Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Faith Story
I've been leading the charge to a new web site for our church. Because the church is people and not a building, under worship, we are posting faith stories. To get this off the ground, I volunteered to tell my story. Here it is.

This is a story about God.

No, actually it is God’s story. At one time, I thought it was my story, but how wrong I was. It was always about God; it is still about God; and it will always be about God. It is the story of God’s faithfulness to me, about His Word and how it transformed me and pulled me back, about the people He placed in my life, and the situations through which He spoke to me. But, mostly, it is about His faithfulness to one of His children when she pushed Him away.

I grew up “soaked” in the Word, in my church, in youth group activities, and in a family of strong, spiritual believers. I gave my heart to Jesus when I was 13 after hearing Missionary Ken Enright speak at my church, convinced I was destined for medical missionary work. I spent the rest of my high school years growing in God’s word.

Then I went to college.

Partly because of the culture at that time (late ‘60’s); partly because of a series of bad choices I made; and partly because Satan, while strong, works in very subtle ways….my heart became divided. I tried to “serve two masters”: God and my own selfish desires. I truly became lost…searching for “the truth” in anything and everything. It was the climate of the late sixties. I even wrote a college paper that attempted to reconcile the truth of all religions as one and, given the anti-Christian views of my professor, received a high mark for it.

The paradox? As I drifted farther and farther from God’s way and more and more into my way, I liked myself less and less. And as my self-esteem plummeted, I made bad personal choices and bad relationship choices. After college, I poured myself into my new career, eager to fill the ever-growing void inside myself, convinced that it was just a matter of finding the “perfect fit.” At one point, I scribbled in my journal, “I know this isn’t true because of who I am, but it seems like good and evil, God and Satan, are fighting over me.” God was ever faithful. He stood there, and He loved me. He filled me with a sense of the battle raging inside me.

God began the transformation of my heart in earnest in the mid-80’s. I began listening to Christian radio. Why? Maybe because my husband at that time forbade it or maybe because my heart knew better than my head what I needed. What I know now is that it was God at work. He drew me to songs and programs that spoke to me.

He even drew from my own lips what my heart was feeling, what He was trying to work in my life. One summer day as I was driving down Lindenwood Avenue near St. Francis College, a prayer escaped from my lips: “Sanctify me.” I was stunned. What had I said? I didn’t even know what “sanctify” meant…and when I found out, I laughed. How could I even consider being a saint? My sins (or so I thought) were too many, too deep--my unworthiness huge. But God was faithful to His words in Romans 8:26: “In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”

I was led to a study of Romans, where I learned about God’s grace over and over, verse after verse. (I wondered, had I never learned about “grace” during my “church” years?) So “hungry and thirsty” was I that I picked up C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity, a gift from a friend that I had not been able to get through ten years prior to this. Now I ate it up. I began to truly understand what it meant to be a Christian, that I needed Jesus Christ to bridge the gap between myself and God.

The summer before, my husband had left me, amidst some suspected infidelities on his part, and I was struggling to reconcile the pain, anger, and uncertainty of that part of my life with my new life in Christ. One night I decided to read the Gospel of John instead of Romans. I had read the first seven chapters when the phone rang. It was “the other woman,” confirming the infidelity of my husband. I tossed and turned afterward, but a statement kept running through my head: “The truth shall set you free.” Who had said that? Where was that from? I picked up my bible again at chapter eight and found my answer. Jesus says in verse 32: “Then you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free.” I was on my knees then, thanking God for His very real presence during my pain.

I began “church shopping,” basing my initial impression of each church on its sign out front. Of all the signs I saw that week, Huntertown United Methodist’s sign was the only “spiritual” one, so I attended worship that next Sunday. Reverent Jack Scott led the congregation with the singing of “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.” I broke down. I began to feel “at home.” Then when it was announced that money was being raised for John Enright’s mission in Africa, I knew I was where God wanted me. It had been John’s father, Ken Enright, so many years ago in my home church that had first stirred my heart to begin walking (and stumbling!) with Jesus.

I stayed at HUMC, where I “fed” my spirit and grew in my faith. Two years later, I met a godly man, and soon we were married. What a blessing to be able to share our faith walk. I began to feel God’s goodness in my life again…Yet He was far from finished with me.

He provided another opportunity to show His faithfulness to me when we weren’t able to have children. Though we knew He was working in our lives, I especially struggled with the pain of being childless. As we pursued adoption, we felt God’s hand on the whole process, having been given Mark 9:37 to encourage us: “Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me.” A year later, we adopted twin five-year-old boys. They have blessed our lives immeasurably.

My “wanderings” took me to some unsavory places and hooked me up with some wild people, but through it all, God never stopped loving me, never stopped being faithful to me. In the end, I was finally on God’s way, not my own. If you are wandering or if you have a loved one who is wandering, let my story encourage you. Don’t stop seeking God and don’t stop praying. He is faithful and He is in the transformation business.

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