In 2005 my wife, Linda, and I were church shopping, and we were running out of places to try. Then we remembered that we had attended a Christmas Eve service at BelPres a few years earlier and we decided to try BelPres again. Attending a large church would allow me to remain anonymous. I wasn’t looking for community. I just wanted to be able to come to church, and then go home.
That attitude was one I had held for a long time, and it said a lot about where I was in my relationship with God and others…and it wasn’t good. In my late twenties, after my first marriage had ended abruptly, God came in and fundamentally changed my life. I had the experience of “I once was blind but now I see.” Later, I met and married Linda—we celebrate our 37th anniversary this year—and began a radically new life. When I read the Bible, the words were alive, and when I prayed I felt God was listening and leading. I was a trained counselor and I felt God lead me to start a Christian counseling ministry. I was also teaching adult Sunday school and was part of leadership in our church. God and the church were at the center of our lives. But over time, that began to unravel. My counseling ministry collapsed, and I spent the next 25 years in a job that reduced me to an anxiety-ridden shell of a person. And in the midst of all that, we were devastated by the grief and loss of a long struggle with infertility.
So there I sat in BelPres…broken, with no hope of things ever being any different. The abundant Christian life I read about in the Bible seemed forever beyond my grasp, meant for others, but not for me. When I read the Bible, the words had no power, so I stopped reading. I didn’t know if God heard my prayers or not and I saw no evidence of God’s leading in my life. Where was God? I was deeply disappointed with him, and I just wanted to be left alone. I didn’t want others to know what a mess I was. Little did I know that God was about to change all that…most notably, me.
We had attended BelPres for several months when something very strange began to happen—I would get teary at times during the worship services. A flood of emotions would sweep over me, and it was all I could do to keep from crying aloud. This was very disconcerting since I didn’t want to attract anyone’s attention or do anything to reveal myself. At the same time, the emotional release felt like rain on parched ground. Eventually, I noticed it seemed to happen as a response to the words of the hymns, the Scripture reading, or from the sermon. What was happening to me?
This happened with such regularity that I finally felt compelled to talk with a pastor—something I had not been willing to do for many years. That first pastoral conversation began a life-changing journey of healing and recovery that included a number of companions in this faith community, counseling, inner healing prayer, God’s written Word, and spiritual direction which helped me learn to discern God’s voice and leading.
In Scott Dudley’s sermons, two messages stood out for me. One, God never gives up on us, even when we give up on God. And two, God wants us to become the people he created us to be. I was starting to see the reality of these two truths played out in my life. I realized that God had mercifully sustained me in my years of brokenness, and now God’s grace had brought me to the place where I could begin to let go of my pain and pride and be transformed into the person I was created to be.
The following years have been gradually transformational—I am not the person I used to be. I have fallen in love with God’s written Word again, prayer is a pleasure, I am more discerning of God’s voice and leading, I want to know and be known by God and others, and service to others is a joy. Much healing has taken place, and there is more to come. Becoming more like God created us to be—more like Jesus—is the life-long work of the Holy Spirit.
Has your relationship with God been disappointing? Are you losing hope that you will never experience the abundant Christian life? Have you given up?
Well, know for certain that God has not given up on you, and God desires that you become the person you were created to be. If you want more of God and feel thwarted in getting there, take a step of faith and share your frustrations and desires with at least one person you can trust who is further along in the journey than you. Don’t believe the lie that you can do it on your own. It happens in community—the body of Christ. That’s God’s design.
Take that first step, and discover what God has wanted to do all along.