Monday, October 7, 2013

Something New...-er

  It used to be, “Where were you when Kennedy was shot?” but now we say, “Where were you September 11, 2001?” In an instant, people will reply with their exact locations and actions at that time. In the same manner, many Christians remember vividly the exact date they received Christ and some even remember down to the minute. It is not so for me and I used to be ashamed of this but God has shown me the error of that shame. The walk He gave me is mine...or actually His, even if I don’t have the exact time marked in my memory. The important factor is that He is mine and I am His.

  The first time I prayed and asked Christ into my heart, I was a pre-teen. I did not really understand. I wanted to be saved but on my terms and when God “failed” me, I set out to rebel against Him. I remember vividly the fight I gave Him. Oddly, looking back on it, I am astounded that even though I knew who I had chosen to be at war with, I had the audacity to shake my fist at the heavens and cry out threats directly to Him. Psalm 14:1 says, “The fool says in his heart that there is no God.” Not sure what you would call the one who screams out loud, “I know there is a God and I don’t like him.”   My mind viewed God as the enemy because I believed that He left me when I needed Him most.

  2 Timothy 2:3 says, “Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” Looking back, I can clearly see that I had not even become a soldier yet. Being young, not knowing God’s word, and trapped in a difficult place, you want quick fixes and that is really what I had prayed for at that time. All through the Bible, it is  very clear that Jesus does not exist to be a quick fix. He was in this before creation and His commitment requires a response of  commitment from us.

  From a very early age, I always felt like someone was watching me, always with me. It was like a friend and brought me comfort. In every breeze, in every flower, the pebbles under my bare feet, the stray dog that nuzzled my cheek as I lay in the warm summer grass…it all seemed connected and I was a part of it. I embraced it wholeheartedly without understanding about God at all.  Maybe it was just a child’s imagination or maybe not – “…and they shall call him Immanuel, which means God with us,” Matthew 1:23.

  Sadly, as time passed, the feeling of this presence passed away. My life became complicated and difficult. It felt like a blackness was eating a hole inside me. Even though, I gained some knowledge of Jesus, I did not understand. The summer I prayed to accept Christ, my expectation was that God would hear me and make everything right according to what I thought would be right. “God make my parents stop fighting, “ Give us a home, “ Give us money for food and bills”…on and on I sent requests to God. He seemed not to hear or not care. My brain latched on to the latter idea. My experience had taught me about fathers so the application to God was easy.

  Isaiah 55:8 says, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways, my ways, declares the Lord.” Man cannot fathom the depths of God or His purposes and yet we try to pigeonhole Him in our thinking. What God was doing in my life was a work beyond my understanding and because I could not understand, I made up my own rules. The game was to show God that I could get by on my own, to do what I wanted AND I would be fine.

  Fast forward a couple of years and I was right in the middle of my game with my rules. It looked like this – extreme depression so I cut and physically abused myself to try to get rid of the pain that was still lingering even after heavy drinking and some drug use. School was a painful, lonely place so I avoided it as much as  I could while still flying under the radar. At age 17, everything was a chaotic mess. The progression led to a plan to end my life as soon as I knew my little sister could be on her own. The path running from God did not lead to all the fun I wanted or being in control of my destiny. It was torture every moment I was conscious.

  It was not for our punishment or oppression that God gave us His law. The Creator of all the universe is quite aware of what our weaknesses are and in His wisdom, gave us direction to find joy and keep from stumbling. Jeremiah 29:11 makes His plan clear, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not harm you.” Unfortunately, I did not get that far in my Bible knowledge. I made an accusation and rendered God guilty without defense. Within 12 months, there was a wrench in my plan. All of the sudden, I had someone in my life that I cared for very much and who cared for me. 18 months after that, I was pregnant. Game over. Fear replaced the torture - fear of not knowing how to be a mother and how to be in a relationship. This new life was ruining my death plan but I was still not going to turn to God. It would take a few more years and a few more circumstances to change my direction. Every step of the way, I kept bumping into God. How coincidental???

  One beautiful baby boy and a marriage later, God played a dirty trick. Okay, not a dirty trick but it was some sneaky righteous and mercy. First, He moved us next door to a Christian couple who loved babies. Then, of all the sneakiest tricks, He gets my husband to go to church. If you are thinking that I rejoiced, you are wrong. More than anything, I felt betrayed by my husband. I would watch him walk out the door and go to church. The next thing I knew I was in a Sunday School class. Contrary to what you might be thinking, I was not happy. As a matter of a fact, I was mad, so very, very, very mad and there was only one reason for it. This time I knew that if I walked down the aisle said I want to be saved, I would have to give over control of my life to God. My heart was exactly where it needed to be this time. It was aware that there was about to be a takeover and a new captain would be at the helm. My way, my rules were all about to fly out the window. Everything was going to be surrendered to my Savior AND LORD.

 Still that date is not forever etched in my memory because this has been an ongoing work. More important to me than that date is Christ’s pursuit of me, the overflowing grace, the re-birth, the restoration, and the new mercies he gives every day. Knowing that the Creator, determined before time that I was His and He pursues me is awe-inspiring. Luke 19:10 says, “For the Son of man came to seek and to save what was lost.”

  Before you fall into the belief that I am like Snow White, living a perfect life, singing all day while the birds help do laundry and the mice wash the dishes, know that every day is a battle. Submitting is not one of my talents and it has truly been a persevering work of grace. But, here I am, years down the road, hopefully, a little wiser. I am not on the fence and have even ventured some distance away from it, but still I am in a hard place. It is the not the criticism from people who laugh at my faith that is hardest, it is myself. Days pass where my flesh forgets that I am new and it is dead and ugly depravity rears its head. Sometimes I wield the sword swiftly and sometimes I lay myself on the ground as if defeated before I even battle. How much I have proved the love and grace of God over and over and yet, He still calls me "child." What a wondrous, amazing God!

  Tell me, do you know Him?

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