There is a home video of me at 5 years old standing in the snow, wearing oversized gloves meant for adult hands, looking up in wonderment at the snowflakes gently falling down around me and I’m shouting, “Look Mama, God is making it snow!” From an early age, God has gifted me with the sense of His presence and faith that comes with ease. Thoughts of Him have been the soundtrack of my brain and heart for as long as I can remember. At 13 years old, after watching The Passion in a crowded movie theater, I went home and wept in my room and handed my life to Jesus the best my 13 year old heart knew how. I quickly became devoted to being at church every time the doors were open. My friends consisted of everyone in my youth group. The snapshots of my youth are full of memories of summer church camps, Bible drill competitions, local volunteer projects, mission trips, and singing in the choir. Those memories are some of my fondest treasures. Seeds of faith were planted as well as seeds of legalism. Notions of ‘needing to have it all together’ before approaching Jesus were ingrained to my heart.
At 17, I slowly began to drift from my youth group friends and began attending high school parties that involved underage drinking and compromising on many of my convictions in order to be considered ‘cool’. I didn’t want to be known as the ‘goody-goody Christian’ girl anymore. Instead of finding my worth in Jesus, I found my worth in how many people liked me. These behaviors and pursuits followed me to college.
I was excited and eager to hit the restart button on my faith at a college that was devoted to training ‘Champions for Christ’. Within the first month of my freshman year, I received the devastating news that my mom’s breast cancer (that had been in remission for 12 years) had returned. I lived my college years with one foot on the narrow path of following Jesus striving to win His approval and one foot on the wide road of doing whatever it took to win the approval of man (Christians and non-Christians). It was exhausting. All the while I still felt Jesus gently whispering my name and that He was enough.
In my last year of college, my mom was unexpectedly
diagnosed with brain cancer after having a sudden seizure at work.
In 2011, I fell in love for the first time with a man who genuinely loved my soul, not just my looks. By the next year we were married. Finally settled in, I was ready to hit that restart button once again. I remember thinking, “This is it, I’m going to finally get it right. I’m going to finally do this God thing perfectly now that I’m married.” I started to chase the flame I had for God when I was 13 years old. I prayed, I went to church, I did devotions – I was checking all the boxes I was taught to check as a teen. Yet nothing was coming close. If anything, I felt more empty and exhausted than I did before hitting the restart button. He felt so far from me. I was chasing His approval the same way I had chased the approval of my peers for so many years. Conforming my behaviors hoping that it would be enough for Jesus to glance my way. Little did I know, He was already looking my way and He was chasing me as I was running in the wrong direction.
I started attending a bible study on the book of John. The two main questions the pastor asks as he delves in verse by verse is, “Who is this man Jesus, and what does He want from me?” Despite the countless church services, Bible Studies, verses memorized, Christian education, Mission Trips, and Church Camps I had attended, it was like I was reading the Bible for the very first time and the gospel (that I had heard and knew for as long as I could remember) started coming to life. The concept of grace was foreign to me. Learning about God’s grace was like throwing gasoline on the ember of faith that remained from my childhood. I quickly realized that all of my ‘trying’ and ‘striving’ and checking boxes was never going to be enough. Jesus had already done the work on the cross. He had always been looking my way. I had his approval all along. All I had to do was to receive it. Instead of me hitting the restart button on my faith, His grace had already done it. His grace never stops hitting that button, every moment of every day.
Six months later my mom, who was still battling brain cancer, baptized me. In the year following my baptism, I watched cancer slowly eat my mom away. In 5 months time, I watched her lose her ability to walk, toilet herself, communicate, feed herself, and even write her name. It was a long goodbye. At 24, I was doing what most people do for their parents when they are in their 60’s and 70’s. Through the death of my mother, Jesus taught me about eternity and for the first time in my life I got to truly experience Jesus’ character that I had only heard about my whole life-the peace that surpasses understanding, the hope of eternity, His grace in the darkest moments. This lesson of death set me up for my next lesson of hope.
Two years after my mother’s death, I experienced more of Jesus’ character yet again. The death of a parent, 3 miscarriages in one year, and unfulfilling careers left my 5 year marriage a little haggard and torn. In 2017, we unexpectedly got pregnant. Four months after giving birth to our daughter, God allowed more grief and loss to enter my life as my baby girl was given a permanent diagnosis that meant a lifetime of physical struggle and pain. By the time my daughter turned 3 years old, she had endured open heart and spinal surgeries.
God speaks in our suffering. The theme of my 20s was death, loss, and grief. Yet that theme is overshadowed by the lesson of life; a living hope. My hope does not lie in my parents or their life spans, my hope does not lie in having a healthy child, my hope does not lie in a happy marriage, my hope does not lie in the approval of others, my hope does not lie in successful surgery outcomes. Not only did people and dreams that I loved die in my 20’s but also large parts of myself-specifically my pride. In return, I get to experience something so much greater, something that not even death can take from me-the assurance that my never changing, perfectly compassionate Creator is all that I need for this life and the next.
His thoughts and His plans are too wonderful for us to comprehend. I look back at my life thus far (especially my suffering) with the same sense of wonderment and awe of my Creator as I did when I was 5 years old watching the snow fall from the sky. I see His grace, mercy, compassion, sovereignty, peace, and love falling on my life the way those snowflakes fell on my face at 5 years old- gentle, light, and beautiful. The same One who knows the number of snowflakes that fell on my face that day knows the number of my days and what each one holds – this is my living hope.
Jordan grew up on a farm located in a small town in Virginia. She married her NY native husband 8 years ago. Before becoming a stay-at-home mom, Jordan was a professional mental health therapist. Apart from raising her 2.5 year old daughter with a complex medical diagnosis, Jordan also teaches English to kids in China online. Through numerous trials involving grief and loss she endured in her 20s, Jordan fell more in love with Jesus and realizes her need for Him everyday. Her passion for studying God’s word and knowing Him more deeply grows with each passing day.