My First Encounter

This reflection comes to us from Stacie Tchividjian. Whether you are a parent or a child, […]

Guest Contributor / 12.19.18

This reflection comes to us from Stacie Tchividjian.

Whether you are a parent or a child, you know there is something special about celebrating the many milestones of children. Maybe you’ve planned birthdays, graduations, or a wedding. Maybe you have parents that celebrated your big and small days and attended every event you participated in, cheering you on, supporting you, always encouraging you.

Or perhaps you long for your parents to celebrate you and what you’ve accomplished. You’ve hoped they would show up out of the blue and surprise you at the back of the auditorium, in the gym at the big game, pick you up for the weekend, or simply call you to have dinner together. Anything to show they celebrate with you and for you because they love you…no matter what.

Although I claim five children today because my marriage to Tullian gifted me with three bonus kids, I birthed only two of the five. My two sons are Cole (26) and Hunter (18). Their many milestones sweetly mark the journey of my adult life. Especially the announcement of my oldest son.

I dated my oldest son’s dad in high school, but we broke up towards the end of our senior year. His dad and I are the same age, have known each other since 6th grade, and shared many of the same friends.

I was an honor student, an athlete, in every club I could join, class treasurer all four years of a large high school, popular with classmates in every grade, a friend to many, a compliant child (in the ways my parents could see), the oldest of four siblings, encouraged and loved by my family, compelled to do my best and be my best as far as I could comprehend what that meant. I was a happy child and teenager, the big sister to all my first cousins, the apple of my Granny’s eye and a treasure to my great-grandparents.

I felt loved and celebrated because I was loved and celebrated.

But life’s circumstances weren’t always easy for me. My childhood was riddled with dysfunction, divorce, and damage of all types. My family didn’t have much money. In fact, through junior high and high school, we were poor by society’s standards. But I didn’t feel poor. My mom had me when she was 15 years old, and in many ways, we grew up together. I think about a 15 year old girl…having a baby…in late December of 1973.  It was taboo. Shameful. Wrong. Sinful. It wasn’t cool, easily accepted, or a popular reality show back then. It wasn’t glamorized at all and came with several negative labels attached to any young, unwed, pregnant teenage girl. I cannot thank my mom enough for sticking with me, not aborting me, and raising me as best she could. Most of all, I cannot thank God enough for entrusting that young, scared, unknowing 15-year old girl with me. She is by far one of the greatest gifts God has ever given me.

At 18-years-old, I found out I was pregnant just after I graduated high school. I was understandably scared to death and didn’t know what to do. A friend called my parents and told them (behind my back) that I was pregnant. My secret was revealed. My fear of being shamed and judged became a reality. People now knew my unseen sin.

My mom approached me in my room on the night she got the call. The independent, responsible girl with the big, bright future felt alone, in a ball of tears and terror in her bed, scared to death. My mom’s very presence in my room that night raised my heart rate and caused silent panic: Did she know? What would they do? What would they think? Their image of me is shattered. Their dreams for me destroyed. They probably feel like they’ve done a bad job because I failed to be good like they raised me to be. How can I hide this any longer?

My mind was spinning out of control with thoughts of running away, aborting the baby, anything to get away from the ugly truth about myself. Mainly I wanted to escape from all the overwhelming fears I was drowning in.

My mom stood at the side of my bed. I sat up respectfully (and terrified) in my dimly lit bedroom, and she said calmly, “I know you’re pregnant…” Tears filled her eyes (and mine). I nodded yes because I was speechless. Then she said, as she almost collapsed on the bed beside me through tears and angst, “Why didn’t you tell me? Who do you think would understand more than me?” I could barely breathe as relief flooded me from head to toe. And she hugged me—so tightly.  She laid on the bed next to me, silently stroking my hair until I fell asleep that night.

I knew in that moment that no matter how scared I was, no matter how badly I failed, my mom still loved me.  She understood and supported me, and I knew I didn’t deserve any of it. It seemed I let everyone in my life down, especially my parents. They had worked so hard “to get it right,” to make my life better, and to raise me to be better. I certainly didn’t feel like I deserved to be loved or celebrated ever again. I feared the love I had known for 18 years would disappear because I believed I was loved based on what I did or didn’t do, if I was bad or good, if I succeeded or failed. But I was wrong. And my parents proved it by loving me through a milestone they never anticipated would mark the journey of my life.

This was my first substantial, tangible memory of God’s One Way Love for me. It gave me a sense of security I didn’t have before that moment in time. It was the beginning of a foundation He continues to build upon in my life. It took that deconstructing event to begin construction of something I didn’t have the blueprints for. It leveled some of the false notions I had about my parents’ love and God’s perfect Love for me.

God used my mom to show me the character of Jesus in that life-changing moment. Had my parents responded any differently, who knows what my life and heart would look like today. My parents were able to embrace me and love me in what was, for me, my darkest hour up until that point in my life. I felt ugly, scared, dirty, awful, and exposed. Their love covered all of that for me—God’s Love swaddled me in the most precious of ways through my parents.

He is there in the unseen sin and the seemingly unknown. He says, like my mom did, “Why didn’t you tell me? Who do you think would understand more than me?” God understands. God knows the depths of our sin, yet still forgives us and loves us more than we can bear to comprehend.

My first encounter of His One Way Love was on a very ugly day for me. The Good News is we can entrust all our gross, unlovely days to a God that shares the unmatched Beauty of Jesus Christ with us all.

No matter what. Hallelujah what a Savior.