Last week, I told you I was going to share with you about my own unfaithfulness to my God, but first I have to start with my own salvation story. It's a simple, but special story...to me anyway.
I remember as a child hearing my parents talk very often about this "Christian" word. It came up constantly, and I had not yet clued in to the fact that this word..."Christian"...had to do with the Jesus I was learning about in Sunday School. They talked about it passionately with their friends, and they seemed to really be defined by it in some way. So, at 8 years old, one evening in our family room I asked my dad, just in a conversational kind of way, "What does it feel like to be a Christian?"
He got a funny sort of look on his face.
I thought for a moment, as he looked over at my mother, that I had said something bad. Then, he got up, strode across the room, put his hand out, and said, "Well, let's go and talk about it." That night, kneeling on an old bench in my bedroom, my own father led me to Christ. Precious. I wish...more than anything...that I could tell you that from that moment on I led a life that honored God.
You know, as I look back, the most frightening thing is that I never did anything that this world would consider out of line. And, honestly, I was a pretty tame teenager by the world's standards. There are two standards we operate by, and they are completely mutually exclusive. A worldly standard, and a biblical standard.
"No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon."
The devil got ahold of me by blurring the lines of right and wrong, and who exactly my "god" was, and he made a fool of me in the process. I don't want this to be a confessional of my many sins, but I want you to know that I struggled profoundly for many years to overcome bondage that I had walked right into. Actually, I sort of strutted into it. It came in an attractive package but, in the end, it wrought years of regret for me. Still does, in fact, in a lot of ways.
I knew, probably beginning around 10 or so, that my folks were different. I know now that I was noticing they were "set apart." As in holy, sanctified...Christ living in them. At younger ages I didn't think much of it, but as I grew up it started to bother me. When you're a teenager, you just want to be like everybody else. My parents made that difficult. God bless them! My "mess" started innocently enough, but eventually I was sneaking around and lying to my folks, rolling my eyes when they voiced their concerns...I was so young, what were they so worried about??? It was no big deal. But, before I knew it, years had passed and I felt powerless to do anything to get away from what had become an idol to me. It haunted me...and ridiculed me. It made such a fool of me. I still wince when I think on it.
By my mid-20's, I was feeling all used up inside and so frustrated...like I was trying to walk up a down escalator and had been for nearly 10 years. Something had to give, and I knew it had to be bigger than me. I was getting a good taste of the permissive will of God...versus the PERFECT will of God. Big difference. Big. For years I had known God was unhappy with the life I was determined to lead. He had, very patiently, been giving me hints and even small amounts of I suppose what you would consider discipline...consequences...along the way. Conviction was happening, but I was ignoring it. That had all begun to increase both in frequency and severity. I had been "back in church" for a couple of years at this point and I was growing in the Lord, but I had this one particular idol that reared it's ugly head now and again. It's almost like when it came around, I was another person...turned into the worst version of myself. I had not dealt with it...I wanted to keep that one to myself. The evening that it all came to head, I remember driving home with so much regret and shame over it that I could barely hold my head up, as a thunderstorm absolutely raged around me. It was late when I walked in the door...in the early morning hours...and I came face to face with my father.
You want to get my attention about something...involve my dad.
Through a crazy set of events, my dad had been clued in on my whereabouts. And, even though I was no child at this point...I am still his child, and he was ready to deal with me. It was rock-bottom. I saw in my dad's face, yes, some anger...but mostly worry and pain and (shutter) disappointment. I fell in his arms and sobbed and sobbed, confessing to him what I was guilty of. Again, from a worldly perspective, there was nothing terribly wrong with what I was doing...but my dad's perspective is not worldly. It's biblical. And I was miserable because when I accepted Christ I became NOT OF THIS WORLD. I couldn't seem to "just be like everyone else" for a reason...I wasn't everyone else. I'm not everyone else. Christ lives in me.
My father was disappointed and hurt, but incredibly loving about the situation. He gathered me up in his arms and let me know we would get through it...together. I hated to let him see that part of me. I wanted to be perfect for him. And for Him. I see now, it's why Jesus came. It's the only way we can be perfect before a Holy God.
"This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe."
We can't do this without Him! We have GARBAGE. Heck, I grew up in the Christian version of the Cleaver family and this lost world messed me up something fierce. We have to come to Him WITH our garbage...and He will work it all out as we surrender ourselves to Him. In His will and for His glory. So often we think we have to get "clean" before we go to Him..., but, hear me very clearly when I say this, HE does the cleansing. If we try and clean ourselves up in your own strength, all we wind up with is more dirt and a bitter heart. Believe me...I know.
That night, with my dad and the thunderstorm, was a turning point for me. I became obedient to some very specific things God had been calling on me to do for some time...and with that obedience came a freedom I cannot begin to explain. I have never once looked back. And that's the honest truth. I praise God.
That surrender...that what He's looking for. Turning my back on my own stubborn ideas of what would make me happy was the catalyst my walk with God was looking for. Simple obedience. I'm not here to tell you I haven't sinned since. I have and will again...but I found a place in my walk with Him that I recognize what sin does to me...how it binds me. It's like bricks on my wings. And I want to FLY...wherever His wind takes me. That's where I want to go! He changed me. He changed my "want-to's." He changed my desires! Who better to show me my true desires than my Maker and Builder Himself...
I know who I was 10 years ago, trying to run my own life. I wasn't much. I knew it, even if I fooled those around me. I know who I am today, surrendered to my God. It's more than I could ever accomplish on my own, even with all my trying. And we're going places! The difference?
I turned my back on myself...and walked His way.
The way to Ephraim.