As I sat in church, I watched a video our Pastor included as part of the Mighty To Save weekend. It was about a woman sitting on a park bench talking to us Christians. She spoke about how she didn’t want us to give up on her. She’d probably resist our attempts to reach out to her. She could just envision us pointing fingers at her and telling her how sinful and messed up she was. She thought of us as hypocrites. She challenged us to show her unconditional love. She again said for us not to give up on her.
I had so much to say about this past weekend, that I had to break my thoughts into separate blog entries. This entry is #2 of what I want to share.
I grew up in a Christian home. Our family was actively involved in our church, yet at the same time, it felt like sheer busyness. I knew how to recite specific prayers, I knew the rituals and customs, and I knew that there were an awful lot of rules to follow. I even felt the calling to dedicate my life to serving God by becoming a Nun. But, when I became a teenager everything changed.
Through various events (none of which I will write openly about), I began to lose my connection with the church. I was judged. I was demeaned. Confession was never enough, and I always felt worse after my repentance. I literally felt bonded to hell, with the harsh words that were spoken to me. What spirit I had as a child of God was broken, and it left a bad taste in my mouth. I felt as though I could never be good enough. I carried a lot of weight, a lot of sin, and there was nothing that could ever fix me. So, once I graduated from high school and moved out on my own, I left the church with no intention of ever returning.
There were several times over the next two decades when Christians tried to reach out to me. I resisted. I ran. I had myself a nifty little fox-hole to dive into when I saw them coming to my door. All I could see was someone else ready to condemn me.
Once I was invited to a bible study with a group of women. I went because I felt pressured into it. I was asked to read a fairly long passage out of the bible and tell the group what that meant. Let me put it this way…I PANICKED!!! Yes, I grew up in the church, but I NEVER opened a bible at all. All my time was spent memorizing prayers and formalities. I didn’t know what to say and was caught so off guard. Needless to say, I never went back, and I distanced myself from that acquaintance.
This weekend, when I watched the video, I watched the woman and listened to her talk. And, suddenly I realized I was THAT woman not long ago. I’m sure that if I had opened a religious book back then to “The Lost”, it would’ve had my picture there. Oh, how I ached for her! Oh, how I rejoiced to God for reaching me! And again, I thought about how I went from being THAT woman to being someone God is using to lead through PROJECT ONE:EIGHT. Wow! Yes, God is Mighty to Save!
I thought back to my old experiences with the church and religion. I began to see what was missing. I had not built a relationship with God. I hadn’t begun to understand who Jesus truly was. I hadn’t ever owned a bible. My faith was based on the church, the rituals, and memorization of various aspects. But other than those things, there was nothing. It was void. I was void. As embarrassing as it is to admit even today, I didn’t know jack about Jesus growing up. I didn’t know I could be saved. I didn’t know that He paid the penalty for my sins. He carried that cross!
Thankfully, a few years ago I had a friend who mentioned a book to me. Out of curiosity, I picked it up and started reading. I read, put it down, screamed in frustration, read some more, and asked a gazillion questions in some VERY long emails. But he never once judged me. He shared His love for Jesus, the peace, the hope, and an awful lot of patience with me as I started the journey. When it came to breaking down the wall, it took trust. His gentleness, kindness, and friendship broke that barrier, and I let my guard down. I saw how he was actively living his life, and I wanted that! One year later, I was re-baptized. As an adult, I wanted to surrender myself to The Lord. Finally, so much started to make sense. Finally, I not only had a relationship with Jesus, but with a church family as well.
It was on that day, that I went from being THAT woman…scared, afraid, judged, hopeless, angry, frustrated, and Jesus-less, to becoming the woman God created me to be.
My God IS Mighty to Save.
As I sat in church this weekend, I wondered how I could do the same for someone…
as it was done for me.
I stood there and shouted in my prayers, “Yes, I will go, God! Use me!” I may look like a leader, but really it is God who is leading. I’m just following His direction willingly.