Hello new friends,
Seeing I am new to the group I thought I would share a little of my journey, so as not to remain a total stranger for too long. :) It goes without saying that I wish it wasn’t through the computer. Helen Keller once said her greatest sorrow in life is not that she can’t see or can’t hear, but that she can’t clearly express herself in words for others to see and hear. I relate to that, particularly when trying to be known, and to know in such mediums as this. :-/ (BTW, here is an inspiring 3 minute video of Helen Keller where she ‘expressed her inexpression’ : http://youtube/8ch_H8pt9M8 )
I decided to put my story here, because I don’t know that everyone wants to read a long version of someone’s testimony they don’t know. We are all different, and sometimes details can be distracting from Jesus Christ, who even gives us a story to tell to begin with. I did enjoy writing this longer version, however, and decided to just put it up here on my blog for anyone who wishes to read it.
The last time I shared “my story” in a public place was a Baptist church here in upstate NY, where I have lived most of my life except a few years in Denver, Co, and then a few more years traveling in a motor home all over the U.S. with my parents after I graduated from High School. I wasn’t raised Baptist. It was just one of the “Top 10” extreme denominations that we swung to on a wild pendulum ride of church hopping. (You know, in each one we thought we arrived, until we actually did…) ;-)
I don’t know what to think sometimes of my crazy past, and all that I’ve seen in religion. I mean, I’m kind of proud of my family being officially excommunicated by the Catholic Church when I was about 10 years old, just starting to grow in an intimate love relationship with Jesus. But I’m not so proud of the heavy-handed charismatic church scene we found ourselves in after that, and where much of my upbringing was. Not to mention a season that followed after that of wearing a plain sack dress with a rope belt and no makeup (don’t ask!), feeling like the eternal destiny of the whole world was my responsibility :-/ In every place we went as a family, we were very involved. For several years even, my dad was an elder, youth leader, and worship leader, all at once. Talk about pressure! It nearly destroyed my parent’s marriage and our family. The stories of abuse both personally, and upon others, is for another time and place. Most people who only come to sit in the pews on a Sunday morning are not aware of what goes on behind the scenes of institutional religion.
Anyway, when it comes to religion, I feel a connection to Solomon who expressed doing it all, seeing it all, and finding out in the end that it is all vanity. “Don’t try this at church or home” is now my advice. It’s not necessary to go this route to find His rest!
Thankfully throughout this religious roller coaster ride there were times when it slowed down enough for me to actually hear God. Like the time I stood up to give my testimony in this Baptist church with planned notes on what to say, but just before standing up having an overwhelming sense that if I shared what I was planning to say that I would get fried with lightening! This was during a time in my mid twenties when I was starting to graduate out of the diapers of what I believed, to the training pants of why I believe, and I was really struggling with having an assurance of my salvation. By then we had left the charismatic church where life was all about ‘soul surfing’…i.e. riding one wave of feeling to another, one experience to another, and if I fell off the board I would drown. I lived most of my years treading in guilt, as I was never an outwardly emotional or outgoing type, and experiences didn’t just freely happen to me like others. I couldn’t even get myself to feel faint when someone laid their hands on me to get slain in the Spirit!
So the Baptist church understanding of salvation should have given me comfort, one would think. I mean, it too is about experience, but a less emotional one. Simply have a moment when you repent, believe in Jesus, get baptized, and become a member of a local church. Repenting and believing in Jesus being the most important, of course. But that is where I was hung up when standing before all these people on a Sunday morning. I couldn’t escape the fact that I didn’t remember the exact moment I was saved! I remember responding to a gospel message at a neighbor’s house, and sometime following, being very zealous and evangelizing the whole 4th grade in public school. But I didn’t remember what I responded to in the message, exactly. I don’t remember a specific Scripture. No vision of Jesus on the cross. My memory of it is fuzzy. But for years, all the way up to that pivotal moment standing before this group of Baptist people, I had anchored my public testimony of being a Christian to have begun with this childhood experience. And now, the Lord was taking it all away and I stood there undone!
Fortunately I was becoming a spiritual basket case by the time I stood up there, so I found it relatively easy to put down my notes and explain that for some reason I just couldn’t share what I had planned. I said a few words, not much, but basically the Holy Spirit taught me that morning what He had been trying to tell me all along. That “being saved” is not a ‘let’s make a deal’ kind of thing. And that God is so small to be obligated to respond to us when we are ready to, or finally make a “decision”. An experience is not the proof of my salvation, and neither is my mental belief and faith in Jesus. Rather, Jesus Christ Himself is my proof. It is not about me knowing Him, but rather, if He knows me.
What quickly unfolded to me during this time in my life was that He loved me first, He drew me, and He gave me eyes to see. What matters is not looking back to anything I did, including a certain time I said a prayer, but to anchor my faith in His work for me on the Cross, and the life He gave me in His ressurrection. And to know that right now, not yesterday, but at this very moment I am intimately one with Him.
I don’t remember everything else that I said that morning, but afterward a wise woman came up to me and said something so simple, yet so profound… “A child born cannot become unborn”. It was like a kiss from heaven! Suddenly I had the much needed ‘words’ to describe the security I suddenly felt that day, the day I publicly abandoned my testimony for a new testimony that could no longer be shaken. Even on my worst days, or in my cloudiest days, I can anchor myself in this eternal Seed (1Jhn5:11-12,20), and never have to feel that I will be abandoned or forgotten by Him (Heb13:5) or get lost somewhere where He can’t, or won’t come and find me. (Jhn10:29) Jesus Christ didn’t just adopt children, He birthed them! (Jhn1:13) There is a rest for the people of God, a rest from our works, and a rest from the guilt of not feeling like we measure up enough. (Heb4:9)
It’s taken me a long time to enter into this place of rest, as I went the long wilderness route of playing church. I am embarrassed at all the stupid things I’ve done (and recently), so much so that I have for a long time felt I should stifle the Light and Life in me. But again, what is our testimony? Our faithfulness, or His? The fact is, we are always portraying someone. Either the persona of our own self life, or His Life. Choosing to exalt Jesus and His works for us is something we can choose to do, no matter what our mistakes have been. And I have found that His supply of love and grace for us to do this is literally new every morning. :-) (Lam.3:23)
I apologize for how long this has become. I was only going to share a highlight or two, but I am afraid I got to enjoying the process of remembering. If you skipped down to this paragraph to get the gist (as I sometimes do if something is too long) then you are at the only needful part anyway. It’s true, it’s really, really true. Jesus Christ is the end of the law and of striving, the end of guilt, and doubt, and of feeling ‘less than’. Jesus Christ is, in a nutshell, Love!
And that, is just the beginning… :-)
Yours in Him,