I grew up in The Church; was saved around 8 or 9 years of age. In many ways, I had an ideal childhood. I had two parents who adored me and ensured I was given a godly foundation. My parents separated when I was 12 and ultimately divorced when I was 15; it wasn’t until years later that I would realize the profound impact a broken home had on my life.
My mom and I left the church I grew up in when I was 16. It would be about a year or so before I committed to another church and just a few short years afterward, that church closed its doors. I felt like I was without a home and began to wander.
I have always been a relational person, someone who thrives when I feel a sense of community with people I’m doing life with on a regular basis. The majority of my most cherished memories from growing up are wrapped up in experiences I had in my neighborhood, in my youth group, in my school. People. Community. In my youth, I was under the watchful eye and guidance of my parents and, praise God, He instilled in me an innate desire to honor them and authority in general. I was a natural rule-follower. As I grew into young adulthood, I lost a bit of my healthy fear of The Lord. My relationship with Him was dependent on whether or not I was in church, in the right community. Although we are built for fellowship (the Word tells us this) community became my foundation instead of God Himself. I longed to fill the void a broken home had left. Sometimes I didn’t always find the right community; so what, then, became of my relationship with God? It naturally fell by the wayside. The friends I chose weren’t terrible in the ways we think of as such, but they weren’t believers, that was certain; and their lifestyle reflected a hedonistic worldview. I allowed my desire for community and belonging to supersede my relationship with Christ. I hadn’t grasped for myself what my identity in Christ was, I was riding on the coattails of what my church and my school and my parents had taught me and so I searched for my sense of purpose and identity in other pursuits and relationships. Not all of these pursuits were bad, but they weren’t God. Anything less than God as my goal is moving target and doomed to fail. I thank God that in Him we can fail forward and I thank God He never gave up on me because I always felt Him near. Knocking. Whispering.
It was a long time before I would respond to Him. I became comfortable in the world of instant gratification and “doing me”, many times that included lying. Throughout this time, I can say that my intent was never to deceive, the decision to lie was based on fear, but that fear was based the fact that I knew I was living outside the will of God. But, again, God’s Word has an answer for everything. Numbers 32:23b tells us, “you may be sure that your sin will find you out”. I don’t know why we so often fail to take God at His Word. I know that it is God’s mercy that I didn’t wind up in truly dangerous situations because my decisions could have easily led me there.
So, although on the outside it may have seemed like my poor decisions left me unscathed, it was my heart issues that were my undoing. I’d gotten to a point where I’d made such a mess of a situation I was in that I knew I needed to get my messed-up-self back to church. I recommitted my life to Christ 10 years ago and have never looked back. My now husband and I walked into the doors of Bethel Temple Community Bible Church knowing that with our collective pasts our relationship would be doomed to fail without a solid foundation. We also walked into the doors of our church together, but with a desire for God, understanding that if God led us away from our relationship, then we would rather be in His will than outside of it. God worked on us individually and as each of us nurtured our relationship with Christ, our relationship with one another began to flourish. We have been married for 9 years and collectively have 7 children: 2 that he brought to the family from a previous relationship and 5 that we created together, 2 of which are heaven-side, 3 of which are earth-side. No two roles in life have dropped me to my knees before the Throne more than that of wife and mother. God has used these callings to refine me, teach me, convict me, and fill me. Most of all, though, He has graciously reminded me over and over that my identity is found in Him, not in either of the two life-roles I have mentioned or any of the other labels I hold (homeschool mom, daughter, neighbor, ministry leader, etc.). I don’t need to look to my right or to my left, I need only look to Him. I have learned to go to Him first. I have learned that the refining fire is only refining if I put the truths of the Bible into practice, otherwise those truths are just fluff-words I say to make myself look like a good Christian. I have been through fires; I have been tested, prodded, and shaken, but I have not been moved. I have struggled to see the good in some situations, but God has rescued me from doubt and shown me His faithfulness. He has brought me to a place where I know that I know that I know that in my own strength I will fail every time. He pursues me and draws me unto Himself daily as I walk with Him in prayer and study His Word. It is a process of transformation that takes place. It doesn’t happen overnight. Salvation and forgiveness happens instantly, but the discipline of walking with God takes time.
What pains me most about my journey is that I knew better. And, yet, even in that, God reminds me that I am free from guilt and shame. I am not bound by my past! I can walk upright in my standing as a saint who sometimes (okay, oftentimes) sins; a righteous daughter of The King. And in this current season of life what my gracious God keeps stirring in me is that my aim should not be His peace, nor His blessing, nor anything else that comes as a byproduct of knowing Him intimately. My aim, my sole pursuit should be God Himself. That’s it. Just God.