At age 29, in a rash and impulsive moment, I did something totally out of character, a biggie, as in willful violation of one of the Big Ten, something that my background of being raised in the church said would send me to hell. I was angry, confused, and passive-aggressively acting out. Of course, I didn’t realize all of that at the time. It would be quite a few years later before I would understand the motivation for my behavior. When I “came to my senses” the next day and realized I had not immediately been struck dead by a wrathful bolt of God’s punishing lightning, in a moment of profound clarity I remember thinking to myself “Either there is not a God after all or I don’t really know God.” Now, as I remember having that thought, I think how God must have been grieved by my rebellion and ignorance. But that realization that my assumptions about God didn’t seem to have any basis in truth was the beginning of a journey. I wish I could say that I set out with deliberate haste to discover the truth about God. I didn’t. I spent a few more years in the grip of rebellion and anger. Eventually, in a sweet and personal way in the middle of feeling myself drawn into a very intentionally grace-filled, loving community of faith, God got my attention and spoke to me through circumstances very clearly, “Have you had enough? Are you ready for the truth? It’s time to get real…..know me and be mine. Quit putting on the Christian act for the sake of others’ opinion of you.”
In the weeks and months after that time of communion with God and in that closely bonded fellowship, I experienced such rapid and clear answers to prayer that there was no denying God’s presence and personal interest in and love for me. At times it made me uncomfortable to realize how very present He was…..always and in everything. I wasn’t sure I wanted that much God in my life on a daily basis. Eventually, I was won over by God’s faithful, patient, and merciful dealing with me.
One of the things I learned was that God does not punish swiftly and punitively, as I had thought in my immaturity. Rather, he instructs and disciplines lovingly and in His perfect timing when one is ready to benefit most from the lesson about His character.
I dropped my resistance to God’s intimate presence and began to follow Christ, though with halting steps at times. After 5 years, I was developing knowledge of God and consistency in my walk and it seemed that God felt I was ready for some testing and pruning, which most assuredly came. But by that time, I was so much His, knowing and trusting in His sovereignty, goodness, and personal love for me, that I was able to be faithful, patient, and merciful in the midst of the ordeal, too.
That was the absolute end of doubting God- His presence, His goodness, His love for me, His willingness to be in the midst of even the small details of daily life. It was the beginning of delighting in God’s presence and knowing that God will never leave me.
Today I live out my call to ministry by teaching others with the specific goal of helping them know and love God in this personal way through development of an identity in Christ and participation in intentional, grace-filled community.