I lived in Santa Monica for close to one month.
This is where I ran back to God.
The first time we met, I was in college.
We were briefly acquainted many years ago when I first started getting fever blisters and my brothers would pick on me mercilessly. Standing at my window looking outside at all the kids riding their bikes, able to laugh because their lips weren’t swollen, I would ask God to remove the blisters, and sometimes-most of the time-he would.
I don’t remember the name of the Daytona Beach church where I first gave myself to Christ, but I do remember crying to my parents on the phone, and them audibly rolling their eyes at me. My father laughed. It was a short conversation. I was almost foaming at the mouth with gladness. The Holy Spirit overtook me. I am sure my makeup was a mess. I probably went to Picadilly after. I don’t remember for sure, but that was definitely me and Trinnette’s favorite after-praise spot.
A new Zondervan Women’s Study Bible and a couple months later, my Jezebel spirit got back in the driver’s seat, and my life in Christ was undone. Just like that. Sin separates woman from God. That’s a scripture in my Bible.
There I was, in a neat studio apartment, a ten minute walk from the beach mired in darkness. I had about ten or so items of clothing that I could actually fit into, and more than enough cash folded into my passport holder. My family made sure I didn’t come back to LA broke. Two weeks prior, my son had been forcibly taken from me by the State of Florida, by way of the State of California. You know how in the slave movies the slavemaster and his cronies would just bust into the cabins and grab a baby suckling off its mother’s breast? That’s kind of how it was, except the master was a kindly judge, and there was carpet on the floor instead of dirt. Also, I maintained my dignity, even looking back to silence and comfort my weeping family members and friends sitting behind me. I knew Levi was going back to California without me before we went to court. I couldn’t say it to anyone else. He did too. I couldn’t sleep that night, and each time I attempted to get out of bed, he followed me. He wouldn’t eat his muffin that morning, and tried to follow me out of the house. I am not sure if the private investigators saw that part.
The first night in my new, temporary place, my friend Petra stayed the night with me, or at least part of it. We put my bag down, talked about the laundry facility, and watched Russian Doll. I woke up slightly afraid because I had no idea where I was. I didn’t remember that I had moved somewhere new. Life without Levi was terrible. I cried most mornings, usually as I prayed, but supernatural help was all around me. The right people called. The right people came. For days on end, the Lyft drivers I requested had Bible names. One day Malachi, the next day Judah. Judah and I had a long talk about Levi (This is starting to sound like the book of Exodus). I told him I wanted my next son’s name to be Simeon, because I liked that one the best of all Levi’s brothers. He said, “Judah means Praise.” He also said the lesser the amount of syllables, the more powerful the name. I was sold. I pray about him now, and I am even hoping that maybe I will have more than one son with a man of God’s own heart. A man like David, or Barack, or the ever popular Boaz.
There is one moment in particular that really shines for me as the moment I knew I needed to careen head first into Jesus and not look back, not relent, not bow. It was about one in the morning. I woke up and I thought about Levi, my smart, strong, loving boy. My heart felt like it was going to crawl out of my chest and fly away. I was as stiff as a board on the bed, crying, wanting time to stop. I cried out to God. I screamed, “God! How could you do this to me? You took my babies, my little girls. You let them die. And you gave me Levi. You let him live, though he struggled. And now this. You let him be taken from me! God! What is this? Why don’t you just kill me? I can’t handle this! I can’t take it anymore. Just take me right now!” I rolled over on my side and I cried some more. More like howled. Spit was flying from my mouth. I flailed all over the bed. And then my rational voice kicked in. I was like, “Repent. Take it back this second. Auntie Jackie would be so ashamed of you. And what would happen if God listened to your foolishness? What would happen to Levi?” So I listened to that firm, still voice and I said, “God-I don’t mean it. Please don’t listen to me. I need to see my son again.”
I am still here.
I am still here because I have been preserved for such a time as this. The end of the end.
My destiny is great, and it is still intact, because I listened to the right voice. And I gave God my yes. Am I still tried? Yes. Do I still cry? Yes. But each day with Jesus makes things much easier because we all know how the story ends.