Thursday, March 31, 2011

3/31/11- Who I am

I found several years ago that if I wake up in the middle of the night and allow my mind to wander, it gets into DEEP existential conversations with itself about the meaning of life, the number of stars in the universe, and one time I devised a system of determining your personality based on your favorite flavor of ice cream... like I said, it gets deep

Well, tonight, or more correctly, this morning, Lydia decided the world was in a tailspin and the only thing that could possibly save her was a mom-style snack... the ensuing cry woke me up from a pretty crazy dream in which I was running through Rome trying to get Paul's autograph, and not McCartney... I'm talking the Apostle

This lead to a recapping in my head about how I have arrived at this point of my life, and it excited me to the point that I felt it necessary to write it down. I have long felt that my own path to salvation and my life from that point was a rather hum-drum story, I was not saved from a life of drugs and murder in an organized crime syndicate. I was not holding mass Christian executions in the backwoods, and I was not stuck in the belly of a fish for 3 days because I refused to follow God's call... I was rather simply saved. But for the last year and call it 4 months, I feel like I have been bombarded by the words and messages of Paul. Every Bible study, every sermon, everything has been seeped in Paul-ness. This is further true about the Wednesday night services lately in which we have been covering the book of Romans. As I have delved deeper into Paul's writings, I have become aware of the awesome power that God used through Christ to rescue me from eternal separation from Him. Even someone, whose salvation was so run-of-the-mill, like me has been rescued an an awesome way. And the power that God displayed in the relatively simple salvation is the same power that He uses to save anyone who calls on His name, no matter where they are, what they've done, or what they are doing.There is no sin that can separate us from God, the only thing that keeps us from an eternal life spent in Heaven is our refusal to accept the gift of Christ which has already been given to us.

So, my story begins long ago... I honestly could not tell you how old I was when I first accepted Christ. I was in a Sunday School class at Second Baptist in Springfield, and I always imagine that I was asking the leader questions about God and she probably made some sort of comment about how if I wanted to be with my mommy and daddy after they died then I had to say this prayer.... and thus I became saved! YIKES! It makes me shudder to think now that I was willing to risk my salvation for so long on that "profession of faith". It was shortly after this experience that my family stopped attending church. I was left to figure out who God was and what my relationship with Him, or His relationship with me was supposed to be like. I don't remember too much about my childhood from a spiritual standpoint up until I was in Jr High. By that time, looking back, I had fallen into a relationship with a Santa Clause Jesus. I can distinctly remember saying these prayers, "God, if you really love me, and if you give me ___________, then I will stop doing ________." I remember feeling at least guilty enough of my sin that I knew I should stop, but I enjoyed these sins so much that I felt God owed me something in return to giving them up... (apparently a rescue from eternal Hell was not enough). As foolish as this sounds to me now, I can't help thinking, "well, what can we expect when our entire theology is based upon what is being taught to the young children in church instead of teaching them truth, we are too afraid we will scare them away from God?" (this gets into a whole other problem I have had with "church" for so long... kids aren't taught the Bible, they are so often taught that God loves them if they are good. Why do you think that leads to so many kids who grow up with horribly based reasons for the faith, or their decision to be an atheist?)

Anyway, I went through childhood with my Santa Claus Jesus, praying regularly that I would stop sinning as soon as I got what I wanted. I think it is really sad how much better my prayer life was then than it is now... but I digress, I remember entering high school, I had some core friends who were Christians and some who were not. My life had not been so bad, and so on... Then along comes Zenobia. We started dating in the spring of our Sophomore year, and thus I began going to church. (for as long as I can remember up to this point, most of my bargains with God involved a girlfriend.) To say I took nothing away from my reintroduction to church would be a bit of an understatement at first. I didn't see how it was necessary to attend a service, I prayed, I was a "good kid". At the same time, I start to feel like there was something more to a relationship with God than what I had been experiencing. I felt like I was still missing something.
Young Christian's Weekend that year, I remember sitting through one of the presentations being made. I don't recall who it was, what he said, or anything. I just remember sitting there with my eyes closed as he was telling us to ask ourselves if we had a meaningful, personal relationship with Christ. I felt as though I had been kicked in the gut. I had no idea that I was supposed to have a relationship with Christ, let alone a personal one. I didn't know He actually cared about me. I just knew He made me feel bad when I did bad things and then He didn't give me what I wanted. My mind was blown! At the age of 15, I knowingly stepped into a relationship with Christ.

Fast forward through the roller coaster of high school, relationships ending, restarting, ending... and I arrived to Mizzou. I was 17, had turned down a spot in the Accelerated Masters of Physical Therapy program because I was going Pre-med. I joined a new group of friends, and found myself suddenly unbound by anyone's whims but my own. There was no longer a person to tell me when to get out of bed, when to go to class, when to go to church, what church to go to, what sunday school class to join... nothing... I fell into destructive habits, I began drinking, I laid around my dorm room, ate alot of  food that my parents paid for, and wasted the money they spent on tuition as well. I fell away from the friends I had, stopped attending events at the Campus Christian House. I gained 80 pounds in that one year and ended it broken, and on academic suspension. Looking back, I don't know if I consulted God about any of these things. Apparently I no longer needed Him.

Zenobia had come back into my life towards the end of my year there, and so when I came home on weekends, I began to come back to the church, I found an exciting new person starting to grow inside of me... I was moving forward, moving on, and doing it with God. Zenobia and I became engaged. At the age of 18 I had given up drinking, had lost the first of about 30 pounds, and was asked to help chaperon a youth mission trip to Houston, Texas. I jumped on board. It was an awesome experience, never had I been closer to God. One night during worship, I felt so moved by God's love and the amazing way he was moving my life, I fell to the ground and cried. Little did I know that a few days later, my engagement was going to end. I still don't fully understand the whole event, but I am now thankful for it... My faith was about to be tested again without the context of responsibility to anyone but myself and God. This time, when the ball dropped, I ran to the Bible. I found immense comfort in the words, I found meaning to the split, and reassurance that I would one day be brought back together to Zenobia. God had shown me a story of the need to separate two seeds so that each could grow strong roots and a firm foundation so that one day their branches would meet. (extremely short paraphrase)

I was finally able to attend church on my own, grow my relationship with Christ based on what I needed. I finally officially became a member at FBC-Nixa. I started classes at OTC, trying to find out what I wanted to be when I grew up. At the age of 20, Z and I had found our way back together... we were so different, so much our own individuals. We had grown closer to who God needed each of us to be... we were ready to be together. We became engaged again, and I could not be happier. I was in need of a job, having graduated from OTC with a 4.0 GPA to mend some of the damage of my former self. I found a job at Cox, in the OR... I came home the first day, called Zenobia and told her that I was going to be a nurse. I just knew it. There was that same tug in my gut, that there was something about nursing that was where I needed to be. The drawback was that to go to nursing school and support my new-found family meant that I would have to work every weekend.

It was amazing how fast I became lethargic in my walk with Christ when I stopped attending church. My soul ached for closeness with God. I wanted so badly to keep my relationship with Him strong... but it was too easy to not, and I found the pleasures of sin too enticing. I felt so sick to allow some of my old self back in, but I didn't have the strength or support of a family of believers along side of me to help keep me strong. This part of my life was probably the most spiritually painful, it was the first time I truly knew and felt all of my own sin.And then, I started to baste my sins in pride. I didn't need church, I was strong enough, look at everything I was accomplishing. I got into nursing school... I was going somewhere...

This is about the time that my mom was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer. She spent 90 days fighting for her life. She suffered nearly every complication imaginable... 2 8 hour surgeries, pulmonary embolus, became septic, both bacterial and fungal, coded a couple times... ruptured her colon, went into DIC. Each of these alone has a mortality rate of greater than 50%, DIC alone has a survival rate of less than 10%. I ran away from myself and back to God, the only place I knew I could find help. And He gave me help... God lead me through verse after verse, reassuring me that mom was going to make it through all of those things. I prayed that whatever happened, that God would heal her in such a way that no one would be able to doubt that it was all His work, and for Hid glory. I conceded that it was not up to me to define God's miracles and it was not up to me to define what healing might be for my mom. I was willing to let her go because I knew that that would be her ultimate healing. I feel that God used her in my life to bring me to a new level of maturity and understanding of how He works. Mom was brought through all of those things and is continuing to fight against her cancer. My hope is that sometime soon, she and dad will again draw close to God and rejoin the church...

After this powerful experience in my life, I hungered even more for my graduation so that I could get back to attending church. I knew how much I needed it. I can not handle life without it. I need the closeness of other believers, and to fellowship with them as the Bible commands me to do. I need corporate worship. I need small group study, so that I can grow and understand the Word. I was so excited when I started coming back to church, and it has been 1 year and about 4 months now, and I am closer to God than I have ever been. I still have the war waging within me, but I know I am on the winning team. Heck, I know that war is already won... Christ secured the victory over 2000 years ago. I have been justified by faith, and I am being sanctified every day drawing nearer to the glorification when I cross into Heaven. I could not imagine walking through life without this hope. My salvation was so simple in terms of the awesome power of God... He loves me so much that he would have gone further and deeper into sin than I ever imagined going, just to remind me of His love. I thank God that he has told us that "Whosoever believes in Him with not perish, but have everlasting Life." And that "All who call on the name of the Lord will be saved."

God thank you that you love sinners. No matter their sin, no matter what they have done, or what they are doing. Thank you that the only sin that can be committed that cannot be forgiven is dying without saying yes to the free gift you have already given. All we have to do is accept it... Thank you God that you never let go, you never give up, you never fail, and you are never too far away.

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