Our pastor is a man I deeply respect. He walks with God in a way I have seen in very few people throughout my life. Our church has a time of testimonies every week – when people tell of the good things God has done, and a week ago, Pastor Mike asked Andrew if he and I would share a testimony the following Sunday. After some thought, and preparation, we did just that a few days ago. Andrew shared first, then me. The response was overwhelming. And I haven’t stopped thinking about it since. Writing out a testimony is a very spiritual experience and I cannot help but get shaken up every time I read it. What follows is my portion of our testimony:
“I’ll start my story a few years ago. Andrew and I were leading a fairly comfortable life. We had two kids and a mortgage. We attended church regularly, and were involved with the youth and/or music ministries.
However, I began to develop issues of unforgiveness – I was judging others who, ironically, I felt were judging me unfairly. Going to church was no longer an enjoyable experience; I just did not want to be around all those people pretending to love me, while I was convinced that they didn’t.
Never did I consider that they may be loving me the best they knew how. I felt very alone. I was unhappy, yet I wasn’t reflecting on the fact that my unhappiness could be connected to this critical and unforgiving attitude I had.
Somehow, God got it through my thick skull that as long as I kept praying and reading the Bible, I would eventually find the peace I knew He wanted for me. After a while God revealed to me that I was missing something – namely His purpose and calling for me. My general distrust in people was jabbing was away at any effectiveness I could have representing Christ to others. He hadn’t called me to be the bitter woman I was becoming. He wanted more for me than barely surviving on each Sunday’s message, choked off from the love of my brothers and sisters in Christ.
I got on my knees – on my face – and prayed and wept, and God began to forgive my pride and heal my bitterness. My eyes opened and God gave to me the precious gift of a repentant heart. I was aware of the forgiveness that was available to me as a direct result of me forgiving others. Forgiving people who had hurt me and forgiving myself for how I acted in return, is an experience I will treasure always. Because truly, I was not free, and I had not been living until I was forgiven by Christ, who shed his blood for me.
That experience taught me something I thought I already knew: I cannot do Christianity on my own terms. Now that I had learned this lesson of forgiveness, it was clear that over the past few years, I had been settling for status quo Christianity, and I wanted a change. God called me to rise up, to be a woman of prayer, to give Him my all – and stop thinking I have to handle everything on my own. The only way I was going to feel alive again was through prayer and complete devotion to Him. For His great sacrifice of giving His son to die for my sins, I can give nothing less.
Instead of living for my own happiness, I want to be used by God to represent His shining light to people around me. I want my life to reflect God’s love. I have learned the beauty of loving people where they are at, and not expecting others to be perfect – anymore than I am perfect. It is not my place to judge anyone else, or his or her walk with God, but to place my trust in Him.
Andrew and I came together in prayer as we sought God for wisdom, grace and direction. He led us back to Woodlawn, the church we had left a couple years before. I was a very good thing.
I am so thankful God grabbed hold of us when He did. We have seen the power of prayer in our finances, in our children, in our relationships, and in our faith as it increases more than we could have thought possible. We were experiencing some serious financial struggles not too long ago and we prayed, and mediated on scriptures, and God blew away our expectations again and again.
And it’s all because of the power of prayer. When we are people of prayer, God can work in us and through us. The more I learn of his Grace, the more desperate I become for Him to use me.
I want to end with a scripture that has been on my mind the past couple weeks: Matt. 16:24-25 ‘Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.’ Amen!”
God is so holy, so good.