In my community group last week, we were talking about how we should respond when people who do or do not follow Jesus say or do something that goes against the Bible's teachings. One thing I mentioned was that I have always had a huge awareness of what I am doing that is 1) not beneficial to myself or others and 2) is not what Christ calls me to. Before I even starting following Jesus, I knew. That being said, when others pointed out to me the sins or mistakes I was making,(well-intentioned I'm sure) I did not EVER have a response of "you're right, let me repent and start following Jesus now." Please note that I am very stubborn and now believe that because I would call myself a follower of Christ, there is a loving way to point me back to Christ and I respect those ladies in my life that take on the difficult task of holding me accountable. Before making that decision to follow Christ though, having others point out my sins (and I often did it to others, too....) was not an effective "tool" in giving me a repentant heart. At most, it made me feel guilty, but honestly I felt more ashamed that the other person saw the ugly in my life and I started to resent them for it. (I also have very strong people-pleasing tendencies).
So I began to think...what did bring me to Christ? What happened to make me change my mind about all of this?
I feel like I should also mention that I was raised in the church. I think it is surprising to some that from the time I was 17 until the age of 22, I struggled with Christianity. (If I'm honest, I still have struggles). I didn't struggle with the idea of God existing. I struggled with the church. I struggled with hearing people (including myself) talk about God's grace in the midst of judging other people. I struggled with the idea of a God who just wanted to make me feel guilty. Why would I want to follow a God who wants to point out my sin all of the time?
Until I realized I was wrong. I can't tell you what it was, I honestly don't know. I didn't read a magical Bible verse that changed my mind about anything. (Up to that point, I only read the Bible verses that promised me a great future, encouragement, and a whole lot of blessings).
I know I wrote about my first car ride from St. Louis to North Carolina before, but I want to elaborate on what was going on in my mind during that time.
In that moment, all of my past mistakes and sins were not thrown in my face. I was not reminded of what a "bad" person I am. I felt Him saying "let me help you." I felt Him saying "I love you." It was the first time in my life I had felt truly loved in spite of myself. (Marriage has taught Alex and I a lot about that ;)) I know that there are people in my life who would love me no matter what, but I could still hide things from them. They never knew the FULL story. I couldn't hide anything from God and He LOVED me.
Since that time, I've come to realize a few things.
1) Following Jesus brings restoration and healing. Losing my dad was (and still is) one of the hardest things I have had to deal with. I still have days that I cry because he is the only person I want to talk to. I want to hear his voice. I want to hear his laugh. I want to give him a hug. God has helped me through some of the deepest sadness I've experienced, but it's not been through taking it away, but through loving me and allowing me to rely on Him through it. I now believe that the ONLY thing that could be taken away from me that would make me unable to survive is if God Himself left me. I always thought restoration looked like perfection in this life. Instead, restoration means relying on the perfect one to bring healing and to be reminded of the hope we have in Him.
2) I'm still the same person. I know through every stage of life, I am growing and God is revealing more and more of Himself to me, but one of the most humbling things is realizing I have some struggles that will never go away. I can have months where I am on my "best behavior" and then one day regress to a place I never thought I could go back to. Again, I am not perfect, but rely on the perfect One. I have to repent of my selfishness and my desire to do things my way all of the time.
3) I want this for all of my family and friends. I am fully aware that to some of you, this sounds ABSOLUTELY crazy. I AGREE. This IS absolutely crazy! I question what I believe all of the time. I read parts of the Bible and ask myself questions like "WHY is this in here?" and "what does this even mean?" My belief in Christ was not founded on scientific evidence. It was founded in a desire to be loved and forgiven. It was found in a place where I felt the most empty and alone. It was found at a time when all I wanted to do was give up and lose myself in a pit of depression.
You aren't meant to do any of this alone. When I came to Christ, I brought a lot of anger, hurt, sadness, insecurity, and doubt with me. Day by day, He is showing me joy, forgiveness (of myself and others), restoration, and a capacity to love more than I ever thought possible.
As always, if you want to talk, I'm here.