http://media.shepherdsland.com/_sermon_download.asp?ID=11235. I hope that you click on this link & listen to this message; I believe it is God speaking- it inspired me in majestic ways! My family has gone through quite a journey- there were times I thought our relationships were beyond fixing & HOPE was nonexistent. God has used our journey to strengthen us as well as others- This is BEAUTY! I believe that being open & vulnerable is a beautiful thing; it’s also very painful & humbling! I’ll admit it- I WOULD like to take credit for things to make ME look better- Pride is a thing I struggle with; vulnerability & honesty produce humility in me.
God, how you work in mysterious & secret ways- you’re freaking amazing! ;) From as far back as I can remember Christianity was based on works. In school, at reunions, etc., I was told I was going to hell because I wore pants. I was also told that if I didn’t have a covering on my head when I died I would go to hell. Legalistic rules like these affected me deeply- I was NEVER good enough in my own mind, no matter how hard I tried. Since the church/school was so focused on the outward, I rarely felt accepted; I doubted why I should believe in a god like this- if God was really love, why wasn’t it showing through His people? I hated all of the rules and regulations – the rigidity- I didn’t want the intentions of my heart to be defined or determined by others. I distanced myself from God because of this distorted view; if God was controlling & dictating, I didn’t want to give Him everything. I’ve learned through this that God truly is the only Judge & that we are called to love people in whatever state they’re in, even if we don’t believe as they do. Also, control is NOT the answer to “get what you want”. Ultimately, God could choose to control our every move, but He knows what is best - control & dictatorship is NOT the answer as it draws others away. I’ve also learned that the Bible was written as guidelines, not RULES we HAVE to complete to be a Christian. Christianity is not based on works as we are nothing on our own but instead are everything in Christ. God knows that we are imperfect & He does not expect us to be elsewise; nor does He expect us to obey every single “rule”. Christianity is allowing God to love us, forgive us, use us, teach us, etc. There’s nothing WE can do to make God love us more or less. As my dad said, “The ONLY way to get into heaven is to accept God’s FREE love- there’s nothing WE can say or do to get into heaven; ANYONE can receive this uncomprehend able love.
Growing up I had a much distorted view of God. I accepted Him into my life but never truly accepted His free love – I believed I had to earn His love. I perceived from those around me that if I was a “good” person, God would love me. Also, my view of success was being the BEST. I was always taught to do my best in everything I did – to bring glory to God. My father praised me of my talents in sports; I longed for his acceptance and love but felt it was only received when I was “successful”. In other words, I tried to earn his love & acceptance in everything I did; I felt like when I excelled, then I was acceptable. I also thought that if I was a “good Christian girl”, I would be rewarded in Heaven. Have you ever tried to obey EVERY single “rule” or commandment in the Bible? I’ve learned that it’s impossible & God knows that. This is why He died for us; He knew we were imperfect & didn’t expect us to be elsewise.
Growing up, I felt watched the majority of the time- with my dad being deacon & so high up in the church I felt pressure to be "perfect" since it seemed as if we were always being watched; people looked up to my dad & I felt they expected his family to follow the rules 24/7. I didn’t want to be responsible for “ruining his reputation”; all my life I was known as the "good girl"- I hated this!!! To me it seemed so boring; where was the adventure & risk?! Well, I was a perfectionist to begin with, so I took this to the extreme. I tried to be perfect at everything- to never upset people, to have my life "together" & figured out, to never make mistakes or say the wrong thing, etc. This was exhausting & ultimately impossible- I was miserable during this time! I realize, now, that I had my life all planned out; hmmm...... that was NOT God's plan since no one knows His plan except for Him! I was trying to lead my own life & only went to God when things went wrong or to pray for what I thought I needed instead of His will for me!
I went to Costa Rica on a mission's trip before my surgery- I waited about a month to have my surgery prior to just finding out. This trip completely opened my eyes to new things- these people were so poor. I loved ministering to these people- to an extent they were "just like me". During this time we had to give our testimonies- I was so embarrassed because I thought I "didn't have a testimony" & prayed to God ever since I was small that God would USE me & give me a testimony; that He would use me & make my story "worthwhile" of sharing. Never did I expect what He had in store for me, yet I wouldn't trade it for the world! Honestly, I didn't even know what my "story" even was- I was a "good Christian girl" whose life was rosy red; I hadn't been through anything! I was blind to what God was already doing in my life. To me, life was so "black or white" that if I mentioned anything "bad", my life was "bad". "Good" & "bad" could NEVER co-exist in my world! I grew spiritually tremendously while in Costa Rica; I witnessed spiritual warfare while here.
These are some of the struggles I faced early on in life- struggles of finding what I believed for myself apart from others. I realize, through life experiences that this is a broken world in which we live in; hurting people hurt people. No one, as hard as it is to admit, is perfect. I believe everyone has been hurt as it’s a part of life. People may or may not intend to harm, but it is our duty to forgive others for wrongdoing. I don’t believe that forgiving is forgetting; I still have memories that haunt my mind however I choose not to stay stuck in the past. I also believe that everything happens for a reason; I wouldn’t change a thing as God is in control & is sitting on the throne. I’ve also learned that through our weaknesses God can show His strength. I’ve learned to love people even more because of their imperfections & mistakes, just as He does for me. God has showed me that my wounds are not something to be ashamed of & there’s nothing wrong with them. As Dr. Steve Stephens & Pam Vredevelt say in The Wounded Woman, “Yet without wounds, my faith remains untested. And without moving forward, my faith will be unrewarded.” As my dad says in his sermon, I am DEFINITELY a free spirit; what is there to be afraid of when Heaven is the eternal reward?! I’m not afraid of dying- in fact I anticipate it; for me death is a celebration – beauty amidst darkness. NO, I’m NOT holding back in this life- I only have ONE chance on this earth & the rest of eternity is spent in Heaven. I know this because I have accepted God’s FREE love- JESUS’ DEATH! I will NEVER do anything to deserve Heaven- it’s a GIFT! I have learned SO MUCH from my incredible family; they’ve taught me so much! Life is once again beautiful!!