Testimony of The Month

"Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work."
Ephesians 4:15-16

Testimony of The Month

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
Ephesians 2:1-10

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.”
Jeremiah 29:11-14

“Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, which is why I suffer as I do.”
2 Timothy 1:8-12

“You’re All God-God, No Offense.”

I grew up in the belt buckle of the Bible Belt, the center of what is considered to be the highest region of church attendance in the United States. People who didn’t even believe in God attended church every Sunday, just to show others in the community what good citizens they were. Politicians especially would rave about their holiness, in order to garner the public vote. As such, from a very young age I was proselytized. I attended Vacation Bible School starting at age 4. I remember the older kids lining up my class along the altar at the front of the church’s sanctuary, doling out strict instructions to bow our heads, close our eyes, and wait for them to whisper something in our ear. I remember threats of “No looking!” being called out as the middle schoolers given charge moved silently among us. The breathy question in my ear was, “Have you been saved?” I responded, “What do you mean, saved? Like from a shark attack?” My merely four-year-old brain couldn’t wrap my head around the concept of needing salvation from sin, but that day I prayed a prayer and was told I was a Christian, a follower of Jesus Christ, my Savior.

The whole experience felt, and still feels, creepy. The illustration is simple, though, that Christ-followers are won often and early in this super-evangelized area of our country. Evangelism was excellent! Discipleship was… almost a foreign language. At age 13, I reaffirmed my faith and became baptized. I consider this my “coming to Jesus”, the moment of salvation from certain death. Still, I lingered on the cusp of what it meant to truly love God and desire a closer relationship with Him. I was eager to learn, eager to make my parents and my community proud. However, I don’t know how often I was eager to love God. Throughout childhood, and especially in high school, I was labeled as a “goody-goody”. “Untouchable”, the boys who sought to date me would chuckle among each other. I wore these labels as a badge of pride, along with my True Love Waits sterling silver ring. I led prayer groups at lunch. I spent summers at Christian leadership camps. I went through a church dedication ceremony where I publicly surrendered my life to overseas missions while still a teenager. I was the All-American Cream-of-the-Crop Christian goody-goody gal, and I loved that identity.

I don’t fault the culture I was raised in. I adore it. I miss it. But I still feel as though I am missing the mark when it comes to seeking God and what it means to be a true believer and follower of Christ, 29 years after my first encounter of being saved from a spiritual “shark attack”. My motivations were self-centered and attention-seeking, instead of Christ-centered and God-glorifying. It led me through a period as a young adult where I became spiritually devastated when I was divorced from my first husband at age 21. Overnight, I was ostracized by my church family, and my dreams of doing missionary work for the Southern Baptist Convention were irrevocably shattered.

I wallowed in years of pain and suffering, angry at God that I had done everything by His Book, so-to-speak, and still my life took such an unexpected twist. Christians aren’t supposed to get divorced, you know, so how could this have happened to me? My wildest dream and desire of serving an orphan care ministry in some remote African village died with that divorce. You see, the Southern Baptist Convention on which I so strongly built my identity, doesn’t allow divorced people to serve in leadership positions within the Church, from Nursery Teacher to Overseas Missionary.

I rebuilt myself as a more guarded Christ-enthusiast, no longer seeking Him as I once did. I would still point others to God from time to time, but I lost all emotion behind it. God gives, and He certainly takes away, I reminded myself. What happened to me must have been His will, to knock me off my high horse of pride, I thought. I no longer had the motivation of a golden public appearance to guide me through my days. I met and mingled and coupled myself with people from darker corners, and I suffered many more heartbreaks, all while questioning God, “Why did you allow this to happen to me?” I slowly but surely became convinced that there was something so unlovable about me, that I was destined to be alone and without a purpose. I was a fool. Silly. Deceived. Duped by Satan.

God did not do anything to me but love me, from the moment I was conceived in my mother’s womb, and call me to a specific purpose for my life. He has always pursued me, always seen my beauty, my tiny mustard seed faith, and the deepest desires of my heart. He planted me firmly on His foundation, and though this goody-two-shoes’ life struggled through storms, He never left my side.

I am now married to my husband of seven years, with nine children who came to us through a mix of birth, foster, and soon, adoption. I am learning to fall more deeply in love with God and to trust each day to Him. I am truly diving into what it means to let God increase, while I decrease; to abide in Him and seek Him first, while allowing all other motivations, however goody-goody, to subside.

Recently, a relative of mine commented, “You’re all God-God, no offense.” I’ll take that over “goody-goody” any day.