When I decided to get serious about my faith a few years ago, I could not deny that God was at work in me. I was not looking for Him. In fact I was trying to run in the opposite direction. Growing up in the church without experiencing God on a personal level had made me resentful. The boring services, the endless prayers, the how-to guide that constantly reminded me how much of a failure I was. Believing in God wasn’t the hard part. The hard part was pleasing Him.
I believed that I was a sinner. That God so loved me that He gave His one and only Son for me. I believed that through Jesus Christ, all my sins were forgiven and that His Spirit lived in me. I was supposedly free, yet I felt trapped. Held at gunpoint. Unable to discover who I was for fear of displeasing Him. So I did what I could to conform to Christian teachings, while looking down on those who I thought weren’t strong enough to pretend. This was my idea of freedom.
Then God happened. His love broke through my darkness and He began to remove things that had been wearing me down for years. He was no longer a theory but an actual presence. A loving and patient presence who seemed to care more about me than I cared about myself. If this was God, I wanted more.
My cynicism was gradually replaced by a desire to live a Christ-centered life. I enjoyed praying, participating in Bible studies, going to church, serving and hanging out with other believers. There was hope, stability and more joy than I had been accustomed to.
I was happy to apply Christian teachings to my life, even though certain mindsets and habits were harder to change than others. Realizing that God’s design was for my good encouraged me to embrace the struggle that I used to resent. I no longer felt constrained; I felt protected.
Then God happened again. He told me that even though I truly believed that I loved him, my life was not founded on Him. It was founded on my idea of what a godly life should look like. I may have been happy to seek and obey Him but I was fighting all kinds of fights except the good fight of faith.
My targets included pride, unforgiveness, anger and greed… and I fought them all out of fear. Fear that they reflected a lack of commitment on my part. Fear that I wasn’t displaying God well enough. Fear that God would realize that saving me was a mistake if I wasn’t willing to do the work. So, I did my best to fight and my many efforts reassured me.
But God knew what I was doing. He told me that my Christian lifestyle could not save me. He did not want blind, effort-driven obedience; He wanted to love His child. The truth is that I was hurt. Before coming to Him, I had mistaken death for life and pursued it. I was in ruins.
God wanted me to talk to Him, ask questions and be honest with what I was going through. He hadn’t brought me to life for Christianity to become an idol. He had brought me to life so that I could experience Him and grow into who He had created me to be.
I was blown away. I had been trying all along to make space for God in my life when He had actually made space for me in His kingdom. I was home. I did not have to pretend to be someone else. He simply wanted me to be with him. He knew exactly who I was, who He had created me to be and the path that we needed to take together.
What a relief!