Tuesday, August 5, 2014

this is my story, this is my song

I'm excited today to be joining Victoria and Jenna for a testimony link-up. My relationship with Christ is the biggest part of my life, and I've been meaning to share with you my personal Gospel story for awhile. I can't wait to read the other stories of God's love and grace, and even if you aren't linking up - feel free to share your story in the comments below!

Is it too cliche to start my Gospel story with the words “I grew up in a Christian home?” Because I did. And it wasn’t the fake kind that goes to church every Sunday morning because it’s the South and it’s expected. No, my parents love Jesus, and while growing up, they daily lived out that love so my brothers and I might someday love Him, too.

I was five years old when I made the biggest decision of my life, just old enough to understand that if I didn’t choose to “ask Jesus into my heart” I would spend forever “down there.” In fact, those were the exact words I told Dad one stormy night in February. Two weeks later, I stood tip-toed on a cement block in the baptistry and Brother Bobby dunked me - a public declaration that I was done with my old life of hitting my brothers and talking during naptime. Now, I had a new life, a fresh start and a place in heaven.

Though this is the moment that comes to mind when I hear the word “salvation,” I’m grateful that sanctification is an ongoing process. Thanks to loving parents and diligent teachers, I grew in knowledge and understanding and a little bit in stature. I began to better understand Christ’s ultimate act of love on the cross, though it’s really too great to understand fully.

God is holy - all-powerful but at the same time full of unfailing love, and this Creator of the entire universe wants a relationship with me. But I’m not holy - in fact, I’m filthy - and I do things all the time that go against God’s divine nature and take me farther from Him. Because of these “sins,” I only deserve to die. Yet, nothing can separate me from God’s love. His love is so great that He sent His own Son, Jesus Christ, to die the death I deserve. Jesus took my place so that I could spend the rest of eternity with Him. But the grave wasn’t strong enough to hold Him. Three days later, Jesus conquered death and rose from the grave. Now, I anxiously await His return to earth to obliterate sin and pain and death and establish His Kingdom forever.

It’s the greatest love story of all time, yet I’m the worst of lovers. For most of high school, my relationship with God best resembled a spoiled, rich girl who distanced herself from her Father. I obeyed Him, I happily took all the gifts He threw my way, but I didn’t spend too much time with Him. When things went wrong, I ran to Him, showed Him all the ways I worked to make Him proud and demanded Him to fix it. I might have known that my salvation was not earned through works, but I didn’t act like it. It’s a lesson I’m still learning. 

When I went to college, I quickly found that wrapping my identity in all my high school accolades quickly led to deflation and depression. For perhaps the first time, I found myself running to God asking the hard questions: Who am I? What am I here for? And most importantly, who are You? Insulated in the bubble of a small, private Christian college, my faith and understanding was challenged like never before. And for perhaps the first time, I took ownership of that faith - it was something I considered, questioned and thought about and no longer something I was force fed on Sunday mornings. Yet, during this fantastic stage of growth, I still found myself trying to earn God’s love, like any amount of good grades or volunteer work would secure my place in heaven.

Last year I graduated, married my college sweetheart, moved to Memphis, started my first real job and began attending a new church. Saying my life did a 180 doesn’t really begin to cover it. Yet, God has blessed this time more than I could have ever imagined. He’s placed incredible women of faith in my path and given me a level of accountability in my relationship with Him that I’ve never experienced before. But now I’m out of that protective bubble and in the real world, and I’m trying to figure out what it means to live out my faith in practical ways in this city that I’ve come to love. I’m asking for wisdom - in faith, with absolutely no doubting - that I may be a doer of the Word and not only a hearer. But at the same time, keeping in mind that I can’t “do” my way to heaven. It’s a delicate balance for sure. 

So that’s my story - the abbreviated version, anyway. You can fill the in-betweens with the messy, broken baggage that tends to hang over the shoulder of a perfectionist, over-achiever with a poor self image. I’m thanking Jesus daily that He loves me just the way I am, and even more  that He loves me enough not to keep me this way.

Dearest Love

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