“For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace,” Isaiah 9:6.
I fell in love with Scripture at age 13 when my family was in crisis. Many of us raised in Christian homes may not have vivid memories of the sapling faith of our childhood, but I do distinctly remember that afternoon when God’s Word jumped off the page for me for the first time.
I’d been taught that when I needed God’s help, I could find him in the Bible. I’d just never personally tested that principle. When crisis barged in that afternoon, I did the typical retreat-to-my-room-and-close-the-door move that teens do so well. Desperate for answers, I took to the method I’ve since learned Bible teachers never recommend: I let my Bible fall open and dropped my finger at random on a verse. Suddenly there he was! Jesus had come to meet me in the Psalms. I wish I could remember exactly where my finger landed 26 years ago, but my best guess is Psalm 27. I learned full well that day why he is called the Prince of Peace and the Wonderful Counselor.
I was hooked. I began to read my Bible more and more throughout my teen years. Though the words were thousands of years old, somehow, they were more relevant and personal than anything else this bookworm could get her hands on. That particular crisis resolved eventually, but in the meantime my sapling faith underwent a growth spurt and branched out with lush leaves. I’d learned to do something I’ll never regret. I learned to read my Bible.
Fast forward a decade and a half to the season when our babies were born. Postpartum depression combined with painful ongoing complications infiltrated my body. Simultaneously, my husband’s clinical obsessive-compulsive disorder gained momentum. Josh and I found ourselves in a superstorm and along for the ride were our three precious blue-eyed children who needed us to function as parents each day. As my “Why, God?” prayer evolved into “God, what can I do?” I learned that if my faith tree was going to survive the storm it would need much deeper roots.
It was time for facts. If I’d been a 1st century Christian, what would I know that 21st century Crystal doesn’t know? I dug deeply into the events of Easter weekend and Christmas, determined to find evidence both in and outside of Scripture. I scrutinized skeptical arguments, many of which came from my own brain. Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection became vivid events in my mind.
The gritty willpower and determination of Jesus on Good Friday propelled me. I learned to cry out to my Mighty God for those attributes in the darkness of night when I was up nursing my babies through pain and depression. His Easter morning triumph became my soundtrack as I prayed for my husband, my soulmate, who went daily into battle with the greedy dragon of OCD, never surrendering an inch of his territory as a man of God who protects and provides for his family, just like his Everlasting Father.
Years later, as my deeper roots anchor me, my branches are lengthening. Time to bear fruit. My grandma had told me that God would give me opportunities to use my experiences to help others. He never wastes anything.
So now I find myself in a season of creativity as a children’s pastor, watering young saplings and teaching them where I found the living water so they can find it for themselves. Josh is writing and recording our favorite Bible verses into original songs for the families at our church.
At bedtime when we read God’s Word to our own sleepy teen and tween trees, I know from my roots to the blossoms on my branches that I’m not just reading words that are thousands of years old. I’m speaking over my children the best words I have to give: the words of my Wonderful Counselor, my Mighty God, my Everlasting Father, my Prince of Peace.
Crystal Nachtigal is the children’s pastor at Bethany Church in Fresno, California, She and her husband, Josh, have three children.