This Is My Story
The first Sunday I visited my church they sang, “Blessed Assurance”. We sing a lot of contemporary praise and worship, when they started singing this it spoke to the doubt in my soul. This song has brought me comfort and conviction over the years. It is my favorite hymn. (Closely followed by Amazing Grace and How Great Thou Art)
For whatever reason the chorus was heavy on my mind this morning. “This is my story, this is my song. Praising my Savior all the day long”. Your story is your testimony.
Merriam-Webster online gives a simple definition of testimony as “proof or evidence that something exists or is true”. The more in depth full definitions go on to define testimony as: (1b) a divine decree attested in the Scriptures, (2a) firsthand authentication of a fact, (2b) an outward sign, (3a) an open acknowledgement and (3b) a public profession of a religious experience.
“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.” Confucius
The act of learning and acquiring knowledge is probably my favorite thing to do. I pursued my education almost like a drug. I wanted to have the intellectual discussions. To learn the how and why of things. Yes, I love History channel. The stories of ancient civilizations fascinate me. I have a wealth of knowledge in many areas. Wealth of knowledge is not always depth of knowledge. I learned that fact quickly as a gang investigator. Dynamics constantly change, what we know today can shift and be different tomorrow. The one exception to that is God. (Thus enters real knowledge.)
“Sometimes the questions are complicated and the answers are simple.” Dr. Seuss
More wrong answers come from bad questions than any other source. My husband and I were both trained as general instructors. We had to develop lesson plans and full teaching presentations. The most difficult part of that process was developing test questions. Think of the last test you took or even perhaps a question from a Bible study you worked on. Were the questions clear? If your question is not clear, the answer will be next to impossible to find.
As a teen, I thought I had a solid faith. I waivered but I thought “we are only human”. I read my bible according to the “chicken nugget” method. Every scripture I knew was from a memory verse, a song or a sermon. Little was internalized. I was married a few weeks after I graduated and started college a few months later.
College revealed hard questions. I never had a “God’s Not Dead” professor experience, like is seen in the movie, but the question seemed to always be just under the surface. In philosophy class, I could never logic out my faith. In my New Testament Survey class, I had more questions about Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit than I had answers. In gaining knowledge, I grew in spiritual ignorance. A light was cast on the shallowness of my faith.
Add these new perspectives and questions to a rapidly failing and miserable marriage and I followed a recipe for spiritual disaster like a champ. I grew up in church. I had been saved. At this point in time, I felt like I had been the victim of a brainwashing. When I went to church services, which became fewer until I just stopped, I sat and considered the leaders and peers in the church. All I could see was how they contradicted what Jesus taught us to be. I heard the church constantly hounding us for money. Not just tithe, but fundraisers and such. I saw Pastors living in fancy homes, driving high end cars and wearing expensive jewelry and clothes. As a wife to an employee of the church, I struggled with the idea of giving when the church could not even make payroll on time. I was too busy assessing to research what I was witnessing. The church was lukewarm. Many of the people – lukewarm. A large group of people just going through the motions and learning NOTHING.
I constantly questioned why God would allow the barrage of negative things to happen to me. Miserable marriage, depression, anxiety, fighting in my family and so on. I blamed others and never took a moment to look in the mirror. In my search for answers, I only found more questions. Eventually, I found my way out of the church.
“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” Douglas Adams
Fast forward roughly 20 years. Yes, that is a long time to wander around without a relationship with God. I never stopped believing. I would experience conviction over my actions and my lack of connection with God. (Thank you to my praying family.) When there was a crisis, I prayed. My bible had lots of dust on it.
In January 2016, we had a major falling out with one of our sons and his wife. (They are now separated.) They had been living with us for a few months. As we later found out, communication had completely broken down between the two of them. Part of the fault rests with my husband and me, because we could have handled things better. They moved out suddenly on a Saturday afternoon. I fell apart. This particular son had gone through a lot growing up. He ran away, messed with drugs and was even in some minor trouble with the law. He has a good heart, but he battles with anxiety and bi-polar like episodes. (He has never been diagnosed but meets much of the screening criteria.) I DO NOT BLAME MY SON for all the events we went through with him. It is important that you know that. However, those events and the complete lack of connection to my Savior left me a very broken person. I battled suicidal thoughts to the extent that I told my Chief, at one point, I could not carry my sidearm at work for a while. The thoughts were there but my efforts to avoid access proves to me that I always truly wanted to live. I never got strung out on drugs and though I sometimes drank more than I should, I could take or leave the alcohol. My drug became school and work. That was the addiction I poured my life into. It was easy to do since my job was about public safety, who could argue against that I NEEDED to do what I was doing? Furthermore, my education was to better opportunities for myself and my family. Both sound pretty noble right?
“There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.” Arthur Conan Doyle
I had not been there for my family, especially this troubled son as I needed to be. I did not have the tools to be the mother he needed, because I had no relationship with God. I did not have the counsel of the Holy Spirit to guide me. In January all I could think of was, “I cannot go there again.” I could not return to the utter darkness of anxiety, depression and all that comes with them.
A few weeks before these events I had seen the move “War Room”. So I prayed. Then I prayed some more. I started reading “The Battle Plan for Prayer” and I signed up for an on-line Bible study. I started concentrating my efforts on finding God again (like he was lost and I was a one woman search party). All the questions I had been asking led me to a one word answer…God. Everything I mulled over and stressed about came back to God being the answer.
I found KLOVE and did their 30 day challenge. Over those 30 days I saturated myself with Christian music and messages. I read my bible and prayed. I started to research churches in our area. I was trying to find one that checked all the boxes for our family. I narrowed it down to 2. We were running late for another church and service the morning we decided, at the last minute, to go to Centerbranch. We have not visited anywhere else. I rededicated my life and started getting involved. The rest is history.
“The changes in our life must come from the impossibility to live otherwise than according to the demands of our conscience not from out mental resolution to try a new form of life.” Leo Tolstoy
Tolstoy calls in conscience, I call it the Holy Spirit. I have proven over and over that I cannot do much through sheer force of will. I am able to do much with God’s help.
I have witnessed and observed so much over the last several months. I have seen healing, instant and complete with my own eyes. I have experienced healing. I have had peace when there is no natural explanation for peace to be present. I have been happy, joyful even in times of difficulty or sorrow. I have given tithe when I did not know how I would pay my bills and I have not come up short. Sometimes things have been tight, but my needs have been met. I have been blessed with new friends. God delivered to me a sense of purpose my life had been greatly lacking.
“Nothing ever happens like you imagine it will.” John Green from Paper Towns
I expected a degree of solace when I reached out for God. I expected to feel better leaning on God. I DID NOT expect a transformation of my life. I did not expect to jump in head first to blogging about my faith or volunteering in ministry. I did not expect to be consumed with thoughts of God and my thankfulness for all he has done in my life. I did not expect my anxiety to go from a 10 to a 1-2 (on a bad day).
Because of some of the early teachings I had in church and due to my lack of knowledge of the bible I had put God in a box. I had accepted that I would always be a sinner and that there was nothing I could do about that. I had accepted that I would struggle with anxiety my entire life. I accepted my neuro diagnosis regarding my migraines. I did not think I was “chosen” by God to receive healing and blessing like I see in other lives.
…This Is My Song
“For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world – our faith.” I John 5:4
I was wrong. I am Born of God. I am an overcomer. I am not perfect, but I am not just wallowing around in sin. I have the ultimate consigliere in the Holy Spirit. The desires of my heart are in in line with God’s will. He is molding me. I am a work in progress. However, I am His. “But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.” I John 1:12.
As for all the things that once lead me astray. I learned something that I had heard my whole life. “You will know them by their fruits…” If it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck…it’s a duck. If you claim to be a Christian and all people see is fear, doubt, condemnation for others and that vinegar face; it’s time for you to reassess where your relationship with Christ is. I listened to a lot of people who acted religious for a long time. The problem…they were ACTING RELIGIOUS. You can’t fake a relationship.
“They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!” II Timothy 3:5