Thursday, February 23, 2012

Amazing Grace: Part Seven

I started to write the ending to this series the other day. I stopped when I wrote the title number: Seven. When I started writing this, I had no plan. I had no pre-written notes or agenda. I just wrote. I sort of gasped and became very overwhelmed with the little details God has his hands in...like making this final chapter end with the number seven.

And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made.
Genesis 2:2 (KJV)

The number seven is used throughout scripture. It symbolizes completion or perfection. It took seven short stories to tell how I finally grasped the realness of God in my life. Seven stories about the God of law that I had tried so hard to obey...to finally find my perfection by running into the arms of the God of grace.

I still think about that day in my car. I think all people who try really hard to please God will eventually get really burned out. That day in the car I was trying to please God by listening to "His music"...you know, because good Christian girls don't listen to secular music (And yes, I listened to secular music, but I was always trying really hard not too. I thought it hurt God). I remember feeling really tired and thinking "Christian music is just so sad and depressing. I need something upbeat today." So I switched the radio station to some sort of Top 40's. I really don't remember what came on. Probably some Black Eyed Peas "Boom Boom Pow" or something (I kind of LOVE that song). Anyway, here I am be-bopping in my car to some Black Eyed Pea's (we'll just stick with that song for illustrative purposes) and I start to feel it...guilt. Guilt that I wanted some dance music and not wanting to praise Jesus through music. And I sort of flipped out (don't worry, Ella wasn't in the car with me).

This is when I told God to leave me alone. This was the moment I told Him I was no longer going to try and please Him (He was probably thinking...FINALLY!! We are getting somewhere now!!). I told Him I was done with Him.

I am telling you in that instant I felt the most alone I have ever felt in my entire life. I wept. I was scared. Did this mean I was agnostic now? Had I just committed the unpardonable sin?

That night at the dinner table, Ella asked me to say the prayer (thanking Him for our food). We bowed our heads...

and silence.

I literally could.not.pray. I looked at Ella and said "sweetie, you just pray tonight." But, she argued "no, mommy, I want you to pray."

I opened my mouth...but, only silence came out.

At this point Andrew is angry at me and quietly saying "what is wrong with you, Sarah? She's asking you to pray."

Again, I open my mouth and I literally could not pray. I almost started to hyperventilate. I don't even remember what happened in terms of who prayed. I just knew at that moment that because I told the Holy Spirit to leave me alone...He did (it would not be until later that I realized you have to have the Holy Spirit indwelling in you in order to pray to God). I literally with all my heart, soul, and mind believe that God was not allowing me to pray because I had, indeed, told Him to leave me alone in the car that day. My hands trembled in fear the rest of the evening. I had experienced something supernatural. You could say, I was actually unable to experience God that night.

I called my girlfriend Rene that night...lucky her got to answer the phone to this sobbing mess. I didn't tell her what I had "done" or about what happened that night at dinner. But, I told her how extremely lonely I was.  I told her I wasn't even sure what I believed anymore.

Not one time did she show judgement. She listened. She empathized. She confessed that there had been moments where she questioned too. That blew my mind because I knew how much she loved Jesus. So, if she had had doubts, I knew that I was not so far gone that God couldn't work a miracle in me if He really did love me. She continued to listen. She extended grace and compassion and mercy.

She was Jesus to me that night. I continued talking about how lonely I was...how I thought maybe I just needed more girlfriends or to get out more. And she listened some more and we strategized a plan for me to feel more connected with friends and just the world. (By the way, motherhood can be very isolating. I'm going to write about this one day and tell you things that can help if you are interested). But, then she said this:

"Sarah, do you hear all the lies *satan is telling you? You are not alone. And even if you get out more, you know the only person who can fill that emptiness is Jesus. You know that, right? I mean, I don't mean to sound Sunday School on you, but if you don't have God, you will feel alone." She had so much tenderness in her voice. "Stop listening to satan's lies. You know the truth."

I laid on the sofa after that conversation and just said over and over again:

"God I want you. I WANT to want you. But, I don't feel like you love me. I don't feel good enough. But, everyone says that you do love us. Make this lie that I believe go away. It is a lie. I am not alone. I am not alone. satan go away!"

Ok, so have I freaked you out yet? It sounds very dramatic...like I was trying to get rid of a poltergiest or something. It wasn't like that. I laid quietly for two hours saying that over and over again until I fell asleep.

I woke up the next morning knowing that I had the Holy Spirit dwelling in me. I knew because I was able to pray. I spent that morning thanking God, but not sure where I was supposed to go from here. How were things going to be different this time? I opened my nightstand and pulled out my journal that my cousin's wife had given me right before I gave birth to Ella. I wanted to go back and read details of my life to see if I could see what it was that was keeping me from experiencing joy in knowing Jesus. Did something happen that made me feel unloved? I opened the front cover to a message she wrote for me with the following verse (thank you Loria!):

"I praise you because I am wonderfully and fearfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full and well."
Psalm 139: 14

And that was it. He said it right there in scripture. He said I was wonderfully made. I knew He was not disappointed with me. He loved me...He said I was wonderful!!! Psalm 139 ends with "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting."

I knew if God loved me and that I was wonderfully made, then He had to have some great purpose for me. I knew if He made me, I was not a mistake...which meant I was not a disappointment to God. He adored me. He cherished me. I was His Beloved. How can this be, Lord? I am so full of sin? 

But, upon further reading in scripture I read this that morning: 
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8

Wait. So it's basically saying God sent Jesus, not because we were good enough (because He says we are sinners), but because He LOVES us????
This is grace my dear friends. And I embraced it that morning. And I realized I didn't have to do ANYTHING anymore. 

From that morning on, I saw God differently. He wasn't shaking his head in disappointment. I had joy...and it has only gotten more powerful since that day.

No longer do I feel like spending time with God is part of my to-do list. I desire Him...because I deeply love Him. And I am still a sinner...and He knows that...and He loves me. And we are in a real relationship. If God loves me, then His plan has to be good for me. So, I awake each morning BEGGING Him to just dwell in me and use me for whatever purpose He has for me. The riches of His love never leave me feeling alone...quite the opposite. When I am alone with Him...I feel complete. I feel at home. 

And He has blown my mind the past few months. I can honestly say I am no longer bound by legalism. I am no longer bound because I have a new best friend. That friend's name is Grace...And He also goes by the name of Jesus. 

We are His beloved. It is the most beautiful love story ever written. And we are part of it. 




*I use satan's name in lowercase because his name is not even worthy of being capatilized.




6 comments:

Kim @ Kim and Mikey said...

You have blessed my heart. Thank you for sharing.

Shawn said...

what a powerful post, and testimony! thank you for sharing - your sweet words are so encouraging. i'm so thankful for you, sarah!

Dancing Branflake said...

Such a vivid and stirring story. I think we all have experienced that in one way or another. It's just that you are so perceptive in what's going on that it's scaring you. Many people don't even realize it!

Tabitha said...

LOVE.

Dave said...

Our testimony is so similar. I can recall the day that I told God to take His conviction and anything else and leave me alone. I told Him, "If you are not going to do anything for me then I do not need you." I was convinced that my doubts, guilt, and struggles were all His fault. I tried reading more bible, praying more, fasting, joining a ministry to bring about peace and joy in my life, but it never came.

Religion told me that God was probably testing my faith that only caused my frustration to amplify because I was thinking, "HOW MUCH LONGER IS HE GOING TO TEST MY FAITH?"

It seemed that God did answer my prayer because I literally felt different. I did not care to do much after that, as I went about serving the world. Eventually it started to scare me. I wondered myself if I committed the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, or had committed the sin of apostasy. I feared that maybe I was hardened beyond hope.

I never realized that God's loving hand was guiding me to His pure and unadulterated grace. He led me to sweet victory where now I live aware of His endless love for me. I wake up in it, walk in it all day, and I go to bed with it.

I no longer live "trying" to produce fruit. I no longer "try" to produce the rain and sunshine I need. I merely drink of the rain He gives. I bathe in the Sun (Son) He provided for me. Nutrients from the soil run through me. Any fruit I bear is simply because the Sap runs through my veins. I now live dependent upon Him for all things.

I enjoyed your post!

Blessings,

Dave

Karla @ {The Classy Woman} said...

Hi Sarah! I'm so glad we met via blogland. My hubby and I came home from dinner late tonight. He wanted to watch a movie with fighter pilots and that is not my thing so I decide to check my e-mail. I received a comment you left on my blog, I popped over here and read some of your more recent posts then clicked over to your other blog. That's where I found your 7-part testimony. Yup, I read the whole thing! :) First off, let me tell you that you write and can tell a story beautifully. Reading your story, there were several moments I felt like we have SO many similarities, not just in testimony but down to the smaller details-it kinda blew my mind! lol. Anyway, without going into too much detail in a comment post, I was wondering how to reach you via e-mail. If you want to pop by my page on the top right corner and just e-mail me so I have the address that would be awesome! :) I truly feel like us finding each other via blogging at this point in time is a divine appointment. Hugs,Karla