I grew up with the perfect Christian pedigree – a missionary kid, pastor’s kid, worship team and small group leader who never rebelled against her parents. I was blessed to have a solid evangelical upbringing and in a healthy home environment with godly parents who balanced love and challenge very well. I say that not for bragging rights, but much in the same manner that Paul explains how his “qualified” background essentially amounts to nothing before the cross of Christ.

STEFANI McDADE_smallFor as long as I can remember, I’ve been passionate about seeing the Church rise to its fullness in Christ. When I was 8 years old, I starting writing a “book” in an old composition journal which I named “A Guide for Christian Girls.” I only made it two chapters in, but those two pages were pure theological gold, I assure you. In high school I began reading a variety of books on Christian apologetics (how to defend the faith) and would even write out imaginary arguments to my teachers addressing various issues they had with the church, God, etc. By the time I began college as a Bible and Theology major, I thought my trajectory as a Christian apologist was set.

Then one summer in college, I received a scholarship to attend Ravi Zacharias’ Summer Apologetics program in Chicago and it challenged my perception on what it took to be a true apologist. I remember one phrase in particular where they said to us: “If you’ve come here for a set of invincible arguments, you’ve come to the wrong place. It’s not about having invincible arguments. It’s about identifying yourself with the invincible One.” They also said that if any of us didn’t have a thriving and intimate personal relationship with Jesus, we should do the world a favor and not speak out to promote or defend the Christian faith. This greatly convicted me, because I knew there was a lack of depth in intimacy of my relationship with the Lord I had followed and served all my life.

The year that followed was marked with a renewed hunger and thirst to fill the lack I felt in my walk with the Lord. This was this year that brought me into an incredible season of experiencing the Holy Spirit, and I began to pursue and operate in gifts I had never opened myself up to before. As exciting as that season was, my favorite season was the year after I graduated college when I began walking in deep and unparalleled intimacy with the Father. It was during this time that He truly became my closest companion and showed me how to love others unconditionally. He also showed me that it wasn’t about trying to find the middle ground on the charismatic-evangelical spectrum but that I was called to the extreme – and that extreme is Christ.

In February of 2012, God lead me to Atlanta on little more than a spiritual whim. I quit my job, packed up my car and drove across the country to a place I had never been to with a little bit of savings and no solid job prospects or connections. It was then that God started to grow strangely silent in my life. I didn’t really notice at first, with all the change and transition and shifting environments I thought this perceived “distance” was simply God’s way of kicking me out of the nest and teaching me to trust Him and be free to figure my life out.

And that I did – in the midst of great uncertainty and constant soul-searching, I attempted to make “adult” choices to the best of my ability, trusting that God would “work all things for good,” as He had always done. That is, until my view of God and expectations regarding His will for my life were consistently challenged. His silence and apparent absence in my life started to nag at me, then anger me, and finally offended me deeply.

This past summer while I was in Taiwan for ministry, I felt so forsaken by God’s presence that I wrote in my journal “I feel like a wife who wakes up one morning, looks over at her husband and realizes how long it’s been since they’ve had sex. And she wonders three things: 1) Is he deeply dissatisfied with me? , 2) Is he apathetic towards me?  or 3) Has he been unfaithful to me? It was also during this time that I was being reacquainted with God as He is presented in the Old Testament – the God of wrath, impossibly high standards and somewhat of a penchant for striking people dead. Have you ever been offended by the Old Testament? If not, I’d wager you probably haven’t read much of it.

At one point I felt so hurt and offended at God that I cried out and confronted Him. I told Him that He had no right to distance Himself from me since I had served, followed and obeyed Him all of my life and had never even fallen away! One journal entry read, “They say the Holy Spirit is a gentleman and He doesn’t force Himself on anyone, but doesn’t a gentleman also pursue?! WHERE IS THE PURSUIT, GOD?! I feel like I’m asking and I’m not receiving, seeking and not finding, knocking and the door is not being opened to me!”

At my most desperate point I challenged Him – almost as a dare – with the question “What would happen if I were to stop pursuing you entirely? Would you still pursue me?” And in that bitter moment, I literally felt a crisis form in the pit of my soul of what, indeed, would come of my life – which has been so carefully crafted upon the premise of God since my childhood – if I were to simply walk away from Him right now? Would I lose my salvation? Would He let me walk away or would He come after me? I was in the midst of a terrifying angst of soul which I will never forget.

Have you ever had God call your bluff?

Right then, as all of my insecurities about God and how angry and hurt I felt flooded my mind, the full height of His Holy figure stood squarely before me. He then asked the following question with such piercing authority that my spirit trembled underneath its weight: “Would you continue to love, serve and seek ME if I gave you no assurance of my love or salvation?” Already reeling in shock, I felt Him go on… “Am I beautiful enough? Captivating enough? Good, true, just, fair, holy, above reproach, powerful and wise enough beyond all human knowledge or understanding? Would you offer up your love and adoration to me for all that I AM, even if I offered you NOTHING in return? It is you who first asked this of me, now therefore I ask it of you.”

I couldn’t really answer Him at first. But that question launched me into a spiritual exploration that eventually gave birth to this blog… So if you’re curious to hear my response to that bold question, read this blog to find out!