This past Sunday, our pastor, Dr. Raines, preached a wonderful sermon from Philemon called, “The Cost of Discipleship.”
One of the most profound points that I have heard in a long time was a quote he shared by Dietrich Bonhoeffer which says, “When Jesus calls a person to follow Him, He calls a person to come and die.”
To come and die.
That is heavy stuff. It sent ripples down my spine, as I pondered the question of what I have sacrificed and lost to truly follow Jesus Christ as my personal savior.
I was saved when I was nine, when my best friend Sunshine held my hand and walked me down the aisle in “big church” at Buford Grove Baptist. I was baptized at 17 at precious Ephesus Baptist Church. Yet, the truth is, I did not live my life in prayer, service, study and sacrifice. I just was, and being a so-called Christian was easy.
In the year preceding my Mom’s death, I felt a spiritual calling to grow closer to God. I was moved to pray more and to read more devotionals. I felt the stirring to find a new church home where the kids could grow. I attributed all of this to motherhood and even my failing marriage. My nephew David, a theologian, noticed and asked if I wanted him to counsel me. I know now that God was preparing me for a closer walk with Him through my Mom’s tragic death and my divorce.
I remember one night, several months after Mom’s funeral, and immediately after conflict within our home, lying in bed crying, asking for more. For healing. For peace. For love. For acceptance. I sought God and begged Him for a life more abundant. Only, my words to Him were in the most basic, pathetic pleas of a helpless child.
Soon after, it happened.
I was stripped of a lot. I have been led several times to the book of Job and to 23:10, which reads, “But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”
What has my road back to Christ cost me? During the sermon, I wrote, “my marriage” down on my notes. Whether or not this is true, I can certainly say that my pride was stripped, family and friends were pruned from my life, my financial predicament was terrifying as the security that I had worked so hard to establish was pulled out from under me. I lost my dreams of moving home, and my very identity was and has changed.
I am writing today to say that it was all worth it. I am not mature in my Christian walk. I still struggle with prayer and reading scripture. I am lazy and back slide. Even drafting this blog post is a challenge, because it is like math to me. I do not feel like I have the “right” words. But I have been restored, even in my name, and I know God has a purpose for me and my family.
And, through it all, not once did God fail to provide. He surrounded me with love and grace during my mourning. He healed my broken heart. He mended the bruises, both internally and externally. My kids never went without one thing– gifts overflowed on holidays when I had little money, food was always abundant. One day, I was worrying over my finances, and a small voice whispered into my heart, not to think about it again. A few days later, a scholarship check arrived at work in my name and in almost the exact amount I had prayed over. When all hope was gone, our house sold out of nowhere; and my dream rental was handed over to me. I call our new place Grace Land, because I know that God has put us there to heal. The gifts and cards and messages of encouragement were always little miracles and from the most unexpected sources.
God is so good, all the time.
I am not perfect in any way, and I am like a small child learning His ways. I still say things I should not sometimes and let my insecurities get the best of me. I do not always want to give up control. But I do know now that I have a purpose in His service, and am grateful to raise my children, not just to know His ways, but to intimately know and love Jesus as our Savior.
One of the most profound changes I have noticed in myself is a craving for spiritual songs. It began when my then student, Meagan Revell and her brother, a FSU football player, took the time to write me a complete list of “songs of inspiration” when my Mom died. While I still listen to country and pop music, I have become increasingly dissatisfied, even put off by a lot of it. Instead, I seek peace through praise. We play Bethel or Hillsong United Pandora in the mornings getting ready and on the way to school. It has made such a difference in our attitudes.
I am new to the Praise and Worship genre, so if you have any favorites or recommendations, I would love them.
My friend, Ms. Anne Hebrock, sent me the above song, “It Is Well” by Kristne DiMarco and Bethel Music last year when I was at the height of my struggles. It is now my favorite.