I've been given an interesting assigment ... to define myself.
Yes, unfortunately I am one of those devout people-pleasers, who also has a strong tendency to believe any and everything others say or think about me. It's also true that I'll readily accept and embrace any negative thoughts spoken about me immediately as if it were the gospel truth, while questioning and brushing off all the positive statements people make about what they see in me.
So this past week my counselor, Ginger, challenged me to come up with 10 things that I believe and know to be true about me, regardless of what others might think or say. She also challenged me to blog about it, so that I am making my thoughts known to others who know me. In other words, I'm going to own these thoughts and beliefs. I'm going to define myself, and say to the world that this is who I know I am.
At first I thought it would be an easy assignment. It's not. I'm 4 days into working on this and it really isn't easy to define who I am. I'm finding that I am coming up with a lot of silly, shallow definitions, such as I have blue eyes or my favorite color is pale purple. Those things are true about me and I believe them, but it really isn't what makes me ME. Or then I have the problem of coming up with something deeper only to find that it is negative. I certainly have my faults. I'm only human, after all. And yet, this assignment isn't necessarily about downing myself, but it is more meant to help me see myself in a truthful way so that I can grow into a better woman.
But today God revealed to me a way to approach this challenge ...
For the past two years, the Lord has been doing a mighty work in me. I'm a very different woman now ... some days I don't even recognize myself. So I'm going to approach this assignment from the stand-point of talking about who I was contrasted to who I am becoming. My prayer is that it will show how God is working in my life, as He is creating in me a clean heart. Because really what matters most is how God defines me.
And that is right where the definition of me starts ...I am a child of the King of Kings. This is the most important thing you can ever know about me. I serve a risen Savior and my life is devoted to Him. And this is my testimony regarding that fact:
I grew up in a Christian home. My parents took me and my siblings to church. We also read the Bible at home, prayed together and talked about the ways of the Lord. This same love for God was demonstrated and taught to me by my grandparents, great-grandmothers and other extended family. I really cannot remember a time when I didn't love God, and knew that Jesus loved me too.
I think I first became aware of death when I was about 7 or so. A older neighbor lady that we used to drive to church died rather suddenly, and I became aware that people don't live forever on earth. Not too long after that I talked to my parents about death and dying and going to heaven. My father took me to visit the preacher ... I remember quoting John 3:16 for him that night. I don't guess that I asked Jesus into my heart that night.
My mother says that the following summer I asked Jesus into my heart while we were in the garden. I have absolutely no recollection of this. But my mother was there and she remembers. She said we were talking about some friends of mine who had asked Jesus into their hearts during VBS. I apparently expressed a desire to do the same thing, and so she led me through the prayer that day. I wish I could remember ... I wish I could say that I knew my heart was in the right place that day. I wish I could say that I said those words with all sincerity. But I can't. I can only tell you what my mother told me.
My parents didn't push me to make a profession of faith. I was a little scared of our preacher. He was older and I wasn't comfortable with him. So it wasn't until I was 11 years old and we had gotten a new preacher at our church that I finally made a profession of faith and was baptized as a believer. I was baptized along with my brother, which makes that event an extra-special day for me to remember.
What is sad is that very shortly after that, I began to be filled with fear that I wasn't saved after all. I couldn't remember my salvation experience. I had no recollections other than the day I was baptized ... and I heard it preached again and again and again that baptism will not save my soul. My distress was very much an internal sort of struggle. I was scared to admit my fears out loud. I didn't want to admit that I was having doubts. I prayed daily, begging God to save me and to help me have a peace in my soul about my salvation. I feared death and dying and the return of Christ. The intense fear lasted from about the time I was 12 or so until shortly after my 30th birthday. At that point, I'd been struggling for well-over half my life ... seriously plagued by this overwhelming fear.
Fear ... it drove me and consumed me. I guess I functioned fairly normally on the outside. I mean, during that time I was a strong student, graduating valedictorian of my high school class and finishing cum laude from college. I married and worked and did all the things that people do. But I felt stunted in my walk of faith. All I could pray about was whether or not I was saved. I viewed the bad things in my life as punishments for not having enough faith. I suppose the worst of it was that I never found the courage to talk to a single person about this deep-seated fear. Over time, it only grew stronger and stronger.
By the time I was 30 years old, I was a momma to 3 beautiful children ... little stair-steps. Joel was 2, Nathan was 1 1/2 and little Julia was a bundle of newborn sweetness. I had lived literally on both coasts of this great country. I had been successful in jobs, in making friends, in motherhood. But I still felt so full of fear. I tried to live so that no one else would ever guess how tormented I was, but those doubts burned brighter than ever. I'll never forget how I took my babies to church one Sunday night. It was always a struggle to go to evening church services then ... the kids were so little and it was hard to drag them all out at night by myself, knowing that when I came home each of them would be so grumpy and needy. It was definitely easy to choose to stay home. But the church was having a video series on Christian basics by Dr. Adrian Rogers. And I was so very compelled to go ... I had this strong sense that I needed to be a part of this video sermon series.
That first night of the series Dr. Rogers preached on salvation. And what he said impacted me so greatly. Dr. Rogers told the story of two men traveling from Memphis, TN to Birmingham, AL. One man drove. As he crossed the state line into Alabama, he noted that the time was 3:23 pm. He stopped at the Alabama State Visitor's Center just after he crossed over, signed his name to the guest book and chatted amicably with other travelers at the rest stop. Later on, he could remember many details about those first few moments in Alabama. The second man flew on a plane. He never knew the exact time he crossed over into Alabama, but he knew that at some point he must have because when the plane landed he was in Birmingham, Alabama. He could see by the sights around him that he was indeed at his intended destination. But he could not tell the exact details of how he came to be in Alabama.
Dr. Rogers said that salvation is sometimes like each of these journeys. For some, the moment they asked Jesus to save them is burned into their memory. They can recall the details and the emotions of the moment with great detail. But for others the journey isn't quite so dramatic or memorable. And yet, they are just as saved because they have arrived at the point of believing who God is and what Jesus did for them and have yielded their lives to Him.
At the end of the video, the pastor of the church, Bro. Roger Wilkins, got up and began a discussion of the sermon we had just heard. Within the first two minutes of the discussion, Bro. Roger looked right at me and asked for me to share my testimony with everyone ... and with tears in my eyes, I said, "Bro. Roger, let's just say I got there on a plane." He laughed a happy laugh and said he was glad I had caught the flight, and then moved on to probing other members of the congregation with questions about the video we had just viewed. Bro. Roger had no idea that my plane had just landed moments before.
I wish I could say that since that night I've never doubted ... I have. But now I am armed with a way to send Satan packing when he tries to attack me with doubts. I believe. I don't have to recall the exact moment of my salvation. I know that I know that I know that Jesus is my Lord and Savior. Furthermore, I can also testify that since that night the fear that plagued my life for so long has diminished. I am able to rest in peace, knowing that my life is redeemed ... my sins are forgiven and my joy truly is found in my Savior.
So who am I? I am a redeemed soul, who longs to be totally in love with my God. I am learning how to embrace the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. And I am no longer filled with an overwhelming fear.
For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord ... ~1 Timothy 1:7-8