I've been a believer since I was five years old. I remember going into my parent's room one night and asking my dad to help me ask Jesus in my heart. I know now that I didn't know at all what that meant or what I was getting myself into but I know that I wanted to and that I had that desire at an early age. At the age of eleven I remember realizing that there was more to Christ than just saying a prayer and being baptized. It was then that I started taking my relationship with Christ more seriously. Even then, I was a kid and didn't really know what it meant to be a Christ follower, but I knew that there was something special about it.
I like to think that I was a strong Christian through my high school years. I never did anything terribly bad, I obeyed my parents and didn't get into trouble. I bought into what our youth pastor was saying and followed it with all my heart. Even then I didn't know what true devotion was nor had I ever experienced anything that knocked me off my feet to where I had to totally depend on Him for guidance. I obviously knew more than when I was five and started to understand more of why He sent his son to die for us but I was still caught up in the superficial, religious and judgmental side of Christianity.
It wasn't until I got married and had kids that He started to stretch my faith. It's ironic to me that the two things that I wanted more than life itself, are the two things where God has tested my faith and made me grow in the most un-pretty and un-graceful way. I've never cried on my face before God more than for my marriage and for my kids. All along I thought God was preparing me, throughout my teenage years, to be a good wife and mom. I realize now the only thing He was preparing me for was to be able to run to him when I was struggling and failing miserably.
My proof of salvation now comes from the fact that when I run from the Truth and start trying to do things on my own, there's this uncontrollable, involuntary pull from the Holy Spirit that always brings me full circle back to His grace. It's like a bungee cord on my soul that, when I run so far from Him, it yanks me back to reality and into His loving arms. This process might sound joyful and fun but it's painful, dreadful and hard. It's in those times that God reveals to me where I've gone wrong and it's never fun to be told you're wrong. I can, now, totally relate to the song "You Never Let Go" by Matt Redman...
"Oh no, You never let go
through the calm and through the storms
Oh no, You never let go
in every high and every low
Oh no, You never let go
Lord, You never let go of me."
I remember a few years ago, when I was struggling with our new autism life, running from God. It was really unintentional but the longer it went on I started to wonder if I was ever going to run back to Him. It was painful to be faithful, because in a way I thought He wasn't faithful to me. I questioned Him and hated Him at times. I kept reminding myself of the cute little sentence we all say to each other, you know the one that is supposed to make you feel good in times of sadness..."God will never give you more than you can handle." Those words are supposed to be comforting, but in the midst of total devastation, they come as a nuisance. I wanted to die during that time and hearing those words didn't make it any easier. At the time it is more than you can bear, which is the perfect place to start totally relying on Him.
Now looking back over the years, I wouldn't trade a second of my pain for anything. It's in those times that God drew close to me even though I didn't realize it at the time. It's in those times I've learned to worship Him through the pain because in the end what we gain in heaven far outweighs our troubles on earth. I never quite understood people when they would talk about longing to be in heaven. The thought of not being on the earth was always a scary thought for me. The older I get, physically and spiritually, I feel that same longing I once thought was odd. I can't wait to just be with Christ and not struggle with this earthly life. I can't wait to have a purified faith that doesn't struggle to be faithful. The most exciting thing for me is the thought that I will one day know Jacob in heaven in a perfected body with no more autism and he will be able to speak to me clearly and love me with no hesitations.
I am beginning to understand the verse in James 1:2
"Consider it pure joy my brothers
when you face trials of many kinds,
because you know that the testing of your faith
Let perseverance finish its work,
so that you may be mature and complete,
not lacking anything."
I was listening to a John Piper sermon yesterday "Do Not Lose Heart." It's the one that the excerpt on Shane and Shane's "Though You Slay Me" video comes from. It's a fantastic sermon on the verses in 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
"Therefore, we do not lose heart,
though outwardly we are wasting away
yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.
For our light and momentary troubles
are achieving for us an eternal glory
that far outweighs them all.
So we fix our eyes not on what is seen
but what is unseen
since what is seen is temporary
but what is unseen is eternal."
I think this is going to be my new life verse. It's a reminder that what we do on this earth and what we face on this earth is by far anything but meaningless. It's the time that He is preparing us to live with Him in eternity and I will worship Him through the pain and suffering to see that promise fulfilled. I look forward to the day I see Christ with my own eyes and can look back on my life and realize that every tear was not in vein.