This past year has been a soul-searching time for Adam and I. Many things we have believed about church, ministry, body life and family have been turned upside down and shaken up. Amidst the barrage of blessings that the Lord bestowed upon us with our adoption process, we made a hard decision to look for a different local church. We never dreamed we would have been in this position, but the Lord saw fit to take us through this as a means of purifying us and strengthening our faith in Him. There is always a silver lining to every trial, as we know our Father is good and kind always! There have been numerous blessings we have experienced amidst the turmoil – including deepening friendships, meeting new friends, getting a reset on our thinking about many things, and having time to bond as a “new” family in ways we never would have had we continued on the prior path. So, we can definitely say that it has all been good and the Lord has brought us through it, a bit battered, but stronger in so many ways. We praise Him for His mercy and kindness in persevering us, as we know He will until the end.
I share all that to say that this week, we officially move on and begin the process of joining another local body. After a whole year! And today I had the privilege of sharing the Lord’s goodness in my life by sharing my testimony. I posted it here on my blog three years ago but decided to re-post it this week. Every time I read it, I am reminded again of how kind and gracious the Lord has been and how totally undeserving I am of His mercy. I pray you are encouraged to trust Him and press on, knowing His kindness leads us to repentance, holy living, love for others and ultimately His presence for all eternity.
It will be worth it all!
Thinking back on what God has done for me has always proven to be a source of encouragement, especially during times of testing and trials. Psalm 34:8 says, “Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” I truly have tasted and seen the goodness of the Lord in my life and wanted to take some time to reflect back on that.
I was raised by loving Christian parents and Christian standards were incorporated into our lives. I have many older siblings that have always had a huge impact in many different ways on my life. When I was 5 years old I remember having a conversation with my older brother James about hell. I definitely did not want to go there. I remember praying my first salvation prayer at that time. I don’t remember any change…still afraid of hell, still no power to obey or stop sinning. In fact, I don’t remember sin against God being that big of an issue at all at that time. Twenty one years passed….that same salvation prayer was prayed many times over the course of those years because I never felt saved and was always puzzled as to why. I knew I could not lose my salvation, but it just never made sense to me. I thought I was doing everything I was supposed to be doing, but the turmoil, unhappiness, despair and anger inside would never go away. Peace always alluded me. As my life unfolded, I began to battle with depression and blamed God for my problems, all the while getting more and more tired of the ‘perpetual doing and the always having to be a certain way’ of Christianity.
When I was in high school, I met Adam. I was a sophomore at a public school and he was a senior at a local Christian school. We both liked each other then, but did not actually start dating until 3 years later when he was going into his senior year of college at Cedarville University and I had been working for a year out of high school. We connected through my brother James and his then-girlfriend-now-wife Rachel. So, these two very young, immature sinners (one a Christian and one not) started into a relationship! The Lord was and is and always will be sovereign, I have since learned. God knew exactly what He was doing, even though we did not. We had a tough dating experience, mostly due to the constant inner turmoil that seemed to be the reality of my life at the time. The Bible tells us that light and darkness do not mix. As I look back on that time, that definitely seems to have been the case. God sovereignly allowed us to be married (all the while I thought I was a Christian and Adam did too) on June 13, 1998.
To flash forward…Adam and I did pre-engagement counseling for several couples through our prior church. One thing that was part of the curriculum produced by those elders was a section where the couples are asked their reasons for wanting to be married. As they were sharing this, we had a list in our hands of all the wrong reasons for getting married (that they should not say – or we stop there and probe further). Examples: to get out of the house, to get out from under authority, because you think this is the last person on earth to marry, because you need a ‘savior’, because YOU want to be happy and fulfilled, because you are lonely, because you want someone to serve you, because you want children, etc… As I look back now (through the lens of a more robust understanding of who God is – merciful, loving and sovereign), I know I didn’t have right reasons for wanting to get married and it didn’t take long for problems to start surfacing due to this. God will not share His glory with another! Psalm 16:4a says, “The sorrows of those who run after another god shall multiply…” (notice the little “g” god, as in there is only one true God to be followed and worshipped). My desire for my own glory came face-to-face with God’s in a major collision. The first five years of our marriage were extremely difficult. As I stop and think about the faithfulness of the Lord I am literally brought to tears! He is so incredibly patient, kind and loving – it just blows me away! I totally do not deserve it! And I do not deserve such a loving and patient husband either!!
Those first five years were hard but we kept plugging away, never sharing our struggles with anyone. Adam would always tell me that since I was a Christian the Lord would help me with my struggles and that I could trust Him and change. But I would always reply that I couldn’t!!! I had already tried that and it didn’t ‘work’ for me. On top of marriage struggles, we experienced the trial of infertility two years into our marriage. This was the beginning of the end for the me I used to know. I was so angry at first, but then it turned to selfishness. I would say, “Fine, that means we can have more money and life the way we want it.” But the lack of control over the situation started to undo me. In the back of my heart I really wanted to adopt too, but the Lord graciously put a road block in the way at that time. But in the beginning of 2002 we were providentially exposed to the teaching and writings of John Piper and John MacArthur. The focus of our conversations with friends at that time was on the topic of lordship salvation. The question raised was this: can someone be a genuine Christian when they continue to live life for themself (not for the benefit of Christ) and in fact have never truly submitted to the Lord in any area of their life. They would even say ‘no I won’t submit to His authority over my life…I won’t repent and turn away from sin but I’ll take Christ for what he can do for me.’ I remember being so angry at that whole concept because it totally described me. “Submitted” was definitely not a word that described me. Feminist for sure, but submitted to the Lord…no. I had always wanted the Lord for what He would ‘do’ for me – take away my turmoil, give me peace and happiness, make my life work better, etc… But I didn’t realize that the Lord isn’t necessarily about making people happy but he’s about making people holy. He wasn’t out for me, he was out for His glory – and in that there would be great joy for me. The other thing that I struggled with was that there really had never been a time when I had seen myself as ‘that bad’ of a sinner. I had a pharisaical attitude. I was a pretty good law-keeper. My heart was hardened and my eyes were blinded. But the Bible told me that I was a sinner, plain and simple. Romans 3:10-12 says, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” I would never be able to keep the law in the way God required – perfection! And I was not alone. No one born since Adam and Eve has kept the law perfectly. In fact, God tells us in Isaiah 64:6 that “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” Even our best attempts at being good (apart from Christ) are filthy to God, he hates them! Praise God for sending His Son Jesus Christ! He came to call those who know they are wretched sinners with no other hope apart from Him.
It was about September of 2002 that Adam began to realize that I wasn’t a Christian. I don’t remember all the details other than that we spent hours and hours at our local coffee shop discussing it in the evenings. He was so kind and patient to explain things to me and to keep asking me the ‘why’ questions. “Why do you want peace, why do you want your life to work better, why do you want purpose for your life…etc…?” On October 9th, the night I was saved I was reading my Bible before going to bed. I didn’t realize it at the time, but Adam was out kneeling at the couch praying for me. For the first time the Spirit of God convicted me of my own sin. I finally saw it! My own sin was bad and it came from my own wicked and sinful heart. It was not the fault of anyone else. I would go to hell for my own sin, my own law-breaking. I was not good enough and would never be good enough! Christ came and lived a perfect law-keeping life, died a death he didn’t deserve and rose again…for God! (to be able to justify me in his sight). He gave himself for me, the chief of sinners, to be able to call God my Father and Jesus my brother. He took my place when he died on that cross. And when he rose from the dead, I too was raised to a new life. He died so that I would not have to die an eternal death in hell to pay for my own sins. He paid for them all, once and for all!!!! Praise His holy name…I mean, how can words describe a saved sinner’s thankfulness and gratitude and love for such a God!! I remember praying for salvation and the unbelievable peace that flooded over my soul. It’s hard to describe it, but I remember it like it was yesterday!! John 7:38 says (and describes so perfectly how I felt at that time), “Whoever believes in me, asthe Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” I was so excited that I called all my family and friends to tell them. Most of them were a little shocked as they had no idea what I had been going through for all those years. Adam has since commented that it was like he got a new wife – he watched me change right before his eyes. Isn’t God amazing? There is no one who has ever lived that has been able to change them self from the inside out the way God does. He is truly an awesome God. Praise his name!
Well, it has now been almost 11 years since that night. Many changes have taken place in our lives in those years, including a move away from family to another state so that Adam could take seminary classes. But the most notable being that we have become parents to five beautiful and precious children. Isn’t God amazing? He gave us the gift of infertility (trials are truly gifts, you know…James 1:2-4!) to prepare us for the gift of adopted children down the road. He gives us the desires of our heart and then fulfills those desires in His time and for His good purposes as we keep trusting in Him. He is so kind and loving and does good for us always.
Along with the absolutely wonderful gift of being a mother, has come an even greater awareness of my sinfulness and need of the cross of Christ on a daily basis! Pretty much everything I said I would never do as a parent, I have done. My selfishness, pride, arrogance and total inability to be what I always envisioned humbles me and brings me to the foot of the cross, literally DAILY! Preaching the gospel to myself every day was something new to me as I thought the gospel was only for the beginning of one’s Christian life. But “Give me Jesus” has become the daily cry of my heart. How I long for Him to return! In the last seven years we have been presented with many trials and temptations, many more than experienced before this time. But by the Spirit’s help, I have clung to the Word of God like never before and have found it to be my lifeline amidst health problems, spiritual confusion found within the church and those who claim his name, daily sin battles within my own heart and often just sheer exhaustion brought on by all of the above and just daily life. I have been greatly encouraged by my husband and the writings of Elise Fitzpatrick (Because He Loves Me). I am learning more and more of what Christ has done for me. He has given me new desires and leanings. The old sins that used to define me no longer do (even though the struggle will remain until I am face to face with my God and King). I am now and forever defined by the One who gave Himself for me. My search for “who am I?” is done and I belong wholly to Another. Praise God!