Fixing Me Was God’s Job

God can use any time, place, or circumstance He wants to use to get through to you.  He can speak to you in the most unlikely of places and in the craziest of ways.  When I was 31, after spending more than 10 years ignoring God’s voice (and at times even denying that Jesus existed), I actually obeyed God’s calling and left my full-time job to be a work-from-home-mom and be with my then-16-month-old son.

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To date, it it probably the craziest thing I have ever done.  Most of the things God asks us to do seem crazy at the time; that’s why those things are known as a “leap of faith.”  They aren’t things we could accomplish in our own power or with our own knowledge, skills, or money.

And that’s where I was in May 2010: being obedient to Jesus when I still wasn’t even sure I believed in Him!  I didn’t have trouble believing in a Creator God overall, but I had lost Jesus – the man who walked and talked and healed and taught and died and lived again.

So, what God did was to remove me from the busyness of the life I had created with a job and a mortgage and a husband and a child and a pet, and He sat me down at the family-heirloom dining table in our house and confronted me with myself.

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Now, I’m not trying to say that staying home with your baby isn’t busy, but it was a lot less so for me than when I worked full-time outside the home.  I still worked part-time from home and cared for our home and our son, but God had cleared my schedule quite a bit.

Life was quieter now.  Life was slower now.  I had time to think.  (Funny, “thinking” was what got me into the mess I was in in the first place, but thinking was also what God used to get me out).  I finally acknowledged that I needed help with my mind and my thoughts about God and Jesus.

At first, I tried to fix myself.

I remember reading a book or two I thought would help me believe in Jesus again.  At this point, I really wanted to believe in Him but couldn’t fathom ever being able to again.  I did pray sometimes and ask God to help me.

I was so used to scholarly-type study from 6 years of higher education that I thought maybe I could study my way back to believing in Jesus.

I got a Bible commentary to read what scholars said about the Bible hoping that some smart person’s “proof” would sway me.  I read the book of James because I heard someone say it was a good idea for new Christians to start with that book when reading the Bible.

God led me to meet some Christian moms from our church and our area,  and I started going to MOPS – Mothers of PreSchoolers – at our church with them in the fall of 2011.

I began to feel God more.  It was slow, but it was there.  I knew my worldview was made-up, but I still didn’t want to submit it to God.

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I was working hard to fix myself before I went back to the Lord.  I thought He wanted me fixed before He would take me back.  {Spoiler alert}  That’s where I was wrong.  Fixing me was God’s job.  Fixing YOU is God’s job.  He doesn’t require us to come to Him already perfect.  {Hint} If you wait until you’re perfect before you go to God, you’ll never go to Him.  If God waited to save us until we were perfect, He’d never have anyone to save!

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What is the craziest thing God has ever asked you to do?  How did He achieve this thing through your obedience?

The Time God Told Me to Leave My Full-time Job (Yes, I thought it was crazy, too)!

“The most miserable person in the world is a Christian who isn’t living for God.”

Those words, spoken by the teacher subbing for our regular life group teacher, were the words God used to start an awakening in my soul.  They moved me.  They disturbed me.  They were FOR me!

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Bill and I had been attending First Baptist Church of Indian Trail for a year or two at this point.  I had started singing in the choir.  I was still going to life group, and I had started going to Bible studies led by our life group teacher’s wife.  I had even gone to my life group teacher and his wife a time or two to talk about this worldview I had created.  I only remember going once or twice, and I don’t know how forthcoming I was with what was really going on inside my head.

I was still actively fighting against God’s convictions though.  Four years passed, and I put up a valiant fight against His whispers and tugs.  He’s persistent though, so He kept chiseling.

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Then, in early 2009, our son, Ethan, was born.  I went back to work after 8 weeks because that’s what you’re “supposed to do,”  but by the fall of 2009, I started having the strangest notion: I wanted to be at home with my baby.

That was TOTALLY foreign to me.  It had never occurred to me to stay home with my child.  Honestly, I always thought people who did that were…well, crazy, quite frankly.  Why in the world would anyone want to be at home all day with a whiny, screaming, snotty-nosed kid?!

Even so, God had been placing me into different situations and was using various things to soften my heart and convict me in that direction since our son was born.

I was scared!  This was crazy!  What would my poor parents think after paying for me to earn a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree?  What would my poor husband think?  We’d bought a house two years prior to our son’s birth and just bought a new car since Ethan was born.  I was crazy confused.

Then, I started to realize that this must be something God was calling me to do.  I had no idea if that was true or not though because I had no idea what it was like to have God tell me to do something.

I had to figure it out, so I started asking people – trusted women I had met at church.  One of the women I talked to was the wife of our current Sunday school teacher (we’d gotten a new teacher in the past 4 years).  I explained what I was feeling and that I was starting to think this was something God was telling me to do.

“How do I know the difference between something God is directing me to do and something that’s just my own idea?”  I asked her.

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She explained that, first and most importantly, God would never tell anyone to do something that wasn’t biblical.  If what you think God is telling you to do goes against something written in His Word, then it isn’t God telling you to do it.

This trusted lady also told me that, if this thing is actually a conviction from God, it won’t go away.  God will gently but consistently keep convicting you of what He wants you to do.  Sometimes, when we think up things on our own, they come and go easily, especially if it takes a while to achieve it or we meet lots of opposition while trying to do it.  However, a conviction from God doesn’t just shrink away at the first sign of difficulty.  He won’t let it.  I’ve heard it said that God is a gentleman.  He won’t ever force Himself on us, but He will continue to woo us and encourage us in the direction He wants us to go until we choose to go that way on our own.

Finally, my confidante asked me if I felt peace about this – leaving my job and staying at home with my child.  I remember a smile quickly spreading across my face as I confidently told her that I did feel peace!

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It was insane!  I had been afraid of it at first, but the more I thought about it and all the details that led me to believe it was God prodding me in that direction, I had indeed experienced a peace and calmness.  Our life group teacher’s wife told me that peace was one of the best ways to judge whether God is telling you to do something or not.  If you feel conflicted, it probably isn’t from God.  If you feel peace, it is most likely from God.

I felt TOTAL peace about this.  I was confident that this was a “God-thing,” as people say.  It just wasn’t anything I would have cooked up on my own!  But, as I was learning how to hear God’s voice, I began to trust that this was in fact what He had in mind for me.

Bill, on the other hand, was definitely NOT at peace with this crazy idea.  (That is a blog post all its own that I’ll share another time).  So, we prayed about it a great deal over weeks and months it seemed.  Finally, he just shook his head.  “The numbers don’t add up,” he said, referring to the many times he’d calculated our bills versus his salary to find out that his salary alone wouldn’t cover what we’d need to pay out each month.

“But,” he went on, “if you’re saying God is telling you to do this, I can’t go against it.  We have to do it.  We’ll just have to trust that He’ll take care of us.”

In May 2010, I worked my last full-time semester at the community college where I was teaching, and I haven’t regretted it for a moment.

I couldn’t have known, but this was another crucial turning point in my journey back to God.  It was the first time in my life since I accepted Christ as a 12-year-old, that I stepped out in faith and completely submitted to His will.  (I was 31 when I left my full-time job.)

I experienced God’s provision during this time in my life, and that was a big deal for me.  Obviously, there were plenty of other times in my life that He provided, but I never acknowledged that it was Him until He told me to leave my job and go home…and I did it…and He provided for us.

Do you remember the first time you knew it was God directing you to do something or not to do something?  What was it like?  How did you know?

Do you remember a time when you experienced His provision after you stepped out in faith and did what He wanted?

Would you share these experiences with us?

The Most Miserable Person in the World

What’s the worst mistake you’ve ever made?  No, I don’t mean that time in middle school when you tried to cut your own bangs and ended up with about an inch and a half of hair in the front that stuck out from your forehead when you tried to curl it and spray it into submission.

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Looks kinda cute on her but was horrific on me, and I did it more than once! Photo Credit: Pinterest

Yeah – you remember that time (or four – depending on how many times it took you to learn not to do it on your own).  It was the time you tried to trim them when they were wet, and you pulled them down tight and cut them at the length you wanted them to be…when they were dry!  Yeah – that time 🙂  Takes a while to get over that mistake, don’t it!?

But that isn’t the mistake I mean.  I mean that big, life changing (or at least life diverting) mistake that took years, maybe even decades to recover from.  I have a few like that, but one of the most costly mistakes for me was the time I spent trying to act like Jesus wasn’t real and wasn’t sovereign over my life.

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That all started back in 1997 when I was a freshman at UNCW.  Fast forward to 2004, and I’m married and looking for a new church in a new town with my new husband.

Yes.  You read that right.  I was still ignoring Jesus but looking for a place to go to church.  I was newly married and knew that, like my parents, my husband expected a girl that was going to church.  And, I wanted couple friends to hang out with, so we visited churches in our area.  I was raised in the Methodist church and Bill was raised in the Baptist church, so we went to both.  Sometimes friends invited us to their churches and sometimes we went to churches we’d seen in the area around our apartment.

We finally visited First Baptist Church of Indian Trail (FBCIT) around 2005 because Bill’s mema had seen a service from this church on TV and suggest that we try it out.

Mema had mentioned this church to us several times after we moved to the area.  I was against it though.  It was a Baptist church for one thing, and it was huge!  It took 3 services to accommodate people on Sunday morning, for crying out loud!  But, it was around 5 minutes from our apartment, so we finally went.

The Wednesday after our visit, as was the church’s practice, they sent people to visit us and invite us to come back.  We went back the second Sunday and asked to be placed into a Life Group (that’s a Sunday school class for those of you old-schoolers like me).  That day, we were taken to a class that hadn’t been together very long but was for newly married couples like us.  We met the teacher and his wife and 3 or 4 other couples. After service, they were all going to lunch and invited us.  We went, and that was it.  FBCIT became our church.

I don’t remember a ton from those early years except the life group.  It was growing fairly quickly as other couples were added and some started having children.  A few of the ladies in the class who sang in the choir invited me to join, and I did.

I know now that God meant for us to be at FBCIT.  It was the church and those were the people God was going to use to woo me back to Himself.  I sang in the choir.  I went on the choir retreats.  I listened to the sermons.  I participated in the life group lessons.  (Sounds a lot like the first 18 years of my life, doesn’t it)?

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God began convicting me during this time.  I can’t tell you much of what He said or did though.  For one thing, I don’t think I’d ever been convicted before – or maybe I just didn’t recognize God’s voice.  For another, I’d gotten very good at ignoring anything that might be from God: ignoring it, rationalizing it, getting angry at it, whatever I needed to do, I did to avoid whatever He was doing or saying to reach me.

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Then, one morning during life group, we had a substitute teacher.  I have no idea what the lesson was about, but I will never forget this one thing he said: the most miserable person in the world is a Christian who isn’t living for God.

I almost burst into tears right there in the middle of that class with all those new friends we’d made.

That was me!

He was talking to me!

I WAS miserable!

I hadn’t known exactly what was going on, but I knew something was wrong.  I hadn’t realized it until that very moment; I had become an expert at pushing is back for after all those years.  I had gotten good at doing church things and living like a Christian, but I wasn’t living for God at all.

Whoa!  Talk about a turning point!  I still had a very cold, hard heart of stone, and it would take a few more years to soften it completely, but this moment definitely got my attention.

Look back and take note of the life-diverting moments and turning points you’ve experienced?  Would you share them here?

He’s a ‘Hold On To You’ Kind of God

Once you belong to God, He keeps you, even if you don’t want to be kept. I’m thankful He doesn’t let His children go. (I know somebody just said ‘amen’ to that)!

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I’m sure there were many ways God held on to me when I decided to walk out on my own, but one way was by keeping me in church. The whole time this mess was going on, I never stopped going to church. Weird, right? I really don’t even believe in Jesus at this point, but I am sitting in church!? I know. I know.

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On the surface, the thing that kept me in church was my parents. I knew they expected me to go, so I went. From the time I was 18 and moved out of my parents’ house, I found a church to attend in the difference places I lived. That was God keeping me. That wasn’t me. Now, I’m not saying that I went every Sunday, and I certainly wasn’t involved in the activities at the church like I was when I was young, but I still went. That’s one of the major things that kept me from totally going into oblivion. That, and God had a Christian husband in store for me, but I didn’t know that yet.

I’d known who Bill was since high school although we’d never spoken to each other that we can remember. But, we were in a group of friends who were hanging out while some of us were home on break over the Christmas holiday in 2000. Over those weeks of break, he and I met and started dating. That was 17 years ago, but God had Bill planned for me when He separated the dry land from the water and said it was good.

Bill grew up in a close-knit, Southern family just like I did. He was raised in church (the same church where his mom went as a girl with her family). He spent summer days running through the woods with his cousins, and he spent many a meal with his feet under the table at his grandmother’s house. It’s a little eerie how many similarities there are between his childhood and mine.

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Memmie’s house (Bill’s grandmother)

But all those similarities don’t negate the most important reason: Bill believes in Jesus. God knew that I would need a Christian husband to hold my hand and help lead me back to Him, so He sent me Bill.

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Bill and me – 2014

Bill and I met in December 2000. We got engaged in July 2003 and were married in June 2004. During the 3 years of our courtship, I don’t recall telling him a lot about my worldview although we did talk about it a few times before and after we got married. More recently, he told me those conversations scared him and that he prayed that I’d go back to my faith for the sake of our family.

Thankfully, God was working in my life to reconcile me to Himself.

It took a while.

He let me walk out on my own for a long time.

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In Psalms 81:11-12, God says, “But My people did not listen to My voice: and Israel did not obey Me. So, I gave them over to the stubbornness of their heart, to walk in their own devices.”

This verse makes me shiver; it is as if God were speaking specifically about me here because this is exactly what He let me do. He gave me over because that was what I wanted. He knew His child well enough to know that I had to learn the hard way, so to speak.

I was going to have to walk away to get back to Him.

In a recent Bible study, I heard Elizabeth Poplin explain why God gives His children over to their own devices. She said, “That’s what God does. We think we’ll get freedom out there, so we leave and taste it, but it doesn’t free us. He does. So we go back. We have some of the world in us when we come back. He will clean us up”.

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And He’s kept us the whole time. He’s just waiting for us to get our fill of whatever it was we thought we wanted more than Him. He’s been watching. He’s been working. He’s been waiting – like the father in the famous parable of the prodigal son. God waited for me to look His way, and as soon as I did, He came running!

 

Hallelujah!

Please share your stories of how God held you!

Belief Isn’t Necessarily Faith

Many people can tell you exactly where they were when they got saved.  They know exactly what was going on and can even tell you a specific date.  I can’t.  I know I was in the 6th grade, about 12 years old.  I know some specific things that led up to me making the decision.  But, I don’t know exactly where I was or what was going on or what date it was when I asked Jesus for His gift of salvation.  I just know I did it.

What I do remember is that it was very important to me that my friends to be saved, too.  I didn’t want any of my friends to be left here after the rapture to endure the things I’d seen portrayed in the movie I saw at my youth lock-in.  I recall being very excited and telling them all that they needed to be saved.  However, I didn’t personally lead anyone to Christ, and I don’t recall anyone saying they got saved as a result of my efforts, whatever they were.

I also don’t recall any real change in myself.  I still did everything I’d done before: I went to church and youth meetings and sang in the choir, and all the other good churchy stuff, but there was nothing different about me as far as I can remember. I had asked God to save me.  I told Him I believed in Him…but, at that time in my life, I think it was mainly because I didn’t want to go to hell; it wasn’t because I wanted to glorify Him with my life.  You could say that I gave Him my mind but kept my heart clutched tightly in my fist.

Maybe that doesn’t sound like a bad thing to you, and evidently it was acceptable to me at the time.  I was saved.  I wasn’t going to hell when I died.  Eternity, for me, was taken care of.  All was well.  But, you’d be wrong to find security in this, and so was I.

What I have discovered since then, through this journey I have been on with Jesus, is that it isn’t enough to simply acknowledge that there is a Creator God or that there is a real man named Jesus.  Even Islam accepts that Jesus lived; to Muslims, Jesus was a Jewish prophet.  Simply having intellectual knowledge of the fact that God and Jesus exist will not save a person.

In James 2:19, Jesus’ own brother reminds us that even the demons believe God exists.  They’re even afraid of Him!

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But the demons haven’t acknowledged God as sovereign over them. They do not love their neighbors, as Jesus instructed disciples in the gospels, as an outward sign that they belong to Him.  Belief in God isn’t enough to save them.

The book of Daniel discusses a succession of kings who saw God’s greatness displayed and even verbally acknowledged His power but may or may not have actually given their hearts and lives to Him. (It should be noted that some commentaries including those in Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible accept that Nebuchadnezzar and Darius may have converted to a monotheistic belief in God based on their experiences with Him.  However, neither king made a confession of faith that was recorded in scripture).

In Daniel chapter 3, Nebuchadnezzar witnesses God save Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego.

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After they came out of the fire, unburnt, not even smelling like smoke, the king says (verse 28), “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who sent His angel and delivered His servants who put their trust in Him…”  The king goes on in verse 29 to make a decree that “any people, nation, or tongue that speaks anything offensive against the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego shall be torn limb from limb and their houses reduced to rubbish heaps, inasmuch as there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way.”  That is a quite a lot of reverence coming from the king of the Babylonian empire.  However, notice that King Nebuchadnezzar refers to Him as someone else’s God.

Then, in Daniel 4:37, the king says, “I praise, exalt, and honor the King of Heaven…” But does he actually give God his heart and life? It doesn’t say for sure.

Daniel Chapter 6 introduces King Darius of the Medes who makes similar statements after Daniel survives a night in the lion’s den.  Darius decrees that everyone should tremble before God.  Because of the lion’s den, Darius learns to respect God, but does he ever come to faith in Him?  I’m unsure based on what I’ve read.  What I do know, is that faith is the step we must take after we acknowledge who God is.

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These instances are both sad and telling.  I imagine there are many people who are in this same predicament.  They have seen God work, maybe even believe He is real but won’t surrender to His sovereignty over their lives.  I was there.  That was me, too!  I was like the demons, Darius, and Nebuchadnezzar: I knew Him, but I didn’t live for Him.  And my failure to take that next step is what led to more than 10 years of my life spent in spiritual darkness.

What is your understanding of the fate of King Nebuchadnezzar and King Darius based on your reading of the book of Daniel?  Do you believe these men came to faith in our Lord and devoted their lives to Him, or did they merely add Him to the list of gods in which their culture already believed?

Do you remember how you met the Lord?  Can you recall where you were, how old you were, the exact date?  I would love for you to share you stories here.

Scared Straight?

Jesus has been a part of my life since the beginning – well, since before my life began if you want to go further than that.  My dad was “born and raised” in church as was my mom.  So, my younger sister and I couldn’t help but be, right?  We grew up in the same church where my mom had gone her whole life.  As children, we sang in the children’s choir, went to Vacation Bible School (VBS), participated in church fundraisers, and went to youth lock-ins and retreats.  You name it, and we did it if it was church-related.

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Children’s Choir at Olivet – mid 1980’s. My mom is playing the piano, and my sister and I are in the choir (she is front row, far left, and I am second row, far right).

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Youth retreat – mid 1990’s.  (I am standing on the bench, 5th from the left).

I never felt forced toward God though.  It was just an expectation that my parents had that they made clear to my sister and me: If you live in this house, you will go to church.  So, I went.  I was christened as an infant.   I read my Bible.  I went to Sunday school.  I invited my friends to VBS.  I went through confirmation and joined the church.  I took communion.  I was an acolyte.  But, there was never a time I thought any of that would get me into heaven.  I knew what salvation was and that only salvation would get me into heaven.

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Confirmation Sunday – early to mid 1990’s (the day we joined the church after going through Confirmation classes to learn about the Methodist denomination).  I am the second from the left.

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VBS Final Presentation – mid 1990’s.  (I am second from the right).

As some point, I told my piano teacher that I understood that I could die at any time.  I told her that I knew I wasn’t going to live forever; I wasn’t invincible just because I was young.  I must have been 10 or 11.  She told me that since I was mature enough to accept that fact, I was ready to be saved.

Now, I have to tell you, I have no idea why I was compelled to tell her this!  She wasn’t someone I was particularly close to or with whom I have a spiritual connection.  I guess my preteen self just had this on my mind at the time and she was the one who I felt I could tell.  Who knows!  Whatever the reason for the conversation, it has stuck with me as something that was part of what led me to accept Christ as my Savior.

Then, when I was about 12, I was at a lock-in at my church.  We stayed up all night and watched a series of movies about Jesus’ second coming when He will rapture the living Christians to heaven and about the tribulation and what will happen to people who become Christians during that time.  (This wasn’t the Left Behind movie series; it was earlier than that).

What I remember most is the depiction of the tribulation and what life would be like for people who became Christians after the rapture.  In particular was a scene where Christians were being beheaded because they wouldn’t renounce their belief in Jesus Christ.  The guillotine and the actual beheadings weren’t shown, but what was happening was clearly discussed so I knew what was going on.  The scene played out in a dungeon or cell where the Christians were being held.  Someone was coming to get them, one by one, to take them out to the guillotine.  They were given one last chance to renounce Christ.  If they didn’t, they were beheaded on the spot.  I remember this scene especially because there was a child in the dungeon.  Just before he was taken, the adults told him that he’d be asked if he loved Jesus.  He told them he would say that he did.  Then, the adults told him that he’d be laid down on a stone.  They told him to close his eyes and the next thing he knew, he would see the Lord.  Then, the bad guys came and got him and gave him a red balloon.  He goes out with them; you see the sky through the dungeon’s window, you hear the guillotine fall, then the red balloon rises past the window.

I can only imagine what must have been going on in that 12-year-old brain of mine as I watched that movie.  My heart is racing and I am breathing a little faster just thinking of that scene.

At this point, I must be totally honest and tell you that I don’t want to tell you any more of my story.  I am embarrassed and ashamed.  When God started working on me to write a blog and share my testimony, I told Him no.  Me!  I said no to the King of the World!  I didn’t want to do it.  I didn’t want people to know who I’d been and what I’d done.

God has seen our unloveliness - the deep brokenness and rebellion in our hearts - and instead of withdrawing, He pursues us to the very end.  - Matt Chandler -  Postcard available at https://www.zazzle.com/our_unloveliness_postcard-239551337646667759  #postcard #MattChandler #brokenness #unloveliness #rebellion #Jesus #Christ #withdrawing

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But, if God has ever convicted you to do something, you know He won’t let you go until you obey (remember Jonah?!).  I kept telling Him no, and He kept pursuing me and encouraging me.

Earlier this year, a friend encouraged me to find out how other Christians were blogging.  So, I started looking around and found several blog posts by Ann Voscamp.  One series of posts in particular was very inspiring, so I prayed and journaled about what I was reading; I wrote my thoughts, my fears, and my prayers.

When you get tired of it all, God’s there

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Finally, God showed me that people have to see who I was so they can know who God is.  This is why He gave me this life – my story.  And this is what He intends for me to do – write it for you so you’ll know that God loves you.  So, I’ll put aside my fear and obey.  If you’ll keep reading, I’ll keep writing.

John 15:16-17 God chose you to write a letter to the world. That letter is love.

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Has God ever convicted you of something, and you said no?  What did God want you to do?  How did He pursue you?  Did you finally obey?