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Safe in Gods Arms

By Steven Kielley

As I sit down to write about a time in my life that has remained so hidden for so long, I have mixed emotions. My victories in life the challenges I have overcome I gladly share with an air of pride in Gods strength mixed with the gifts entrusted to me through his grace.

It seems in the day in which we live many have no shame when it comes to their shortcomings, actually as time passes we as a people become more amoral removing the fences of moral values and replacing them with billboards promoting promiscuity.

The event that I share with you happened some 40 years ago but without a shadow of a doubt is was a turning point in my life that stands as a memorial encouraging me to travel on and face the challenges and struggles in the course God has chosen for me to follow. A course composed of enormous peaks and deeply shadowed valleys. I am familiar with the laughter and tears of life. I have known rejection and acceptance, success and failure. I know what it is like to be loved and I know what it is like to be hated as well. All in all life is truly worth living and I can truly say that God’s grace and power has provided the elements and tools I have needed to face the giants that inhabit the land I live in.

The year was 1972 I was 20 years old, recently returned from active duty in the military, I had recently arrived from Washington in my hometown of Oak Creek WI. As I stowed my gear and stepped into the life of a National Guardsman, I began to enjoy the freedom of civilian life and a place of my own. It was then I met a girl who I became very close to. Even though we were like oil and water our relationship continued on for a period of time. I guess we were both lonely and looking for companionship, neither of us liked being alone. It seemed at times that we just tolerated each other. It was a single night of passion that changed the direction of my life. A small pebble dropped into the still waters of a pond can disrupt the entire surface. This is what happened to the pair of us. We were to grow up faster and learn quickly the repercussions for our actions.

Something is wrong she said one day to me on the phone. I am late; my stomach knotted up and a cold sweat broke out on my face, are you sure I had mentioned. Yes she declared, as her voice shouted back at me over the phone. We submitted a sample of her urine to the lab, in those days we did not have test kits that worked in the privacy of your home. We both hoped beyond hope that the test would return negative. I was working the day the results came through. I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing, as if it were yesterday. I was working in a pet supply warehouse in Cudahy WI. I had slipped into a private office to call the clinic when no one was around. As I told them my name and asked for the results, my voice cracked and I no doubt sounded like a small frightened boy as I prayed that what I was about to hear would release me from the apprehension and fear gripping my stomach. The nurse just quietly said without any emotion that the tests were positive. The phone dropped from my hand, and I stepped back in a daze. I remember just walking off the job, I waved my hand at the questioning looks and hoped no one saw the tears pooling in my eyes What would my parents say, what would her parents say. In that moment the joy of youth changed for the both of us. Coupled with the previous events which had occurred during my active duty in the military I was having trouble focusing. I looked desperately for a way out of this situation. But life was in her womb and that life trumped both of ours. At this particular time I was driving a 71 Dodge Challenger, a beautiful car that had lots of power under the hood. It was my pride and joy, a symbol of my identity. This day in my eyes it lost its shine and the clear sky seemed to have clouded over. That day as I drove down Pennsylvania avenue I put my foot down on the accelerator and held it to the floor in frustration, I flirted with death that day, I remember driving by a jogger running on the side of the road and seeing the shocked look in his face as I flew by in a careless rage, mad at myself the world, and this silly relationship which I just knew had destroyed my life. The road ended just up ahead I needed to make a decision, I closed my eyes for a moment and considered what to do, at the very last second I slammed on the brakes and smoke billowed out from the wheel wells as I skidded to a stop. I found a place to park and gathered my emotions. I called her and told her I needed to see her right away, she knew immediately what the news was and became very upset. Two kids who had played house and now found themselves responsible for their actions. That day as I sat with her, I asked her to marry me. Maybe we could smooth out the shock if I provided this solution. After all It was my responsibility was it not to father this child. This girl however pushed off the question and eventually declined my offer. For some reason this was a crushing blow, even though I did not love her I felt responsible for my actions. I had been dead serious in my proposal. We decided not to see each other for a time, she requested however when the child was born that I be at the hospital, which I agreed to.

Some months later the call did come and I made my way into a room filled with her relatives, who despised me and were not afraid to let me know it. Her grandmother sent sharpened daggers coming from her eyes as she watched me. Hadn’t I been the one pushed away, hadn’t I tried to do what was right?

That day I became the father of a little girl, my heart nearly stopped as I held her outside the nursery. Some said she looked like me and that caused my heart to swell with pride, this young mother seemed to reaching out to me as I visited each day, there was some talk of getting together as a family. Little did I know that she was leading me on. I so desperately wanted this to happen, this baby girl had ignited something inside of me that week. A reason to live, a well of hope to draw from each day. I started to walk with my head up and had dreams form for the future. Feelings I had not felt for a long time returned and a smile began to appear on my face. Her time to depart the hospital was at hand and as I sat in her room smiling and talking about the future with her, and looking for a place to live, the bomb dropped and I was told that she had another man that she wished to raise this child, a young man she had been dating for some time. Why hadn’t you told me this instead of leading me on I cried out.

This was the second time I had been pushed aside, but this was worse for this time my mirage of hope vanished and my dreams lay lifeless buried under a load of rejection. I walked zombie like down the hallway, the words she had spoken were like a fast growing cancer destroying my hope and dreams from the inside out. Then the anger arrived like a raging torrent, I was screaming at the top of my lungs, cursing the world, cursing myself. It was Friday night, the night I decided that I no longer wanted life, no longer wanted to ride the roller coaster of emotions and endure the thunderous rain of disappointments. I hated myself, I hated her, I hated God. I thought of nothing else as I entered my car but death and how it was reaching out to me offering relief from the tangled mess I called my life.

It is here I must stop and share an event that had happened several weeks earlier. It was a Friday night, the night I usually spent with my friends drinking and partying around the bars in South Milwaukee. I was at my parents’ home and my brother who at this time happily married came to me and asked to share a word with me. What he said next shocked me, “I love you Steve” that was it four words straight from a person who had never showed any affection for me at all in our life together. I felt uncomfortable as he stood there looking at me, he was different, something had happened to this perpetrator of pain who followed me through child hood.

I eventually choked out the words “I love you to,” they seemed so artificial and fake. He then asked me to do him a favor; sure I thought that is what is behind his kindness, his pleading voice came out high and unnatural, please come to church with me this Sunday Night. I had to choke back a cynical laugh, I saw that he was serious, I replied with a somewhat shocked tone, Church, are you kidding, why would I want to go there, I have been confirmed, I have my sponsors, I served that sentence, I paid my dues, why would I want to go to church now. As he stood there with that puppy dog look I agreed, even though I had been coerced I went to church that Sunday night. We walked in a little late, and I was glad that I sat at the end of the pew; it would be easier to get out once it was over. It was a small group of about forty people. As I looked around I begin not only to see but also experience what was happening. Most of those present were young to middle age. The worship was heartfelt and exuberant; I focused on the smiling faces of those who sang with all their heart. The raising of the hands and clapping took me back, there was a freedom here and a spiritual presence that was invigorating. I was the spectator, analyzing every action, it was then a question formed in my mind, what if this was true and people could be happy in their faith. Not just legislated formal ritualistic religion, but spontaneous praise bubbling forth from hungry hearts. The thought had no sooner entered my mind than rushes of emotion swept over me like an Amtrak train speeding down the tracks. It was overwhelming, I could not control what I was feeling, I started to cry and did not know why, what I was feeling felt wonderful and cleansing. The magnitude of this experience was too much and I jumped up and ran out of the sanctuary. I found a back room where I could gain my composure. Little did I know that God was reaching out to me that night wanting to prepare me for what was about to happen. I turned away; I walked back to my car and drove away.

Now as I drive towards the cliffs of Lake Michigan intent on driving out of this world into the blackness of eternity I remember that Sunday night. Questions form in my mind, is there truly a God, if there is a God does he care about me, does he see the mess I have made. It just so happened I had to drive by that church that night on my way to deaths door, it seemed like a force was calling out to me to stop and see if my questions could be answered before I took this final and fatal step. It was dark when I felt drawn into the parking lot in front of the church, I stopped to ask permission at the parsonage and a kind looking lady in the parsonage told me to go on in for the door was open. I walked amidst the blackness of the sanctuary and knelt directly in front of the pulpit. The building was empty, and I was not in the mood to be timid. I poured it all out, all my anger, my disappointment my frustrations all the while pleading for help, and then asked my questions God are you really there, God do you even care if you are. It was then the experience of the previous Sunday once again enveloped me, but this time I did not run, I yielded to the torrents of emotion and found waves of love sweep over me. It was there in the dark as I wept that a strong arm came around my shoulders and held me, a voice next to me began to weep and pray with me. I felt that God was using this man’s arms to hold me and console me. The two of us wept and held each other for some time. This man who I had never met seemed to sense my pain. God loved me through him and that night I knew without a doubt that my questions were answered.

This night changed the course of my entire life. How many times has God allowed me to fill the place of the intercessor as this man had, as I have heldf the hurting, as I hold their hands or wrap my arms around their shoulders to share the gift that was so freely and unselfishly given to me. In love my arms can become the arms of God, my tears exemplify Gods tears for humanity. I have been able to face life’s challenges with the knowledge that I would never have to do walk alone. I learned that God can love us through the arms and actions of his people. I can become a vessel overflowing with compassion for the broken and desperate. I have not nor will I ever forget the kindness of this man. He became like a spiritual father to me and all these years later we remain friends.

My prayer this day is Lord please let your love shine through me let my mouth be used to speak the words you wish to express to those who call out to you. Let my arms hold the troubled and let my hands be the hands which reach out to help those that have fallen. As you have carried me and shown me mountains of mercy let me pass it on to others. Amen

Pastor Steve Kielley is currently Administrative Pastor for Abundant Life Church in Oconomowoc WI. He also works as the Director of Spiritual Care for Pro Health Care Regency Senior Communities in Waukesha WI. He is also lead Chaplain at the Waukesha Sheriffs Department.

Article Source: http://www.faithwriters.comCHRISTIAN WRITER

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