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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

200 and going strong

I realized as I was logging on that this makes 200 blogs for me. I don't know why, but that seems a pretty big milestone. Maybe writing isn't such a fluke after all. So then I've been sitting here forever trying to decide what do you write for a milestone blog? Funny? Serious? Somewhere in between? It's time for something just downright funny, but the problem is that I don't have any really funny ideas right now.

So serious? Where to go with that? How about the biggest milestone of my life. What's that? My marriage, my children, turning 30? No, the biggest milestone of my life was definitely the moment I decided that Jesus Christ could be the boss of my life and that I would live a life characterized by my faith. Yes, I know I'm a preacher's wife....and a preacher's daughter, but deciding to believe that Jesus Christ is God's Son is a personal decision. It's not one that you can be born into or even marry into.

My salvation was not a one-stop event. It took many years for me to find a relationship with Christ. I guess I was so involved in Church that I did not realize the difference between goodness and a personal relationship. I remember the moment when I was 8 that I realized I was not good enough to get to heaven on my own. I was in the bathroom in a church in Memphis, Tn. However, I was too shy and too embarrassed to talk to anybody about this fear that if I died I would go to hell. My family, although in the ministry rarely, if ever, discussed religion. (that's a blog all by itself...) I had nightmares about fire and about burning. But as time passed, it became easier to ignore those feelings and reassure myself that I was okay. I was in church, I was a good kid, there was plenty of time for serious religion later when I got old.

The next moment in my life that I seriously considered my spiritual condition was as a teenager. There was a guy that I wanted to date, but his faith was really important to him. He would not date me since I was not a church member. I decided that he was hot enough that I would be willing to get baptized. Being raised in church, I knew all the right words and was able to snow under just about everybody. My grandmother later told me that she was pretty sure I was not being real. And I learned that saying a certain prayer is not magic. My life after being baptized was no different than it was before. I was still active in church - playing the piano, president of a girl's mission organization, nursery worker. But totally unconcerned about sincerely seeking after God with all my heart and soul. Just concerned about finding somebody to love me. A boy....not God.

Fake, insincere, and hypocritical...that's what characterized my religious life. It was not until my freshman year of college in Foundations of Ministry at Ouachita Baptist University that I really took a good, long look at my life. Professor Steeger had us write down our story of how we decided to follow Christ on our final exam. I stayed awake many nights trying to decide what to write. You see, I was engaged to a minister. The wedding dress was hanging in my closet. The wedding ring was bought. The invitations had been sent. And I knew that my fiance was not interested in marrying an unbeliever. And I was afraid Prof would fail me on the exam if I did not answer it "correctly" (dumb, huh?) So what did I do after much thought? I lied of course. I wrote down an awesome story that I had heard someone else share in church and made an A on the exam. And kept the wedding plans moving along as scheduled.

However, I am thankful that God is a patient and pursuing God. The summer after I was married, I just couldn't get away from God. Everywhere I turned it seemed that He was chasing me and seeking to capture my heart. I met people that didn't accept fake and were so beautiful and open with their faith that I really began to grasp what Christianity was meant to be. I tried to achieve right standing with God by doing lots of great things. I sang in the choir, played the piano, taught the 2 year old Sunday School class, made breakfast for the kids who came in with our bus ministry, went on visitation....even to the nursing home, and don't forget that my husband was the youth minister, and I was at every single event we hosted. I had even told people all about how to have a relationship with Christ and had prayed with them to commit their lives to Him. In other words, I looked really great on the outside, but I was totally empty on the inside. At night when I closed my eyes, I knew that my life was a lie. It was totally about pleasing the people I was around and about making my husband love me.

Finally the moment came when I could not hide any more. A visiting pastor was speaking and when he closed with a song, he invited anyone that wanted to get to know Christ and how to have a relationship with Him to come to the front of the church. I was at the front of the church before the music started. I'll admit that the gasps across the congregation were unsettling. I was the most afraid of what my husband would say. How disappointed was he going to be in me? Would he even still want me after he knew that so much of our relationship was a lie? Would the church still want me when they found out? But I could not live with myself and with the hypocrisy that was my life. And so on that hot summer night 16 years ago, I prayed and told God that I believed Jesus was his Son. That Jesus had died on a cross for all the bad stuff that I had done so that I could have eternal life. And that I would forever be God's child and that the rest of my life would be devoted to loving Him and seeking after Him. It was the best decision I ever made. I was still involved in ministry...that didn't change. But instead of doing ministry to try to impress other people and my husband, I began doing ministry because I loved God and wanted to share Him with the rest of the world.

And yes, obviously my husband still loved me. And my church family embraced me with open arms. And other people came out of the woodwork and also accepted Christ that summer. Other long time church members. And God greatly blessed our ministry there at that church. Even 16 years later, I still feel like I have so much to learn about God. But my relationship with Him is by far the most important thing in my life. The cool thing is that choosing to follow Christ is not a one-time event that gets you some fire insurance. It's a relationship more personal and intimate than any other relationship on the planet. It is a life-changing event that can't be duplicated by anything or anyone else.

That's why I chose to share this with you for my 200th blog. A milestone event for a milestone blog. Just a little more about where I come from.

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