My name is Shirley Burchfield. Currently, I live in Tyngsboro with my husband, Bruce. Growing up, I was the third child in a family of four of a good Baptist mother and a non-practicing Catholic father. As long as I can remember we attended the Baptist church and Sunday School.
When I became a middle schooler, I was thrilled to be able to attend youth group with my older brother and sister. I grew up learning all the stories. I knew about Adam and Eve, Noah’s Ark, Moses in the basket in the bullrushes, The Ten Commandments, Jesus’ birth at Christmas and his death and resurrection at Easter. I had to memorize passages of scripture to graduate to the next grade in Sunday School. I could recite the Lord’s Prayer, the 23rd and 100th Psalms, the Ten Commandments and the Books of the Bible. I learned how to find scripture passages by competing in “Sword Drills” in youth group, where we would have contests of who could find the passage first. I had wonderful Sunday School teachers and Youth Group leaders who taught me about God’s love.
I knew that Jesus loved me and that God sent Him to die for my sins. When I was thirteen I finally came to understand what that really meant. Because God was holy, only those who were perfect, or without sin could be acceptable to Him and be allowed to spend eternity with Him in Heaven when they died. That certainly didn’t describe me. While I wasn’t a horrible person, I still did all those things that kids do. I fought with my brother and sisters. I got angry with my parents and said things I shouldn’t. I had ugly thoughts in my heart, you know, all those things that are so common to all of us. These are all sins and would keep me from a relationship with God. Even though I wasn’t a thief or a murderer, I was still a sinner. I was baptized then when I was thirteen to follow Christ’s example and to show to the world that I accepted Jesus’ offer to take on my sins and that I was washed clean of them by Jesus’ sacrifice.
Following my baptism and profession of faith, I tried to live a life that was pleasing to God. However, in my early twenties, I walked away from God. I stopped going to church. I started living a life that I was not proud of and ignored the things I knew God wanted me to follow. I lived the life that was acceptable to the world. I thought life was going pretty good. My career as a computer programmer was going well. I was successful enough to purchase my first home as a single woman at the age of twenty-four.
There was one thing missing in my life, peace. I knew God was always there for me, and I would call on Him occasionally when I needed something but I knew that I was not pleasing Him. That bothered me. Along with that, I had all the worries and concerns that go along with being an adult, health, finances, relationships. The Bible says in Philippians 4:6-7, “do not be anxious about anything but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God that transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
As time went on and I tried to deal with the stuff of life, I realized more and more how much I needed that peace that God could give. I turned back to Him and I have spent the years trying to get to know God better, trying to understand who He is and what He requires of me. I try to turn situations over to Him and trust that He is in charge and that things will ultimately turn out according to His will. No, life is not perfect. It will never be perfect this side of heaven. The problems are still there. There are still health issues. There will always be financial concerns. Once my husband and I became unemployed at the same time. I watched my tiny premie baby struggle to take her breaths, not knowing if she would live until morning. I stood beside my teenage son and heard the words “you have the right to remain silent.” People will disappoint. Family may betray you. But I know that in all things, God is in control.
Things may not turn out the way I want, but I’ve learned that something good can come of everything. I met and married a wonderful man who turned out to be a perfect match when I needed a kidney transplant and those two children have grown up to be wonderful, responsible young adults. Thanks to that peace that God can give, I can handle better whatever life throws at me. Because after this life is over, there is something much better waiting for me. If you would like to know more about this peace that you can have I’d love to talk with you about it. Thank you for listening.