On this day, 25 years ago, the Lord rescued my heart! I grew up in church and, as far as I can remember, never missed a Sunday. I also went Wednesday night (GA’s) and Sunday nights (Training Union). When I was in the 3rd grade, my friend went forward to “receive Christ” which meant he could now eat the Lord’s Supper. Well, I wasn’t about to be left out of that party, so a couple of weeks later, I followed suit and a couple of weeks after that, I got to eat in church! I just loved those little square, bland crackers with a teensy bit of grape juice. I also got baptized and the entire church body came forward and shook my hand. I thought I was the stuff! I participated in Bible drills and children’s choir and youth group and I knew the Bible. I knew a LOT of the Bible. I knew the characters and I can remember my Sunday school teachers telling me the stories and being fascinated with them. I remember the first actual Bible study I did was on the book of Philippians and it was then that I began learning that there was more to the Bible than just cool stories and really old people. I remember learning the Greek word for Holy Spirit and learning that it meant He would never leave me. I also remember several times of “rededicating” my life and trying with all my might to get it right. Only I had a huge problem. I knew the Word of the Lord, but I didn’t know the Lord of the Word. I had a head knowledge, but my heart was far from God. I believed, but even the demons believe and shudder.
So in the summer of 1989 when I was 19, I participated in something called a Summer Beach Project through Campus Outreach. I wasn’t sure what was in store for me, but I knew I would get to spend the entire summer at the beach (and at this point in my life, I had only been to the beach one time before), so I was super excited. The beach. The boys. The fun!!! Part of Summer Beach Project was going out on the beach and sharing our faith on Saturdays, but in order to do this, we had to have a little bit of training. So the second week we were there, we began learning how to share our faith. We learned several ways to do this and one was through a tract called “The Four Spiritual Laws.” We had to learn the tract backwards and forwards and memorize the scripture that went with each “law.” Then, we had to share the tract with 3 people in our own group just to make sure we weren’t going to botch it up once we got to the beach to share it with strangers. Well, I began “practicing” my tract with a friend of mine and when I got to law #4 which says “We must individually receive Christ as our personal Savior and Lord,” my palms began to get sweaty and my heart began to beat really, really fast. My eyes began to get tears in them and I realized that I had never “individually received Christ as my Savior and LORD.” I knew about Him, but I didn’t KNOW Him. I remember looking at my friend and saying, “I’ve never done that.” And she smiled and we prayed and the ceiling opened up and the lights of heaven flashed and the angels started swarming and I felt like I was 1,000 pounds lighter.
Not really. Those things didn’t happen. In fact, I didn’t really “feel” any differently than I had felt 10 minutes beforehand. But as I began to get alone with the Lord and read His Word not just for the stories, my heart began to change and I had an assurance that I had never had before. The promises of His Word took on new meaning. I began to study, not for the stories, but for Him. I began to understand Who He was. The Words that were quite common began to leap off the page and make their way into my heart and mind and I began to understand what was meant by the “renewing of the mind.” And I lived happily ever after.
Not really. I have walked in days of transgressions, periods of sin and a few horrible seasons of iniquity. One particular season almost did me in. It knocked me off course so badly that I began to wonder if I would ever have any peace again. I remember thinking that there was no way possible that a Holy God could or would still love me after what I’d done. I had walked so far away from the Lord that I didn’t think I going back would even be an option. I was miserable….miserable in body, soul and spirit. Yet all the while, God was convicting me of my sin. I got really good at ignoring the conviction and continued to go my own way, even though I was desperately hurting and full of misery. But one day….one beautiful, sunny day, I could ignore the conviction no longer. The voice of the Lord brought me to my knees (literally) while I was in the shower. I heard His voice as clear as a bell and couldn’t escape. I love the verse that says, “He brought me up from a desolate pit, out of the muddy clay, and set my feet on a rock, making my steps secure (Ps. 40:2).” I love that verse because I KNOW that verse. I AM that verse. I was in a pit of muddy clay and my feet were stuck. My heart was hard and darkness was all around. There was nowhere to go and no one to turn to. But God….He reached down, yanked me up by my toenails and set my feet on solid ground.
I didn’t immediately feel any different. I didn’t get out of the shower and start singing songs of praise. I didn’t begin smiling and walking on sunshine. But I did begin pouring out my heart to a God who already knew everything I had done and loved me anyway. And, little by little, I began to get back into His Word and to learn what He said about Himself (He never changed. He never stopped loving me and pursuing my heart. He never moved.) I began to get back in church (there’s just something about being with God’s people and corporate worship). I began to talk to others and ask for help (because occasionally, we need a little help from our friends). And slowly, little by little, my feet felt steady. My heart felt secure again (it was never not secure, but feelings can easily lead us to believe otherwise) and my mind began being renewed day by day. Looking back, though I would never never, never, never, not in a million years, ever want to go through a season like that again, I can honestly say that, through it all, there’s one thing I learned above all else. I. Am. His. He never stopped loving me. He never stopped pursing me. He never stopped putting people and circumstances in my life to point me back to Him. And, true to His Word, He used it all for HIS glory.
25 years ago….on a warm, summer evening, while sitting on the floor reading a tract surrounded by a bunch of friends, my salvation wasn’t about me. My salvation wasn’t for me, though there are tons of benefits. My salvation was for Him, so He could show off. And so I could be His. No longer separated. No longer wandering. No longer on mushy ground. But HIS… for now and for all of eternity. That’s the best birthday present ever!!