew I needed Jesus. I had always wanted a bigger kitchen and had mentioned it on occasion. After fifteen years of mentioning it, my man-in-plaid finally said, “If you want a bigger kitchen, we have to push out the front of the house.” During that year—and the next thirteen—we lived in half-finished rooms. I wore my hooded coat inside when it rained. Paper replaced walls, drywall dust blanketed everything—my desk, my sofa, my hair. Stray cats entered uninvited, chasing after families of mice that had taken up residence. Guests touted my husband’s prowess and glanced my way with wide-eyed sympathy. Our girls received scholarships by writing college-entrance essays about the challenges of growing up ’remodeled.’ At fifty-two, I needed Jesus to trust my man, to swallow my complaints, and to rejoice with hope believing I would one day walk into a finished kitchen. Come on by. You’ll no longer need a hooded coat.
At sixty-six, I know I need Jesus. My girls are grown. They’ve flown the nest, but now two have found their way back home, exploring new careers and grad schools, and the other calls daily. As a mother of girls, one moment I think I know what’s what, and then I don’t. One needs advice and then she doesn’t. Or one needs a new routine, or a new boyfriend, or more protein in her diet. Or a new life! I laugh and think—I gave them life once, why are they asking me again? I laugh, and cry, and pray some more. I need Jesus at sixty-six as I navigate the joy-filled, but unpredictable waters of parenting adult children.
I have needed Jesus at every stage—from the age of eight to sixty-six, and every moment in between.
Francis Roberts wrote these words, speaking of God’s invitation:
“Lay thyself upon My breast and find thy rest in Me.”
No matter what season we find ourselves in, He’s intended from the beginning that we find our rest in Him. Delighting in our dependence is our daily act of surrender. At every age.
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