There are things I remember from growing up with intense clarity. One of those things is the tragedy at Columbine High School. Unfortunately there have been many similar occurrences since then, including the incredibly sad loss in Townville, SC this month. Columbine, however, made a much more distinct mark on the pages of my life. That teenager targeted classmates who believed in God.
As a middle class white teenager in SC, before social media at that, I knew nothing of religious persecution aside from the long ago stories that I read in Bible or the stories told by the missionaries that visited our church from time to time. When I saw other kids just like me had been killed for professing their belief in God, it shook me to the core. Shortly after that The Journals of Rachel Scott was published and I read about one inspiring girl who died for her faith. I was so humbled by her. That was the beginning of a period when I spent a lot of time in my bible trying to find out what I was supposed to do for Him with my life. I wish I could tell you that I figured it out and stayed on that path, but the truth is so much more complicated. I don't have a story of addiction or unbelief that some do, but I did make choices that were outside of God's will for my life and I relied a lot on my own wisdom rather than looking to him.
Still, those years prepared me for this season of my life in a way I could have never imagined. The people God put in my life during that time made an impact and even when I wasn't making the best of choices those memories stayed with me. This past year we had to make choice after choice about how we would handle James's short life. We had to handle situations and people that tested us in very real ways. On this side of that I can see clearly how what I learned as a child and teen shaped the way I responded to those situations.
It makes me think of Esther. Her story has always been one that sticks with me, possibly because it was always used as a parallel for Rachel Scott's story. If you aren't familiar with the story, Esther became Queen through a beauty pageant of sorts. Her uncle Mordecai raised her and advised her in how to earn the King's favor. They were Jewish and therefore very much persecuted and discriminated against. One of the King's advisor's, Haman, hated Jews. He manipulated the King and used his power to order the Jewish people to be executed. Esther petitioned the King and ultimately saved her people. God used her position in the kingdom and her upbringing to save His people from death. This is a very simple version of a much more complicated but beautiful story. You should read it if you haven't.
I believe that everything in my life to this point was preparing me for this season. The jobs I've worked, the friends I've had, difficulties I've faced. They were all shaping me and preparing me for this exact purpose.
So to the girls in Acteens and Youth Group; Thank you. You taught me the hard lesson of how to ask for forgiveness when I hurt you, and showed me how to forgive when you hurt me. You supported me during a period in my life that was more important than I could know at the time. While I don't keep in touch with any of you aside from facebook, I think of you often. I hope you have found happiness and that our years in those communities had a positive impact on your life as well.
To the Sunday school teachers and discipleship training leaders that made sure we didn't just show up on Sunday, but thought about what we were learning through the week and applied those bible lessons to our daily lives; Thank you. I still hear your voices gently correcting me.
Most importantly, thanks to my family. It takes a village to raise a child and you did that. All of you played a part in making sure I was in church and learning about God. You disciplined me when I did wrong and showed me unconditional love. I saw Jesus in you.
What if God put us exactly where we are for this exact moment so that He could use us to shine His light to those around us. Esther saved a nation so sometimes it's hard for us to see exactly how it relates to us, but I see it. All these people in my life, they were my Mordecai; teaching me, shaping me and encouraging me. James's encephalocele was our Haman, trying to tear us apart. Finding the strength to carry him, that was God's light shining. I will never understand in this life why James couldn't survive and I still wish that our miracle had been bringing our son home. Instead the miracle God gave to us and to everyone who knew James or has heard his story is the ability to see the joy in the suffering. He has shown us how to find peace in Him. It is such an honor to be James's mom and see his story touch the lives of so many people.
So look around your life. The child you are raising, the co-workers you need to have patience with, the friends who sometimes hurt you without meaning to... you may be their Mordecai. Don't give up on them. Who knows, perhaps they are your Mordecai and God has put them in your life to prepare you.
For such a time as this.