As I was recovering and feeling sorry for myself, I began to think of my life. I knew that I was the most unlikely person in the world and by unlikely, I mean, the definition: “not likely to happen, be done, or be true; improbable, questionable, doubtful, debatable, unwanted.”
I was orphaned, abused. When I was a little girl and through my teenage years, I was very angry. The neighbors called me the “little red-haired brat.”
I was the chief of sinners, hit the streets, and I had aborted two babies.
On many occasions, I tried to commit suicide. I had three uncles pull the trigger. That’s what my family did when things were tough — checked out by killing themselves, but thankfully, I never had the courage to walk totally off the ledge.
I began to see that maybe, just maybe, God could redeem unlikely me, the chief of sinners.
1 Samuel 16: 7 “But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (NLT).
A surreal experience
God uses unlikely people in unlikely places to do unlikely things. I’ve seen and done and experienced many things in my life, many tragedies, many joys and many sorrows. But, visiting Ground Zero took me to a whole new level. There was nothing to say.
I think it was the hand of God that brought us to New York almost three months before September 11, 2001. My husband had been pastoring a church in Minnesota, but through a chain of amazing events he was offered the post of senior pastor at Three Village Church on Long Island. So we left Cambridge, Minnesota, all six of us, and headed for New York.
We moved into the church parsonage, a large, seven-bedroom Victorian style home, which was overwhelming all by itself. For a bunch of Midwesterners, New York was a big adjustment: the food, the energy level, just the whole feel of a city that is like a world in itself. And then tragedy hit, a tragedy that touched the whole world.
Eight days after 9/11, I was serving McDonald’s food to rescue workers and policemen and firemen about a block from Ground Zero. It was surreal and disorienting. We handed out hamburgers and Cokes to people who were digging through tons of rubble, listening for the slightest hint of someone alive in the midst of the destruction. Grieving family members were there too, hoping for some encouraging word.
One day armed soldiers took us near the base of Tower 2. We went to support those in the middle of the rescue efforts. I remember standing there transfixed as workers gathered near a place where they hoped for a sign of life. They listened for any kind of sound – knocking on metal, moans or groans, yelling — anything that meant someone was still alive.
While I was working at the base of Tower 2, a piece of glass sticking out of the ground ripped through my pants and cut my leg. I was bleeding, but not a whole lot, and when I looked up I was surrounded by firemen and rescue workers. Wow! One guy tore his shirt and wrapped the material around my leg. I thought to myself: What a response! They were looking for life and I was someone they could help who was alive. It was shocking in a positive way to see how they wanted to give.
More than anything else, I felt surrounded by love. Here were hundreds and hundreds of volunteers searching desperately for friends, co-workers and strangers. Many hadn’t slept for days. But there was no sacrifice too big if they could find somebody and in some small way redeem this horrible event.
The gift of love
The scene at Ground Zero changed me. I knew that I had seen a larger kind of love going on there. In the midst of soul-breaking sorrow, people gave their all for the sake of others. In spite of the tremendous despair I saw hope. I came away grateful and wanting to be, more than ever before, a source of healing for others.
I began to see we should not put our limits on a limitless God.
When I was 28, I asked God a big question. I was sitting in a field of yellow and white daisies, relishing the beauty around me. I asked God: “God what is my vocation?” He quickly and simply said, “Your vocation is to love, simply love.”
This was the most special gift he could ever give me. He had given me the gift of love, pure love. My calling since then has been to bring the Divine glory of God around the world.
I am an unlikely woman with an unlikely calling with an unlikely outcome. Like David who had great faith in an extraordinary God. Yes, I have had cancer, traumatic brain injury. My faith brings victory even when it seems unlikely.
God has given and formed in me impossible dreams with impossible realities
Acts 13:22: “But God removed Saul and replaced him with David, a man about whom God said, ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart. He will do everything I want him to do’” (NLT).
Do you feel broken, messed up, unlikely candidate with a huge heart of faith? Are you filled with a whole lot of God? Are you “unlikely?” Then, you are a great candidate to come into the presence of God clingy; He will accomplish impossible dreams that only He can fulfill.
Julie Woodley, MA, is founder and director of Restoring the Heart Ministries as well as a Gateway Counseling Center Therapist. For information visit Rthm.CC or call 1-866-780-7846.