[ You bore the wrath, I know the grace ]

“Then King David went in and sat before the Lord and said, “Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house, that you have brought me thus far? And yet this was a small thing in your eyes, O Lord God. You have spoken also of your servant’s house for a great while to come, and this is instruction for mankind, O Lord God! And what more can David say to you? For you know your servant, O Lord God! Because of your promise, and according to your own heart, you have brought about all this greatness, to make your servant know it. Therefore you are great, O Lord God. For there is none like you, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears.” – 2 Samuel 7:18-22

Looking back at where I’ve been on birthdays past makes me more thankful than I can imagine for where the Lord has me right now.

At sixteen – I was so filled with drugs and alcohol that I couldn’t even take a walk outside in the cold to sober up. I vaguely remember falling and lying face down in the snow for some time, too stoned and stupid to get up, and laughing about it. Then I got so sick that I threw up for what seemed like forever. Then my mom had to come and get me. And in the car, I was so paranoid and anxious that I thought I was going to die. And for some reason, I thought that was “fun”.

At seventeen – I was curled up in my mother’s lap, sober and depressed that all my so-called friends had so quickly abandoned me after I found Jesus and gave up drugs and alcohol.

At eighteen – I had just learned that even Christians know how to hurt and betray each other. Shortly afterward, I relapsed and fell deeper into addiction than ever before.

At nineteen – I had been running from the Lord and from my church family. No one knew where I was living – only where I worked. That week at work, I received a stack of birthday cards from every man, woman, and child at Grace Church, sharing messages of both Christ’s love and their own for me. Including a letter from Cam which utterly shattered my superficial world and spoke the Truth of the Gospel in a way that spoke straight to my heart. Looking back now, I can see that as each of my so-called friends failed me in their own way – my Lord taught me of his unfailing love for me. It was a painful lesson, but absolutely priceless.

At twenty – I was walking with the Lord, growing in Christ, hungry for God. The Lord had so drastically changed me that nothing about my life was the same. I had a very small group of Christian friends and never missed a Monday night bible study at the Riviere’s. My two closest friends lived together and had planned some extravagant birthday surprise for me that nearly imploded when they got into a massive fight beforehand. It was ugly. But it turned out alright, though our festivities were rushed and tense because of the fight between them. Everything was better by the time we got to bible study. Lisa had made my favorite espresso brownies. They gave me a beautiful framed photo of the kids and Cam gave me a copy of Pilgrim’s Progress. I remember thinking it was the best birthday ever.

At twenty one – I wanted to celebrate this milestone in a counter-cultural way. The Rivieres threw a formal dinner party for me and invited (almost) all of my closest friends. It was amazing and so special and I was thankful beyond what words could even begin to express. Though it was a little bittersweet as my dearest friend could not be with us – it was a lovely way to finish a year which had been hard on all of us. And not only was it the best birthday ever, but probably one of the best days of my life. This was the year to “put away childish things” and I stopped spelling my name like an angst-ridden rebellious teenager, as I was an angst-ridden rebellious teenager no longer, but a new creation in Christ.

At twenty two – There is nothing about my life at 22 years old that is the same as it has ever been before. If you had asked me even so much as a year ago what I would be doing right now, the answer would certainly not have been living in Minnesota, taking TBI classes, and going to John Piper’s church. While I’m not sure exactly where and what the Lord is leading me to, I’m sure that right now I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. And the fight right now is not just about being content in where He has me, but fighting to rejoice and give thanks in all circumstances.

“Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you, in the sight of the children of mankind! In the cover of your presence you hide them from the plots of men; you store them in your shelter from the strife of tongues. Blessed be the Lord, for he has wondrously shown his steadfast love to me when I was in a besieged city. I had said in my alarm, ‘I am cut off from your sight.’ But you heard the voice of my pleas for mercy when I cried to you for help. Love the Lord, all you his saints! The Lord preserves the faithful but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride. Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!” – Psalm 31:19-24