On October 6th, 1991 I gave my life to the Lord and was water baptized in our bathtub. Though I was very young, I had a saving knowledge of the gospel and my need for it. As I grew up, I was aware of wanting to break away from my sinfulness and live in a way honoring to God.
Skipping ahead nine years and I'll pick up as a sad and lonely teenager who was looking for something to fill the vacuum in her soul. Friendships, "fitting in," media, fashion, and the like were my pursuits. In my mind I knew they were idols, but I did not let go of the grip they had on my heart and passions. Of course, they never satisfied me and left me discontent and unhappy. Furthermore, I felt like I was in bondage to sin in my life, particular the areas of treating my father with respect and my brothers with kindness. I knew that my attitudes were wrong and felt conviction from the Holy Spirit about them. Yet, this only contributed to my miserableness because as hard as I tried, I did not change. Those of you who did not know me well then may think of me now as gentle and "passive" by nature. Not so then!
In the beginning of 2000 God started working in a new way. He used my mom to speak truth in to my life and point out to me how the things I ran after were idols. I remember one night, as she sat on my bed and talked to me, she told me that she could not characterize me as happy. I remember the tears that came to my eyes because I knew it was true. I wasnt happy. I was empty and sad. Over and over again I had been let down and betrayed by what I held dear. But my mom was so faithful to keep reminding me of how God was the only one who would satisfy me, and to speak to me about the sin in my life. Despite my knowledge of these things, they did not leave my mind and enter my heart. My journal from that time reveals how I knew one thing and yet often lived another.
God kept increasing my awareness of my need and desperation. He revealed to me that I could not grow because I was seeking to change my sinfulness because I knew it was the right thing to do and so that my parents would be pleased. These motives could produce little fruit on their own. God showed me how my obedience to him must spring from my love for him. I knew I did not posses that kind of love, though I desired it. In March of 2000 I copied a quote from John Calvin into my journal,
"For until men recognize that they owe everything to God, that they are nourished by his fatherly care, that he is as the Author of their every good, that they should seek nothing beyond Him they will never yield Him willing service. Nay, unless they establish their complete happiness in Him, they will never give themselves truly and sincerely to him."
God was setting me up. That following Sunday after copying the quote, Carlos Contraros visited our church and taught on the Fathers love for us and how he gave the Holy Spirit so that we would not be left as orphans (John 14:18). He spoke of how we can have an intimate, real friendship with God and of his personal love for each of us. In my journal I wrote, "I have been searching for a missing link to why I havent been changing, and a point Mr. Contraros made stood out to me very clearly. He said that when we try to obey the Lord we can do it to please Him, out of duty, or a sense of it being the right thing to do, but even more than those things (which are all good), we should obey because we want to have a deep relationship with God. Wow. I already long for that so now and I want to seek to use it for motivation."
That message stirred something deep within soul, and caused me to realize the immense love of the Father for me and the kind of relationship I could have with him. After that, a change began to take place on the inside. My affections started to move from my previous idolatry to my Heavenly Father. I knew that God was transforming my heart. I could feel the difference within me as I sought my Love and Best Friend. On the outside, there was not a big change. I was still caught in the sinful habits that had become ingrained in me. For a while God took me through the fire and kept hounding me with the conviction of my sin. But slowly, as God drew my heart to him he renewed it so that with time I could begin to overcome my sinfulness, by his grace. A quote from Mary Kassian describes it perfectly,
"Understanding Christianity as a love relationship revolutionizes the way we live. It changes the way we view repentance and confession. We repent and confess because we have hurt the one we love, not merely because we have broken the rules. It changes the way we view witnessing. We witness because we want people to get to know our wonderful Brother and Father, not to convert them to a church or religion. It changes our perspective on Christian disciplines. We read the Bible, pray, memorize, meditate, and fast not because it is required of us, but because of our longing to connect with the lover and redeemer of our souls. We are motivated by love and longing, not duty and obligation. It changes our perspective on Christian service. We are under no pressure to perform. We listen carefully to our Father and do only what He asks of us. We delight in our Father and revel in being His child. It changes our perspective on suffering, pain, and sacrifice. We are filled with joy and hope in the certainty that our Father is in control and will make it right. We are eager to give up lesser joys for the all-surpassing joy of knowing and walking with Him."
This describes beautifully the change that the Holy Spirit wrought in my heart. It was not my work that brought it about, but it was the incredible work of the Father's grace and love. I do not mean to imply that the process of sanctification is complete in my life () or that I no longer struggle. Not at all!! Rather, God gave me a foundation to be able to truly pursue him from there out. Honestly, when I look back over these past two years I am humbled. I realize what a baby in Christ I am. My walk is only just now beginning compared to the years of service others have had in His Kingdom. That thought both frightens me and thrills me! My desire for sharring my testimony is not to draw attention to myself, but rather to point to Gods merciful grace in my life. As I look back the picture I see has nothing to do with me: I see how a loving God convicted, pursued, and drew a hopeless child. How he took her under his wings and changed her heart with his love and kindness. May my testimony be a reflection of grace.And by the way, this is only Part One of how God has brought me to where I am in April of 2002! Does it sound complete to you? It is lacking half of the story. To be continued...