Alternate States of Being: perceptions

You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, “I’ve lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

IMG_0331Once I was immature and small in my faith, plagued and consumed by continual questioning and perpetual doubt of God’s existence and my believed perception of His unawareness of mine. But then, God became someone who I could not only experience, but Someone to whom I could fully commit myself because I experienced His omnipotent power, life-saving provision and unfailing love.

Yet, O Lord, You are our Father. We are the clay, You are the Potter; we are all the work of Your hand. ~Isaiah 64:8 (niv)

I was one of those kids that was generally good. I adhered to rules and remembered my manners and did my homework. I was not by any means perfect nor anything special. I screwed up plenty, but mostly I just wanted to fly under the radar. And following the rules allowed for that- to be unnoticed and slip through whatever crack that would open up large enough to swallow me, to just let me to disappear. My greatest skill became my adaptability; I could melt into a crowd and never be seen and it suited me just fine.

I grew up in the Southern Baptist church. When I was twelve, I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior and was baptized.

IMG_0328I was not one of those Christians that had an earth shattering awakening when I asked Jesus to be my Lord and Savior. I won’t say that at twelve I was not saved, but I will say that I lacked the wisdom that comes with maturity to fully understand exactly what it meant. I knew I was to follow Jesus, but no one really said to me, “Just because you are a Christian doesn’t mean bad things will not happen to you. It doesn’t mean you won’t screw up or have doubts or be scared or even make wrong decisions. It just means when those times come, and they will, you must focus on Jesus with faith that He alone will get you through.” I thought I had done the right thing; I loved Jesus and I was not going to hell. I thought it was a done deal.  No one explained that the long road after stepping out of the baptismal pool was filled with opportunities to increase my faith and those opportunities were designed specifically for me by a loving God who desired that I be holy and be obedient to His will.

When I was sixteen, my Sunday school teacher had some hard and fast rules about faith. She taught there was no in between; you either had faith or you did not. If you had faith, you believed. If you believed, there was never to be any questioning. Questioning led to doubt and doubt meant you had no faith. Eleven more years would pass before my skills of spiritual discernment would emerge so that I might understand the truth and the fallacy of her teaching.

I have always been this headstrong, literal-minded, tenacious truth seeker who was passionate about my beliefs. But who I truly want to be is a heart strong, faithful warrior who is unwavering, wise and obedient whose intricacies of who Jesus is will be reflected through each and every one of my inner thoughts, my spoken words, and my good works. It is my aspiration to always live within His will for my life.

Before I shaped you in the womb, I knew all about you. Before you saw the light of day, I had holy plans for you. ~ Jeremiah 1:5 (the message)

IMG_0315In August of 1998, I found myself desperately wanting another child. Every morning, I woke up, made the coffee, stepped into the shower and prayed. Truth be told, I begged. I begged Him every day. And one day, I became utterly convinced that God was ignoring everything I said. And in my petulance, my begging became angry, whiney, full of self pity. I taunted God and I yelled at Him. Every day, silent He remained. And every month, He remained just as ungiving.

During the time I wasn’t screaming at God, I was remembering. Remembering 8 years earlier, when the good girl voted most likely to not be promiscuous by all her previous boyfriends, decided being a good girl only earned you no boyfriends. And in her first year of college let herself be charmed by a slick talking city boy who knew all the right words to say. But slick decided fatherhood was not for him. So I dropped out of college, took a job at a grocery store, and a few months later delivered a healthy baby boy. So as you might be able to see, understanding was slightly elusive; my situation confusing, but do not believe for one stinking minute I did not take opportunity to point it out to God with carefully constructed words dripping with venom. And I clawed through my days digging deeper into despair, desperation and bitterness. I rarely thought of anything else other than what I was being denied and even the sermons at church became mere background noise because my desire for a baby consumed all my time with God.

But God gives us free will; He gives us choices. When those choices turn into a forked path before us, we can follow or we can stray. If I had followed, gifts of wisdom and truth and peace would have been mine. But I strayed. I lost myself in the midst of anger and bitterness and resentment. God wants us to walk in reverent obedience while being refined and purified so that we become an encouragement to our brothers and sisters in Christ and to bear witness to those who have yet to experience Jesus in His awesome wonder. I choose to be a stumbling block. In Matthew (22:27-38 nkjv) it says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the first and great commandment.” And I did, as long as everything went my way. The first sign of trouble, I became the epitome of a petulant and unrepentant child.

IMG_0320One Sunday morning, I walked into the second grade class that I co-taught. We were studying Moses walking through the wilderness. A little boy looked up at me and asked, “How do you know God exists?” And I could not answer him. Dumb founded and left speechless by a seven year old. For the first time since I was twelve, I realized my faith was weak, if it was even there at all.

This is part one in a series of five blog posts housed under the Testimony category.

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