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TITLE: A Dead End Life 5/5/14
By Stephanie Eckenroad
05/05/14
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I looked at my husband and smiled as I watched our daughters, dressed in their Sunday best, sitting quietly between us on our usual church pew. I was clothed in my very best as well, prepared to sing church songs and to hear a message that would encourage and change me. Surprisingly, what happened that warm spring morning in our small-town church wasn’t a message from our pastor that changed my life, but a message directly from God to my poorly clothed heart. I learned that no matter how good I may look on the outside, if the inside is full of ugliness, then I am not at all where God wants me to be – no matter how many times I may walk through a church door.

Into our bright, sunny sanctuary walked a woman clothed in black leather with her leather-clad family. They looked as if they walked in directly from a bike rally. She was known as a “bad girl” in school, and all I knew was that I didn’t want anything to do with her and “her kind.” I had no reason for not liking her other than the fact that we were two very different people. Immediately, when I turned my head and saw her take a seat I thought, “What is she doing here? I hope this is only a one-time stop.”

I slowly turned toward the front of the church and looked at the large wooden cross hanging high above us and prayed, “God, she and her dead end life do not belong here.” I was blind to what religion was doing to my heart. I was blind to the cross that was hanging over each and every one of us.

God, in his gracious mercy knew my blindness, and because of His deep love for me, he was about to take me on a journey that would change my life forever.

“You owe Amy an apology. Write a letter and make this right.” I rubbed my hands over my sleeping eyes. Did I just hear something? Slowly I pulled the blankets off of my body, and sat at the edge of my bed. God, was that you? Do you really want me to write a letter to Amy? There was no audible voice, but I knew deep down in my gut that I had a choice to make – pretend that I just heard nothing or do what was asked of me.
I rifled through my desk and found my nicest stationery. In the darkness of the night, I penned the strangest letter I have ever written. God opened my eyes and helped me see some ugly truths about the attitudes that I was carrying in my heart. I took a deep breath and began writing. I told Amy about my horrible thoughts and actions. I was so ashamed of myself, but I was as honest as I knew to be. I also apologized and asked for forgiveness.

Placing that letter in the mailbox was difficult. I had no idea what Amy’s response would be. I knew that I didn’t deserve any kindness, let alone forgiveness, but I was hopeful. As a matter of fact, sending this letter could make me look like a fool. So I prayed, “God, I am doing this because you told me to. This isn’t something that I feel comfortable doing. Please bless this letter, bless Amy, and bless my obedience.”

A few days later, I walked to my mailbox and found a letter with Amy’s return address in the top left-hand corner. With shaking hands I opened it, uncertain of what I would find. I knew what I deserved. However, I wasn’t given words of anger and criticism, rather I was given grace. Undeserved forgiveness and words of love poured from that letter directly to my unworthy heart. What unfolded in the days and years after, has showed me the importance of obedience, even when it is difficult or it doesn’t make sense. I also got to see grace revealed through the most unlikely of places.

Amy and I continued to share the same church for several years, and over time, I came to learn that where I saw darkness that day, light was beginning to enter. What I saw as a dead end life was no dead end at all, but a life being born and transformed.

Now, many years later, I am proud to call Amy my sister and my “God” friend. We started praying together 14 years ago. One day every week we meet at 5:30 am and pray for each other, our families, our friends, and our community. We have seen God heal our hearts and our bodies and our minds. We have seen babies born and adopted. We have seen miracles in the lives of those closest to our hearts. We have seen God do the most amazing things.

If I wouldn’t have crawled out of bed that night so many years ago, my life would be so different. I would have missed out on the best friendship. Together Amy and I are walking hand-in-hand through this life clothed in the beauty of God’s grace and forgiveness.
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