We serve an awesome God
I wish I could put into words just how much God’s done in my life in the last year and a half. The words to this song barely scratch the surface, really. There are probably many of you who feel the same… God has surely been good to me. I spent years thinking I was a Christian, thinking I was serving God through my own efforts, knowing it wasn’t enough but having no idea what more to do… and finally realizing that the only thing I could really do is stop trying to prove what I could do for God and accept what He’s done for me instead.
A week or more ago, I promised to start transferring my blog to this site and to tell a little about my past. Yet I’ve sat having no idea where to begin. It would be easy to make a sob story or a shock story from my life, but that’s not the intent of this blog. To simply say my life was falling apart and God put it back together again seems trite and doesn’t even begin to explain what He’s done for me, either.
For 19 years, I was part of a group that misused scripture, that thought we had to do many things to remain God’s people. People would talk about losing salvation, losing the Holy Ghost, and just trying to make it [to Heaven]. There was a lot of fear and very little faith, and what faith I had was slowly being eroded by spiritual competition, comparisons of myself to others, and a feeling of never being “good enough”. God wasn’t a loving Father, but a righteous judge ready to condemn anyone who didn’t measure up. If a person didn’t go to every service, dress well enough, say and do the right things, pray enough, fast enough, speak in tongues often enough, give enough, make enough of an outward show in worship, praise the right people often enough, have enough things, marry well enough, fellowship enough… then THEY weren’t enough. They weren’t “right with God”. They were “backslid”. They weren’t, surely, doing enough or praying enough if they weren’t blessed in the way someone else was.
We had what I consider a “big stick God”. We were constantly looking over our shoulders, waiting for the gavel to fall. And we never knew when, or how, it might happen. All of us who were truly honest with ourselves realized we weren’t doing “good enough”, even if we were doing all we could. But we kept trying… trying to do a little more, a little better. Trying to gain the approval of certain others, because surely that indicated God might approve of us, too. Trying. Constantly trying, and knowing we failed.
Leaving that environment wasn’t easy. My friends were all there. Many things that were taught there were ingrained in me; I believed them wholeheartedly. And I was afraid… terribly afraid. Afraid if I questioned that view of God and myself that the gavel would fall, that I would “lose out with God” or “backslide”, that there would be no hope for me. Afraid God would punish me for asking questions. Terrified that others would discover the questions in my mind. Surely I’d lose my job, have a car wreck and die, get sick or hurt…
I could say it took courage or faith to step out of that and begin asking questions and studying, but it wasn’t courage and it wasn’t faith. I stepped out not in courage or faith, but in absolute desperation. I felt there was no other choice. And then an inkling of hope. Just a very small hope, but a little hope. Surely if I believed God filled the universe, that heaven was His throne and the earth His footstool, surely then I could find God somewhere outside the doors of the building I’d been told I needed to go to very frequently to find Him. If I believed salvation was the great gift I believed it to be… well, maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t as easy to “lose” as I’d been taught it was.
The further I’ve gotten from that time, the more I realize what an awesome thing God did for me. Through all I labeled as turmoil, chaos, and trouble, God was leading me. He would use even the darkest times to teach me. In some of the times I felt furthest from Him, He was actually drawing me closer to Him. The hurts and trouble in my life may not have been all determined by God, but He still used those things that I hated the most and shed the most tears over to bring the greatest joy in my life, and to eventually lead me to a place of peace and rest in Him that I would have never found had He left me where I was comfortable and so determined to stay.
It was like coming out of the water after holding my breath a bit too long. Coughing, breathing hard, trying to catch my breath while treading water. It was as thought just as I thought I’d be ok, a wave would rush in, someone would dive in and splash me, and I’d breathe more water. But at the same time, there were many times when things connected. When I prayed a simple prayer of rededication and felt truly forgiven. When I studied and discovered something I’d never seen in the Bible before. Realizing something I used to have nightmares about finally didn’t bother me anymore. Talking and laughing with friends over memories. Many little things, God’s grace woven into my life, His redemption and love at work. I wish I could explain it, but I can’t. Not really. There is no way to put into words how thankful I am for what God’s done. He’s given me an amazing gift, and I want to share it.
God gave us life. He made us in His image, but sin distorted that image. Now He’s remaking us, conforming us back into His image, into the image of His Son. (Rom 8:29) Being made and then remade isn’t easy. It can hurt our pride. It can be scary. But it is also the most wonderful thing that will ever happen to us. He gave us the gift of life, but now through grace Jesus is giving us an even greater gift. Undeserved, we are offered not just life, but life more abundant. Will you accept His gift as well? Will you share it too?