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Monday, December 13, 2010

Testimony Pt. 1

When I was a young girl, I attended a summer bible camp. As I heard about Jesus being my Savior, I could recognize sin being a part of my existence. I accepted the forgiveness, but what intrigued me most was also hearing that once I asked Jesus to come into my life, He would hear my prayers and be in an on-going relationship. At this time I had a deposit. 2 Cor. 2:22 says, "He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come."

My mom had completed four years of college and student teaching to fulfill her lifelong dream of becoming an elementary teacher. At the time I was at camp, she had also interviewed for a teaching job. I prayed for my mom that week, and when she returned to pick me up at the camp, she told me she had been offered a job. This was an affirmation in my life of God's love and care for our family. However, I will share how this picture was not one that continued to grow.

The lifeline in our family had been a lineage of very hard work. With my birth, this was the third generation of pregnancies before marriage. The outcome of my mom's early pregnancy was deciding to hold off college, and often my dad worked two jobs to provide for our needs. This pressure was something that could have directed him towards God, but instead he escaped through time away from our home and some nights wasted drinking or watching television. This rocky life gave way to a lot of instability, anger and fear. There were holes in my character that I struggled with knowing what to do. For example, when my parents reacted in disappointment, often I was trying to fix the problem, and I would wonder why my efforts were unsuccessful. If friendships were shaky, I would be fearful of being abandoned so I would not work out problems but avoid the person and friendship entirely.

But things started to change. At nineteen years old, I was a freshman in college. I was working hard, tried to be funny, set goals, but mostly very studious. I had set in my heart that the best thing in life was to get my education before starting a family, and this would be central to my happiness as a woman. But somehow, all of the accomplishments in school were not ultimately fulfilling. On the inside, I was empty. My parents marriage was crumbling. I was away from it physically, but I carried the burden in my heart. It was late one night on Morningside's college football field where I prayed, “God, if you are really there please show me.”

So I shouldn't have been surprised when a new friend, also nineteen, came glowing into my life. This girl had a zest for living that I had never known before. One of my first memories of her was when she helped me unload all of my belongings into our shared dorm room. I saw her deal with personal disappointment with calmness, she rarely complained, and she worked very hard, but not for the recognition. Over the summer before our sophomore year, Kim had given me an invitation to a weekend called “Young Adults Together Encounter Christ.” This was an event that stirred inside of me, and as much as I wanted to ignore it, I couldn't. 

God was answering my prayer. He was gently nudging me to participate. In the fall of that year, after much anxiety, I attended the retreat. Part of me was having a ton of fun, while another part of me was very troubled. As people would share their stories, I wondered in my mind, “What is the deal with all of these problems? Can't they just get over it. Life goes on.” What I didn't realize at the time was how life wasn't really going on. In the pain, life was stuck, suffocated and trapped inside – and it needed to be released. I was starting to long for the retreat to be over when things all came to a head. We had a sharing time with the group we had been a part of for the weekend. I will admit to you that I had made no friends, and in group sessions I was quiet. This fact made it difficult for people to share with me what they enjoyed doing with me throughout the weekend, and as people were sharing about each other, they didn't have anything to say about me. I started to sense my aloneness there, even though I had been surrounded by people. 

Next, we had letters from our parents that were mailed to us while at this retreat. My letters were fine, but I am sure my parents were not in a good place to be writing me mushy letters during their own struggles. But all of these feelings helped me to open my ears and listen. The next day the last person to share at the retreat was the only adult. He told about how he was a father, but because of time spent drinking, he often neglected his children. But, since he had made a decision to listen to God, he had changed. He had spent a lot of time with his family, and he was steadily rebuilding those relationships. In my mind I thought, “This is what my dad is missing.”

Then he shared how he had been on a journey with God that was like a tandem bike ride. He was riding the bike, and God was sitting behind him. He realized that things needed to be switched, and God needed to direct him. God needed to steer. At this point there was a direction for me, and I thought, “This is what I am missing.” Now there was a second party to consult in my decision making, and at this point in my life, Christ grew from being my Savior, to being my Savior and Lord.

After this man spoke, I went to talk to him. I explained how the same things happened in our family, and how it was difficult for me. And that I didn't want to go back to college and face it. What he told me was a surprise. He asked, “Have you told this to anyone else?” I admitted I hadn't. He asked me who invited me, and made me promise to tell her. This was the best advice I have ever received. This is where the healing from my past started and still continues today. James 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

I learned a lot about fear – and having it diminish as I took these steps of faith. The next year I spent praying through many of these issues with my roommate. The week after the retreat, my mother called to tell me she was filing for a divorce. If it hadn't been for the prior experience of allowing God to direct everything, I would have felt hopeless. But now I had a hope.

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