I always knew that God was important. I grew up with church on Sunday, CCD, and a heaping dose of morality. I knew right from wrong. I did my sacraments. And at some point in there, I even said the salvation prayer at a neighbor's house.
But I didn’t know Jesus Christ . . .
and I didn’t read His word.
There were years in my early adulthood, where I explored other religions. And then there were some, where I just strayed from it all and went my own way. Both were really one and the same, and those were some of my darkest of days. I embraced feminist ideologies and really believed that I knew what was best for me.
But I had my heart broken multiple times. I often felt hopeless and unlovable, and I convinced myself somewhere in it all that I didn't need anyone. I got lost in vanity and materialism, striving and seeking, looking for the next best thing. I was living for my dreams, myself, my ways. . . and it just wasn't enough.
But God. . .
Oh, how He tugged on my heart! I remember the pulls I felt every weekend when everyone was going to parties and nightclubs. There was a point when I felt His pull so much that I just couldn’t continue with it all anymore. I began to stay back in the quietness of my home and open my Bible. I was looking for something more, something greater than myself.
It was shortly after that when I met my soon-to-be husband. We came together at a point when we were both seeking and learning about how to follow Christ. There were so many bumps we hit early on though. There were misunderstandings of scripture, parts of ourselves that we kept away from God and one another.
We did go to church though--even volunteered in ministry for a season. But the reality was, our lives weren't much different than before. I was pursuing my career; he was pursuing his, and we came home each night to the television. We traveled, hung out with friends, and pretty much, just kept right on living for all the things we always lived for before: entertainment, money, materialism, vanity, and so on. Our hearts were still so far from Him. . . (Jeremiah 17:9) and eventually, from one another.
If you asked me at that time if I was doing anything “wrong,” I would have proudly said no. I didn't consider myself a bad person. I didn’t get involved with bad people or bad things. I was faithful to my husband. And although I made poor choices in early adulthood, I boasted that I wouldn't be who I was today if it weren't for it all. I didn't see how those very choices had been a part of what put Christ on the cross.
And I believed that somehow I had done enough “good works” to compensate for it all.
What I didn’t realize was that it was my self image and “morality” that kept me from fully understanding the Gospel and what it truly meant to receive Christ as my savior.
You see, oftentimes, a person who considers him or herself "good" cannot see the real need for a savior. In many ways, pride sits on the throne of good works. We begin to convince ourselves that as long as the good outweighs the bad, we are good and worthy of blessings and salvation. We walk in self-righteousness, boast in our good works (Ephesians 2:9), “believe in ourselves,” and begin to become our own god and savior.
But the Bible says that “if we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1John 1:8) It tells us that none are good, and all “have fallen short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) It calls us to examine ourselves (2 Corinthians 13:5), for the wages of sin is death and a separation from God, who is holy, just, and perfect in every way. (Psalm 145:17)
For the longest time, I didn't fully grasp this.
It took another dark night, alone in a hotel room for me to realize the error of my ways.
I was on my knees in prayer. My head was pounding from another intense migraine, and I was crying out for help. Pain can truly be one of God’s saving graces, my friend. For me, it brought me to my knees, and it opened my eyes to the sin that was hidden deep in my heart.
When I saw my sin, my selfishness, my pride, I began to see that I had gone my own way for so very long. I began to see where it had led me and the "inside" of my life flashed before me.
I was carrying so much baggage. My marriage was not what we had hoped it would be. My health was crumbling. Our son was sickly, and I was constantly distracted. I was so very busy working and buying and living for the things of this world that I was missing what was right in front of me.
I cried out to Jesus that night. I cried and cried for Him to free me. I confessed my sins and repented, fully embracing the gift of salvation that I neither deserved nor could earn. (Ephesians 2: 8-9) I put my trust in Him and surrendered my life. . . completely.
That night, everything changed.
My eyes were opened to the path I was on, and I longed to walk in accordance with His will. It was scary at first, but by His grace, I let go of the idols in my life. I walked away from the business and embraced a slower lifestyle, focused on God, my family and home. I gave up the fast-food life in exchange for one that nourished the bodies and souls of our children. I gave up the things that I thought were important and found so much more in those I had ignored.
I delighted in The Lord, and He truly gave me the desires of my heart. (Psalm 37:4)
Through it all, our marriage and family grew stronger. I have more love, more joy, more peace than ever before. I find so much fulfillment in being my husband's help meet and the keeper of my home. I love that I get to spend each day with our younger children, and I love that I now have the means and the time to cultivate what truly matters most.
This journey of sanctification and growth has been anything but easy. It would be a lie to say that the Christian life is all about living “my best life yet," filled with "earthly" success and riches. It would also be a lie to say that it is nothing but a list of rules filled with “dos” and “don’ts.”
Following Jesus Christ is about a relationship. It is about seeking first the kingdom of God—through His Word, through prayer, through action. (James 2:14-26) It is about walking in faithfulness and submission and trusting in Him through it all, for His ways are perfect and good.
It’s a call to love others and make disciples. It is one filled with grace and mercy, joy, peace, and goodness. It is so very rich.
And it truly is life abundant. (John 10:10)
Friends, Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through Him. (John 14:6)
He changes hearts. He changes lives. He changes everything.
My life looks nothing like it did many years ago . . .
And although I will spend a lifetime learning and growing,
In Christ, I have been redeemed. . . reborn . . . transformed.
And I am forever grateful. 💗