That dark season when Chris and I both found a new level of intimacy with the Lord led directly to a season of testing. It seems as though the moment our hearts were stolen by Him, He determined to test our devotion. When a non-believer hears something like that, strange visions must arise. Again, there were no burning bushes, no audible voices. The question we were asked is the one that believers have been asked time and again, whatever their era.
Will you follow Me?
For awhile this question made sense in the context of getting our lives on track. We stopped partying. I dove into Bible study and found that it thrilled me. Chris took his medication and went to his therapy sessions. We just kept doing “the next thing,” whatever it was. When your life is mostly about surviving one day at a time, that’s all you can do.
As we both grew more confident in our faith, ourselves and our relationship, the implications of the question changed. Obeying God began to cost something. Friendships began to deteriorate as we no longer fit into a neat little mold. The worst came when it grew clear that we could no longer remain at the church we’d been part of for nearly four years. We both had serious misgivings about the direction the leadership was moving the people toward. Things began to feel uncomfortable. Theological questions began to arise – questions that we could not get satisfactory answers to.
Breaking up is hard to do. By the time we left, the damaged relationships and the spiritual abuse we experienced were intertwined in ways that shouldn’t have been. I was done. Though quite decided in following the Lord, I wanted nothing more to do with the church. Frankly, I thought most of His people sucked.
He kept on me. Will you follow Me? A friend of mine from high school moved back to the area. He and his wife invited us to attend their church one Sunday. I was skeptical, to say the least, but Chris seemed eager to go and I didn’t feel like arguing (again) about church. We went, heard a sermon, met some people, ate some food. Nothing earth-shattering.
Except, it was. The difference between the two churches was staggering. The one didn’t claim to be perfect. In fact, a certain level of dysfunction seemed to be expected. The very imperfect human journey with a perfect Lord was embraced. The occasional spat was tolerated as long as it led to growth amongst the parties involved. The pastor didn’t claim to have all the answers. Instead, he admitted to his own struggles. His preaching came from a place of brokenness, rather than superiority.
I came to the realization that no dichotomy of perfect vs. fallen churches exists. There is rather a continuum from healthy to unhealthy. The place we left had begun well but had slid into unhealthy territory. Too much power was given to too few people with too little accountability. It became about processes and rears in seats rather than the work of discipleship. This new church, while certainly home to some unhealthy people, strove to be healthy. Christ was at the center.
I have hope for the church today because of the people I know in this little congregation. They are beautiful. The building isn’t. The coffers aren’t overflowing. The singing is sometimes off-key. The pastor gets distracted in his preaching. But there is warmth. There is heart.
There is Jesus.
I am a Christian because of Jesus. There is no more compelling figure in all of history. He steps into the midst of our pain, our sorrow, our confusion, our despair and provides the answer. That answer isn’t us. We can’t save ourselves. There is no golden utopia waiting to spring from the minds and hands of perfect people. Such a people do not exist. Look out your window. Look in the mirror. You know it to be true.
Jesus, God-Man, came into this world to rescue and heal it. Believers exist in the “already” aspect of His Kingdom while history looks forward to the “not yet.” It is only by living in light of His Lordship that life takes on purpose and meaning. Joy – the ability to look beyond the now and into something better – flows as a result of knowing Him. He grants grace, mercy, peace. He changes our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh.
I am a Christian because of Jesus. He kept my husband alive. He stopped me from killing myself just a little less than a year ago. I have seen Him work in time and space to such a degree that my father-in-law, after breaking both of his knees, was brought from Europe to the United States by a missionary who “just happened” to be in the area. The only missionary in the area that our church had any kind of contact with. I have seen babies who should have died thrive. I have seen marriages restored. I have seen prodigals return. I have had bills paid and needs met. I have witnessed testimonies of those who tumors have disappeared.
Above all, I have seen love. Real, selfless, lasting love. I have watched people spend money they can’t spare to help others in need. I have known some whose wretched tempers used to control them who are now gentle as lambs. I have seen big men rock children to sleep. I have seen women with nothing in common embrace each other as sisters. I have siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents all across this area because of Jesus.
I could not see Him until my eyes were opened. Again, I don’t understand the mystery of His will and ours. All I know is that I reached a point where I wanted to see. I no longer desired to suppress the truth. And there is truth, my friend.
His name is Jesus.
For all posts in the How I Came to Faith series, go here.
15 thoughts on “How I Came to Faith: These Days”
Well said. Grace and peace to you.
Marie, thank you for sharing this incredible story, your testimony. I am amazed by God’s workmanship of grace and faith in your life! Your receptive heart is a great witness, your desire to know your Savior, an inspiration. I am blessed to know you, sister.
Our Father, continue to bless Your child, Marie, abundantly as she runs wholeheartedly towards and finds rest in You. Amen.
I love you, dear sister. Your encouragement means a great deal to me!
Awesome. It is about Jesus. Where Christ’s redeeming work is proclaimed, where Truth is championed…there is fellowship. ChristenDOM sometimes resembles Christ in history and sometimes is nowhere close; It is comforting to know that Christ, that God, “changes not” and can always be trusted. Thanks for sharing. I’ve read every entry in this series. Good stuff.
It’s my turn to question you now! 😉
Your story is almost identical to one of my very close friends. Him and I used to party very often, him and his then girlfriend and now wife. They believed in God just didn’t really go to church a lot or any like that. Right before they got married they both decided to go back to church and really give it a go. Now they are both very active, my friend is a youth pastor and all that good stuff.
So my question is, are you sure it was your old friends that allowed the relationships to deteriorate? The reason I ask was around the exact same time he was getting back into everything I was also getting married. So it was time for me to grow up. So I didn’t mind that we didn’t party like before or act immature like before. I wanted our friendship to remain the same. Except…I’m atheist. So he began to avoid me more, he would even have snide remarks towards some of my options (like have a beer with dinner). So, was it all them? Or did maybe you start to push your friends away as well? Hopefully this will help shed some light on why I lost my friend. I was still the same person, more mature…just with different beliefs than him.
I’ll try to answer your questions (which I think are good, by the way) while still remaining vague, if possible. I am past the hurt now and I don’t want to dishonor anyone by giving out too many details.
First, I’m genuinely sorry that you lost your friend. That cuts so deeply. While it is true that friends come and go, there is a huge difference between drifting apart from someone and being actively rejected.
I will own up to the fact that I did not handle the situations in those relationships well. My then best friend and I had been close for many years; it didn’t take long for me to notice that she was choosing to spend all of her time with and divulge all of her confidences in someone else. I got mad. My feelings were hurt. Being something of a coward, I started a text-message fight about it one night. I know. So mature!
One evening I walked into church and happened to run into her and the other person with whom she’d grown close. They didn’t bother to hide the fact that they were reading those stupid texts I sent and were quite amused by them. Embarrassed, I apologized. I told them both that I wanted to talk. I wanted to know why my friend was pushing me away. I wanted to know why this other person was working to shut me out. While they enjoyed my apology, neither thought it necessary to actually address the problem.
I really didn’t want to lose my friend and I didn’t know how to handle the fact that it was happening. It became clear to me that she didn’t want to be my friend anymore when my husband and I took a trip. We’d always said goodbye and checked in with each other periodically. I called her. No answer. I texted. No answer. When we got back, I tried getting in touch again. We had a souvenir for her daughter. No answer.
I haven’t seen or spoken to her in over 2.5 years. A few months ago I sent her a message on Facebook. Nothing dramatic; just a, “Hey, we haven’t talked in forever and I’d like to reconnect.” No answer.
The only conclusion I was ever able to come to is that I began to bother her. I didn’t want to party. I didn’t want to gossip. (Of course, I am not perfect). I wanted – needed – my life to change. As God worked to change me, she recoiled. The two things coincided too perfectly to have been unrelated.
I’m not mad at her anymore. We were at different places in life and neither of us knew how to navigate those rough waters. I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t seek God’s wisdom in this. I was devastated and lashed out. I regret that. Sometimes I feel a little sad, knowing that all that history, all that closeness, all those shared experiences were just…cut off. Ended. It was unnatural. But, I can’t make her choose any differently.
And now that I have written you a novel…. I don’t know if that answers your question. I suppose my reaction to my friend’s pushing me away probably made her want to run even faster. I don’t know. I do know that, if I were to see her today, I would give her a hug.
Too long, didn’t read…Just kidding.
Even with your reaction of anger, you still gave her a reaction. I got nothing. I was basically just ignored and pushed aside. I’d love to just argue with him to figure out what the deal is. Oh well, I’m just going to live and learn. Use the situation to make me stronger.
Thank you for the response. 🙂
Thank you for sharing your story. I think humility and honesty can articulate much clearer than so much “proof” or “evidence” as to why people choose to follow Christ.
Thank you – and I agree!
awesome, it’s all about Jesus!
Thank you for sharing your story. Every story is important and through them we all grow in understanding.
Thank you for reading, Lisa!
I found your blog through Five Minute Friday and really enjoyed reading your story. Thanks for being brave enough to share honestly, it’s so nice to see that…so often we only see the ‘public view’ from Christians, which is usually far from the reality. You’ve encouraged me to keep sharing without worrying about my imperfections. So nice to meet you! 🙂
Hi, Kim! I’m so glad to have encouraged you. Jesus doesn’t need our “perfect faces.” He needs our honesty so that He strength with shine through our cracked places. Happy Friday!