Origin stories are becoming a thing lately. Maleficent, X-Men, the upcoming Han Solo flick–they’re popping up everywhere. They might not be homeruns, but there’s something to be said for learning where somebody’s from.
The childhood trauma that sent them chasing down justice.
The vat of ambiguous green goo that granted the hero his power.
The chance encounter that altered the protagonists entire view of life.
Endometriosis isn’t my origin story–it’s just my crafty nemesis. Not even my arch nemesis at that. Just a buff henchmen who’s thrown a couple really solid punches. But the bad-guy conversation is for another time. Now we’re talking about beginnings.
My origin story happened in a foggy parking lot.
It was a particularly sad night two weeks into my freshman year of college. I was 18 and had just gone through a break up and gotten in a huge fight with my best friend–all in this brand new alien landscape called college. It was very much a transitional time and, to my young mind, a scary one.
A few core friends had just driven to San Diego to visit me and, for whatever reason, we ended up standing in the parking lot outside my dorm. It was midnight and thoroughly dark and we found ourselves hours-deep in conversation. Somewhere in the middle of a story I don’t remember, I noticed a girl crossing the parking lot.
She came from the dorm, but I had never met her. I was surprised to see someone else out that late, let alone approaching us.
“Hi,” she smiled confidently and didn’t wait for us to welcome her. “You might think that this is weird, but God put it on my heart to share something with you guys.”
I remember feeling a spike of cynicism at that phrase. Oh brother, is she going to try to pray with us or something? I have always been so immaturely efficient at morphing sadness into bitterness. And at the time I was mildly irritated that I had been “so obedient” in ending an unhealthy relationship and God hadn’t spun around and eradicated my sadness and thrown me a bone.
Because that’s how it works, right? (The correct answer is definitely not.)
As if in response to my mental “ba-humbug,” the strange girl turned and pointed at me.
“He put it on my heart to share something especially with you.”
She told me to look up Isaiah 55 and she walked away.
We all sort of looked at each other incredulously until Michael opened a Bible app on his phone and pulled up the passage. In the cool silence of the night he read out loud:
“Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without cost.
2 Why spend money on what is not bread,
and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
and you will delight in the richest of fare.
3 Give ear and come to me;
listen, that you may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
my faithful love promised to David.
4 See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
a ruler and commander of the peoples.
5 Surely you will summon nations you know not,
and nations you do not know will come running to you,
because of the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel,
for he has endowed you with splendor.”
6 Seek the Lord while he may be found;
call on him while he is near.
7 Let the wicked forsake their ways
and the unrighteous their thoughts.
Let them turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on them,
and to our God, for he will freely pardon.
8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the Lord.
9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
10 As the rain and the snow
come down from heaven,
and do not return to it
without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
12 You will go out in joy
and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
will clap their hands.
13 Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
and instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown,
for an everlasting sign,
that will endure forever.”
There wasn’t one part of the passage that didn’t resonate. And since then, through every season, it’s remained more than applicable.
That night is where it all started. Not because it got me writing or because it launched me on some mission to save the world.
Because it was the first time I believed God saw me. That He listened to our heart’s cry—no matter how “small” our desires or “insignificant” our pain. That moment was the catalyst for the dissolution of my idea of God as a presence somewhere way out there.
Suddenly He was right here. In the parking lot. Trying to catch my attention.
Flighty little me.
Whether I realized it then or not–I know now that encounter rocked me. It was my first glimpse of God-with-us. A truth crucial to weathering the things that came in the years to follow.
The reality of Emmanuel hit me square over the head. In a parking lot.