you still somehow love Jesus

chandelier

You were every bit thirteen: skinny as a rail, brace-face smile, unbelievably shy, uncomfortable in your own skin. But from the first moment you learned what a mission trip was, you wanted to go on one. As soon as you hit the minimum-required age, you signed up for a trip to Central America.

Funds needed to be raised, of course, and you got to the hard work of raising them. You baked. Babysat. Washed cars. Wrote letters. Your small, zealous church was puzzled, but supportive. You remember that church, don’t you? The one that met in the American Legion Hall, with children’s church in the hallway and nursery in the coat closet? They readily celebrated the gifts of the Spirit, but didn’t really have much concern about “going into all the nations.” But now, one of their own was wanting to “go.” And this—this—they could get behind.

You made a poster board map masterpiece with a movable airplane to track your progress as you raised support that would get you to Managua, Nicaragua. With sweaty palms and a shaky voice, you got up in front of the church and shared your desire to serve in a foreign land. Your nervousness was met with happy cheering, a side hug from your pastor, and encouragement from those who saw what a big step this was.

Your pastor took up a “love offering” for you. (You still laugh at that phrase.) And he did that every week for a month, with the church collecting all the funds to pass along before your financial deadline. You were blown away by the generosity of your tiny church family of tongue-talking misfits. Then when the time came for the funds to be sent to the missions organization, you made a painful discovery.

Your pastor decided to spend the money himself. There was nothing left for you. Nothing left for Nicaragua.

You were thirteen.

:::

You were every bit nineteen: no longer skinny as a rail, curves had finally begun to find you. You laughed loudly and often, with a flannel shirt perpetually tied around your waist. Fresh out of a year-long missions internship, you had your sights set on Africa. You had six months to work, save, and raise money to move overseas.

Having graduated from the tiny Christian school at your church (a very different church from your previous one), your pastor knew you well—after all, he’d doubled as your Bible and pre-Calculus teacher. You loved him and the way he made you (and everyone else in the church) feel like family. And you knew he loved you too. He would beam with pride when he’d spontaneously pull you up on stage during a service to brag on something you’d done or said. You hated it and loved it all at the same time.

So when he said you were making a bad decision by pursuing missions, you were caught off guard. He told you that doing mission work was a waste of your time and skills, that you “could do so much better,” and that you “could do anything you wanted.” Of course you cried (as you always do when speaking about things of the heart) when you told him that contrary to his perception, you weren’t resigning yourself to missions out of some strange sense that it’s all you could do—but that it was, in fact, exactly what you wanted to give your life for.

Many tears and conversations later, your pastor agreed in the value of going to Africa “for a year, and then we’ll see….” He went so far as to commit to covering your monthly support in exchange for you volunteering full-time in the church office until you left for Africa. (You can’t help but roll your eyes at your 19-year-old self, stressed over raising $400 a month. You’d eventually be raising half a million dollars.)

So you spent those six months working as his assistant. It was a rocky road, that season of church work—like the time you had to challenge his integrity and stand up for your own when he asked you to write his thesis paper—but you worked hard, and kept your eyes on Africa.

And then came your last week in the office, when he told you he’d changed his mind. “I decided we’ll only cover half of your support. The church will give you $200 a month.” Amid tears, confusion, and disappointment, you reminded him that this whole arrangement had been based on them supporting your full amount.

“Well, it’ll be your word against mine, so…”

You were nineteen.

:::

You are every bit thirty-five: still pretty uncomfortable in your own skin (which now curves in all the wrong places), but you also still laugh loudly and often. And, by the grace of God, you still somehow love Jesus, despite a lifetime of being taken advantage of by those who carry His name.

And that has to count for something on the Sundays you can’t bring yourself to step foot inside a church.

Originally posted on A Deeper Story >

Comments

20 Responses to “you still somehow love Jesus”
  1. Mark Allman
    @
    says:

    Alece,

    This makes me so angry for you. You deserved so much more. I admire that regardless of all you have been through that you still stay the course. So much!

    I am so glad you still laugh loudly and often. I hope I can hear that laugh one day. :)

    I have one close friend I call a Warrior for how she responds to what has been thrown at her.(http://tanyamarlow.com/) You are a warrior too. Alece Ronzino Warrior Leader!

  2. Stacey Walker says:

    I’m blown away Alece. I remember your “brace filled” smile. I always loved your smile, then & now. It breaks my heart, the things man has put you through. Those who called themselves Christian, who were anything but! It makes me all the more thankful that we serve God (not man) & it is He who is ever faithful to us. And that rather than giving up, you continue to look to Jesus & point others to Him. May He continue to bless you & your ministry!

  3. I’m not often this crude, but I am a straight forward “say what’s on my mind” type of guy so hopefully you won’t be offended by what I’m about to say. But as far as these two guys go that you’re talking about…what a couple of douche bags! I’m just being real. I’ve been blessed that I haven’t come across a lot of Christians like this in my life, but that’s probably a good thing because I’m afraid I might end up punching one of them in the face!

    For me, this is one of the things about free will that really grates on my heart. And it’s not that I’m bashing free will…I see the beautiful gift God has given each and every one of us through free will. But when you’ve have situations like this I honestly wish God would just take it out of the hands of men and women and just go Old Testament Biblical on somebody…you know what I mean?

    I’m sorry, this is not a very encouraging comment at all, and I realize that. I will tell you though Alece, your response to it all is awesome and shows an extreme amount of character on your part. I’ve learned in a lot of different ways that in this life we live, God is not concerned with our comfort…but instead with our character. How do we choose to respond when our backs are pushed against the wall? That’s honestly what it’s all about. And I’m not saying its fair (because it’s not) or that either of the situations you shared above are right at all…but maybe because you’ve grown and displayed great character through these experiences…maybe on some level that makes what happened kind of worth it. And what I mean by that is this…what you’ve shared…what you went through and how you have chosen to deal with it…it inspires me. And I know it inspires others. So maybe in some beautiful way that God only knows, it is all worth it. I hope you understand what I’m saying.

    • I am definitely grateful for the glimpses of redemption I already see… And there are bits of my “now-me” that I’ve grown to appreciate, that wouldn’t have been there if it weren’t for my crazy journey.

      Thank you for the encouragement, Jeremy.

  4. Dre
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    says:

    this brought tears to my eyes….. so many. going off to Africa myself (SA was so beautiful) for 5 months and being burned deeply…. then to return home and only get burned by the church that supported you… to step out of church for a while and to run fast and far…. but to only be drawn back, because you can never get away from HIM, the one your soul craves…. to enter into a new church on the complete other end of the spectrum, to be told that you were not being ‘excommunicated’ for your sins…..

    and even three years later, I try church. I try community. I usually show up fashionably late, in order to miss the hellos, and slip out a little early right before the alter call….. but knowing all to well, that I still choose to run from Him….

    I show up at that church, thankful that I am there often- completely alone- because I know I must ‘serve’ somewhere…. so I clean that church…. I scrub long and hard into the dark of the night…. but then nights like last night, I show up angry. I sit in those pews and yell at those stained glass windows of Jesus for hours-fist in the air, screams and groaning sobs of not understanding…. but knowing that my tattoo still rings true that “Jesus is enough”… even if I want Him to come off his throne and fight me like Jacob, to put me in my place…. I know I love Him and I want Him. No matter how I go about it, he wired me- He gets me… even if I’m doing it all wrong….

    I still show up- and on those many sundays that I don’t…. He still does in His own way… for I believe He will never leave me to my own, even though I was told that MANY times- that He has in fact, left me…. I have to have hope that He will do the relentless pursuing… after your heart and mine….

    • Dre
      @
      says:

      ***now being excommunicated for your sins***

    • Mark Allman
      @
      says:

      Dre,
      You paint so well with your words. It has always amazed me knowing that God pursues us; that He continues to do so even when we shout for Him not to. That those times we are telling Him to leave us alone all we really want is to be held close and told that it will be ok.
      I am glad you still are showing up. I know it will be honored.

    • Oh friend… I could just FEEL your heart in your words…

      I feel like I have so much to say and absolutely none of the right words all at the same time. So… THIS: “I have to have hope that He will do the relentless pursuing…” I am clinging to that for you (and for me) as well…

      Holding your heart close tonight…

    • Pierre says:

      Dre,

      My mom and I used vastly different responses to these “hiccups” or as my aunt will call them “bekbokkers”. That word roughly translates as “mouth smasher”, when someone hits you with all their force straight on your mouth.

      I will also, like you, yell and scream at Jesus. I will mostly do mine on a Saturday night late at work when I know no-one is around. When I know my voice does not carry through the building or on the wind somewhere. A truth I have learned is that Jesus is right there and most of all, He let me continue. After I have done yelling and I fell exhausted in my chair, I can feel His presence and that is when, most of the time, I will implement my mom’s method.

      When things go wrong with her, she goes to her bedroom or wherever she feels comfortable, place her hand on the bed or chair and then, as she says, she invites in “ouboet” Jesus. Ouboet means the eldest brother. We are all children of God, but we are adopted, Jesus is the only Son of God. My mom will then talk to Jesus as if He is a sibling. I know my sisters shared most of their secrets with each other. Secrets neither me nor my parents knew, but they did and they did not trust anyone else with that. My mom talks in the same way to Him. When I talk to Jesus as my sibling, then it is hushed tones, whimpers of apology, even quieter whispers of regret.

      This is a long comment already, but I want to leave with a quote, which ties with your last sentence, my mom told me over the phone: “I am thankful that God has forsaken His own Son so that He does not have to forsake mine”. Please know that God has forsaken His Son for you, so no matter where you are, He will pursue to find the one “missing” lamb.

      Much love and Blessings,
      Pierre

      • Dre
        @
        says:

        I love your words to describe emotions or moments… they’re so beautiful. (: I love intertwining my life with others in ways like this. Thank you for your sweet comment. And I only yell and scream at Jesus when no one is around ;) The church is empty. hahaha might be bad if I show up Sunday morning and did that. (: The church would most likely kick me out or hush me up rather than love and step into that moment. And that’s okay. (maybe?)

        • Pierre says:

          Dre,

          Thank you for your comment. Sometimes even this blind squirrel finds his nut! If you are going to stand up in church and shout, please invite me. I will be the one that shouts, “You go girl!” Snicker, snicker.

          This is going to be a long post and I apologize beforehand. I want to share with you my experiences over the past years hoping that you will find comfort in it. As you well know, I am also shouting at the Lord. Mostly followed by what I will call my submarine mode “Run Silent, Run Deep” for several weeks. I do not want to talk to people, not in person, not on the phone. Then one day, about three years ago, my perspective changed.

          I was always interested in astronomy and space. When I saw the picture “Pale Blue Dot”, a shiver went down the spine of my soul. It is a photograph taken by Voyager I, and “hanging” in one of the rays of sunlight is earth. Just a dot. What made this so remarkable for me was that this photo shows earth 5.5 light-hours away. Meaning light, which travels 7 times around the earth in one second, will travel 5.5 hours before reaching earth. I know that the Milky Way system is 100 thousand light-years wide, that Andromeda, our closest neighboring galaxy, is 2.5 MILLION light-years away and I don’t even know how big the universe is. Staggering numbers, but mind blowing as it is, the canvas that God works on is immense. Yet, you can barely see the earth 5.5 hours away. Did it make me feel small? Yes. Did it make feel insignificant? Absolutely not!

          It made me realize how precious God sees me even if the others in my life do not. Even if they try to diminish me, God is there. Nowadays I am watching the earth He created with a sense of awe. Because when He created the earth, it was version 1.0. Guess what? It is still version 1.0. God only had to create it once, He never had to go back and fix the “bugs”. Although us humans think we are so smart, every day we find out something else that make us say “Uhm, wait a minute”.

          Every day NASA has an “Astronomy Picture of the Day”. Sometimes it is breathtaking, other times it is too complicated for me to understand. However, if you do go to the site, there is a Calendar function and I will urge you to look at the video they have for May 16, 2011. It is a time-lapse video about clouds and the sky over the Canary Islands. Always makes me smile because God, in His infinite wisdom, reminds me that what He has created is for my enjoyment and if I want to see the real beauty then I just need to relax and slow down. Even if I feel everyone is against me, even if I shout at Him, His hands hold me; His creation surrounds me, even if I have to look up, especially if I look up.

          I would like you to find that one thing where you will always see God. That one thing that in the deepest valley of despair you can hold onto. That one thing God will remind you that He is still with you and you are still His daughter. Mine is space. I truly hope you find yours.

          Much love and Blessings,
          Pierre, your bother in Christ

  5. holy shit.
    i just don’t understand people. this story breaks my heart. and i know you’ve seen redemption in it, redemption now and redemption that’s still on its way, and i’m glad for that. but damn. that just sucks.

  6. Michelle says:

    I’ll never understand these things.

    I’ll pray for your heart to continue healing, Alece.

    Someday I hope to get back to church, too…

  7. Hi alece,

    been a while since i caught up with your blog. Crazy reading this.

    The last few years have been crazy as the wonder of the internet, twitter, and endless blogs have highlighted how peoples experiences growing up in the church and as christians was profoundly…negative.

    It’s hard for me to process. Church was the place where I wasn’t always awkward. I was able to make friends. I felt so much more in my own skin than in school. My parents were completely devoted to their faith and could explain it to me or showed me it was real by their actions but they weren’t crazy like so many other christian adults. They drank wine, they let my sisters and I date, go to movies. They never bothered to tell me what complementarianism is (praise jesus!).

    My experience growing up in church wasn’t exclusively positive. I’m not happy with how my youth group experiences paired with my personality made me overly exclusively, anti-social, and generally a poor witness in general. But i’m so thankful for all the positives.

    I’m 30 next month. I’m looking for my first “real, permanent hopefully it will pay all my bills and have enough left over for everything else in my life” job. It’s stressful. But I wouldn’t change the fact that i spent 2 years overseas making almost no and no money during that time. They were essential. They allowed for important growth where i only upset 10 people instead of everyone I might have known at home. They matured me. They allowed me to see others perspectives. They forced me to question how I saw the world. They have made me an infinitely better teacher than I would be without those experiences.

    Keep fighting against those who would lie, discourage and lament. It’s worth it.

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