Hello Everyone, I’m Grace Rankin. All my life, I have been raised in this church. It’s my home, and my sanctuary, but God wasn’t ever a big part of it. Every time I prayed asking about what my purpose was, what was my role in this world, I never got an answer. And if I did, they were extremely vague, but I made due with what I had. I was determined to live the life God wanted me to live. To follow God’s path. But then, I realized, I wasn’t listening to God. My ears were closed, so I opened them and listened.
Gunshots. December 14, 2012, in Newtown, Connecticut. Twenty six- and seven-year-old students at Sandy Hook Elementary School are shot and killed by a 20-year old gunman.
I was almost 12; the next day was my birthday.
Desert Shadows Middle School, I’m sitting in my first hour class, choir. An unknown woman comes in, and tells us how one of our fellow students along with her mother were shot and killed by her father who then committed suicide after murdering his family. I didn’t even know her name.
January 7, 2017, at Desert Ridge, I had my first major panic attack. I felt completely alone. Every person that passed me was a threat. Every object was a weapon. The world became distorted and blurry, filled with demons and monsters.
I never once felt God. Only misery, and fear. And among ALL of this, I asked myself, “Where is God? Why should I not abandon the path of God?” I asked these things because sometimes, the greatest temptation of all it to give up. To not try anymore. To see that man begging, and telling yourself you can’t help him because you’re in the middle lane, not the right. To see a child crying, but think, “I’m no good with kids,” so you keep walking. To look at the news, relaying who’s been shot now or what new crisis is going to end the world, and turning the TV off because sometimes, the world is just. Too. Much.
But, then when I thought all was lost, I heard Him. He said, “Listen again.”
Crying. A baby crying. I have a little sister, Claire. A sassy, spunky little girl who means the world to me. Who shares in my triumphs and defeats, and always has something entertaining to say.
I’m not alone.
Desert Shadows Middle School, I’m sitting in choir, and we are all participating in a partner activity where one of us is a cat (apparently) and another one of us is the tree… with the cat stuck in it (okay). Suddenly, this girl named Riley comes up to me and asks me if I want to be the cat. I let out a meek, “Sure,” and sure enough, the little squirt swings me up and into her arms. My first friend in Middle School. She invites me to sit with her, and (pardon me) noticing her so-called friends treat her like sh**, I take her to another table, where we have begun our own friend group that loves and cares for each other. She still thanks me now in high school for saving her form her so-called friends, when I simply showed her the kindness and love she deserved.
I can change lives for the better, and people can change mine too.
January 1st, 2017: I meet this wonderful woman named Nicole at Old Town Mission who has less than a tenth of what I have, yet, she made me and my sister beautiful necklaces with little pieces of rice in them that she wrote our names on. I was so nervous to go to Old Town Mission where I would be helping feed people without homes or the support they needed. I thought I would say something or do something wrong, but they were all wonderful, and changed my view on the people we call “poor” because they seemed to have a stronger and richer connection to God than anyone I’ve seen.
God and love are everywhere. In the people we meet, and the people we love.
I’m not going to lie. Life is hard. Harder for some, easier for others, but we all bear the burdens of oppression, fear, and failure. We all have seen war, suffering, sickness, and death. However, we have all loved, been loved, and laughed. We have all seen peace, joy, bravery, and life.
“In times of temptation and test, strengthen us.”
“From trials too great to endure, spare us.” and
“From the grip of all that is evil, free us.”
Because while we may live in a flawed a depraved world, we also live in a beautiful and glorious world that we can change for the better. I’m not going to abandon God’s path he has set for me. Now more than ever, with clearer eyes, I will not be tempted by evil or vice. I don’t know about you, but I’m not quite ready to give up on us just yet.
– Grace Rankin, sophomore, PVUMC Youth Velocity Team member
“Lead us Not Into Temptation” Message delivered at Ignite Worship on Sunday, January 29, 2017