Not so long ago, if you asked me if I had a close relationship with God, I would have given you an emphatic “yes!” and believed it with all my heart. If you probed me for details, I would’ve been hard pressed to share anything concrete. I spent so many years going through the motions, I actually convinced myself I was a dedicated Christian because I was a good person. It never occurred to me being “good” had nothing to do with salvation and developing a deep relationship with God.
As a child I was starving to be loved and accepted. I didn’t really grow up in a spiritual home – with the exception of holiday dinner blessing, God wasn’t necessarily a part of our lives. On occasion, I’d ride a bus to a local church. Hearing the preacher one Sunday talk about how God loved me so much He sent His son to die on a cross FOR ME for MY SINS was almost too good to be true! But I accepted it as truth and believed with all my heart. The challenge was nurturing that belief.
Life, on the other hand, was teaching me something different – from my perspective, love and acceptance was conditional – the never-ending “if-then” equation…IF I made good grades, THEN I would be praised and accepted…IF I behaved and did my chores, THEN they would love me and accept me. And then one day, even though I thought I was being good, they left – they left each other AND they left me. Unfortunately, it never occurred to me being “good” had nothing to do with my parents leaving. And so the cycle continued into marriage…I thought I was doing all the right things, but he left anyway. I still had it stuck in my head I was doing something wrong – I wasn’t good enough…so I tried to be better. For the better part of 40 years, I focused on the only belief system I knew – the world’s view of success: Education, Career Stability, Money, Respect.
- No Degree? No problem – I earned a degree in three years and graduated with honors – check.
- Layoffs? No problem – I was a successful businesswoman and downsizing couldn’t hold me back – check.
- Money? No problem – the degree and hard work was paying off – one promotion after another propelled me to a respectable income – check.
- Respect? No problem – I was a great mom, sister, friend, employee – I’d give just about anything to help anyone and never think twice about it – check. check.
But there was a problem…the void was still there and I didn’t have a clue as to why or what to do about it. In spite of any negatives in my life, I still believed God is real – the problem? I had faith and I had works, but the motivation for the works had absolutely nothing to do with God. I was still trying to be good enough – I didn’t know Him – I only knew of Him. I kept Him tucked away in an advisory capacity – at best. He wasn’t part of my daily life…from time to time I attended church, I rarely, if ever, opened my bible… but I did acknowledge (and believe) that regardless of my mistakes, He has a plan for my life and things always work out for the best – He was my emergency contact.
It just didn’t feel that way – something was still missing.
On one hand I believed God existed and was confident of His plan for my life, but on the other, I wanted to maintain full control– if I only depended on me, then I wouldn’t….couldn’t be hurt…of course, that’s when life threw a curve ball.
Inevitably the curve balls started coming faster and faster…and although I maintained a positive outlook, behind the scenes I was losing the fingernail’s grasp I had on life. My daughter was going through serious health issues – I didn’t have family/friend support – not because they didn’t care, because I distanced myself from personal relationships – I wouldn’t let them close enough to come through for me. Work life was chaotic, too – I couldn’t concentrate – everything was unraveling… I knew my actions didn’t make sense, but I couldn’t stop myself and my two-year old attitude of “I can do it myself!” was failing miserably.
During the crisis, my daughter made the decision to trust in Christ for her salvation. In spite of her dire circumstances, she gained a sense of peace and was a daily inspiration to those around her. I could see God working in her life, yet I refused to give up control of the mess I’d created. Then one Sunday (I was too “busy” to attend church), I was listening to an online sermon on repentance that caught me completely off guard. It was in that moment I acknowledged my need to give control to God.
It isn’t an overnight process – there’s a reason people call their walk a journey! Through a sincere desire to know God and His Will for my life and obedience to His Word, combined with an extraordinary circle of friends committed to my growth, I’m on my way. Every day isn’t the emotional tug of war it once was – I’m no longer torn between trying to manage life on my own and handing the reigns over to Him – I still struggle – every day, but the great part is I know beyond a shadow of a doubt God is faithful – He loves me completely, unconditionally, and will NEVER leave me…and now it’s time to truly nurture those beliefs and put faith into action.