Maybe, like me, you've sat in church and when they run the video clip of someone's life testimony you are resigned to the fact that your life testimony would not be video worthy. Perhaps you have not hit rock bottom, come back from a drug addiction, wandered the prodigal path, or had a dramatic or defining moment in which you gave it all over to God in desperation. Maybe you have...that's okay too!
Sometimes I am envious of Paul, who on the road to Damascus, was stopped in his tracks by a great light and the audible voice of God, calling him to give up his ways of persecuting Christians and instead follow Christ in going and making disciples of all nations. This is the stuff from which blockbusters are made.
My story, however, is not so grand. I can somewhat relate to Paul, in that I grew up in the church. Just like Paul knew old testament scripture and the Jewish law inside and out, I knew all the famous Bible stories and could probably quote them verbatim to you. I knew the history of the Christian church, all about the reformation, could quote scripture, knew the facts that God was and is the ultimate Creator and his Son, Jesus Christ, died on the cross for my sins so that I could live forever with God in heaven. It was all there...
But for me, the most passionate love story that was ever written was simply head knowledge. I didn't KNOW my Savior...
I accepted Christ as my Savior...which basically means I invited Jesus to come and live in my heart as the Lord of my life...at the age of 13. Intrinsically, I knew that something key was missing in my life. I was basically a good kid...colored inside the lines...but longed for someone to truly know me and love me just as I was. Jesus seemed to fit this description.
I wish I could say that from that moment on, I lit the world on fire. I didn't. I began reading my Bible more and I prayed to Jesus (God still intimidated me). I continued in my youth group and going to church.
My coming to relationship with God and His Son was less of an explosion and more of a slow burn.
I went to a Christian college and managed to sail through without falling too far off the wagon. Faith was still intact, but I wasn't taking the world by storm. I have to say that it wasn't until I was married and the rubber began to meet the road through trials, that my faith truly began to grow.
Not knowing any better, I was struggling in what was an emotionally and verbally abusive marriage. This was compounded by the fact that immediately after the birth of our first child, I was uprooted and plunked down in the middle of the Midwest, where I knew no one, with an infant daughter, in the most frigid of months...January.
What was initially treated as post partum depression (and later diagnosed as OCD anxiety disorder and depression), sent me in a downward spiral. At one point I found myself in the emergency room of the hospital because I seriously entertained thoughts of ending my life. No matter how hard I tried I could not climb out of the pit of despair that I was in.
Perhaps this was my defining moment...or a defining moment...in my journey.
I found myself sobbing into my pillow and desperately crying out with groans that only the Holy Spirit could make on my behalf, asking Jesus that if He is who He says He is...would He rescue me?
I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. (Psalm 40:1-2)
God and His Son made good on their promises. There would continue to be defining moments in my life. Transformations that took place in which I built altars, etched in my mind, to God for His faithfulness. These experiences were not once and done...everything was hunky dorey from that point on encounters, no...
It was more of a continual wooing and relentless pursuit on the part of Jesus that has brought me into a deeper and closer walk with Him.
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
Some milestone moments include, but are not limited to:
Realizing that all the striving I had been doing...trying to be perfect in God's eyes...was in fact pride masquerading as piety. The only way to be perfect in God's sight was through the blood of Christ. All other forms of attempting to earn or to find favor were fruitless...filthy rags if you will.
Realizing that God is not a curmudgeon sitting on His throne in heaven keeping tally of all the times I screw up. I had erroneously given God human attributes. Coming to know His fathomless, unending love and mercy toward me was (and still is) life changing.
Realizing that the enemy was in a war for my mind and he would pull out any stops to attack my Achilles heal and get me to buy into his lies about me. Learning to recognize the red flags that he was at work and kicking him to the curb sooner rather than later, was (and is) a major growing in faith experience.
Letting God love me through the absolute despair of infidelity and divorce let me see a side of God that I never dreamed could be there.
Staring the big "C" in the face and overcoming.
Parenting a prodigal is teaching me that just like Jesus wooed me, my prodigal may not have just one defining moment, but instead, a series of baby steps back into the loving arms of his Heavenly Father. It is also teaching me the true power of prayer - my prayers and other prayer warriors who pray on my behalf.
Starting a Christian School for orphans, destitute and impoverished children in Pakistan (midst ISIS persecution) has let me see first hand that God is able to do all things through us if we will just make ourselves available. I'm learning to say, "Not my will, but Your's be done, Lord!" and I'm learning to wait...even when it kills me.
I'll be the first to say that I don't like being in the crucible...who does??
I do believe, however, that it's in the refining fire that trials bring, that our faith is refined, deepened, and strengthened.
After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. (1 Peter 5:10)
It is stepping out of the boat, onto the waves, and taking baby steps toward Christ. We revile the storm swirling around us, but His arms remain outstretched and beckon us to keep walking forward.
No, my story is probably not movie material, but it is MY story. People can argue theology until the cows come home, but no one can argue the Lord's legacy of love to me in my life's story.
What is your life's story? Is God still writing it? Have you shared it with anyone lately? We ALL have a story to tell and together these pieces make the puzzle complete.
Dear Heavenly Father, I praise you and thank you that before you made me, you called me to be yours. I thank you for my story and that it is unique to me. Thank you that you never gave up of forsook me...with relentless love you pursued me. I was never out of your sight or your grasp. Thank you for your everlasting arms underneath me that never let me fall. Yes, life can be brutal, but Your love is bigger still. Give me courage, Lord, and help me be brave to share my story, our story, with those who need to hear. It is in the precious name of Jesus that I pray, Amen.
ps. Urgent Need: Needed...caring and compassionate hearts to bring Christmas and the joy that it brings to the impoverished children of Redeemer Christian School in Pakistan. We have six children still to cover. Only $25. will bring smiles and delight to one child who otherwise will receive nothing. $25 includes: a warm article of clothing, a small gift or toy, and a hearty Christmas meal and joy in retelling/acting out the Christmas story. Let these children know they are not forgotten...please.
Send contributions to: Bev Rihtarchik (put RCS in the memo line)
103 Silver Lining Lane
Cary, NC 27513
**include your email address so you can see pictures of the joy you will bring**