Early Teen Years
“So, this week’s sermon was about God’s unconditional love that caused Jesus to die for our sins, but what do you think? Does God’s love mean we don’t have to obey the law?” His full lips stretched into a smile. “Are the commandments still important?” I was used to his probing questions that often expanded into hours of discussion and for this one I had no answer. I kept my mouth shut.
“Yes, of course it’s important.” A more courageous friend spoke up.
“So how important?” My teacher prodded deeper. No one said a word. “What happens if Jesus comes back and we still have sins in our life? Will we go to heaven?” He opened a devotional book bound in red leather. “This book says that all of our sins must be confessed and that God holds us accountable for every thought and every word. Even how we spend our time.”
He smacked the book shut. “The angels keep a record of everything you do or say. Just make sure, before you go to sleep at night, make sure to confess all your sins. You don’t want Jesus to come and you not be ready.”
“Father God.” I pleaded. “I’m not whole. I’m leaving pieces of myself on things. I’m trying, God, but my thoughts have not been established. Straighten me out.”
Soon after this prayer, I began a spiritual journal:
“Today I gained victory and assurance that the dark thoughts about my own works are not from the Giver of Light. Wonderful relief! I have God and the church confused. I have been trying to live up to others expectations, so I generally feel rejected. Lord, help me to gain my strength from you, not others . . . .
“God accepts my humanness!!! Not sinfulness, but humanness. Christ was human. Why do we try not to be human, to live apart and above ourselves and others, thinking this will make us more heavenly? This is the basis of coldness and neglect. We must be human, share our grief and joy, laugh, cry, and sing with our fellow men.”
Light leaped. God was answering my prayer to straighten me out, but old mindsets die hard. Subconsciously, I was never good enough.
Alone on my dark front porch with only the rush of a creek and a void in my heart, my agony with God began:
“The doing, the doing, it’s always been the doing! So where is the joy, the wellspring of life? Where is the fountain of water you promised, the water surging into life everlasting? It has evaporated and I’ve been left desert dry. Where are you, God? How can I find you? I want to obey you, to serve you in completeness, but I can’t go on. Where do I go from here? I must know. There has got to be a better way.”
My tears tried to wash away the wall of spiritual uncertainty. The wall did not move. Instead, a clear Voice penetrated:
“Go to the Word.”
“What does that mean? I have gone to the Word! That’s why I’m in this mess!”
“Go to the Word.”
I did not understand, but I knew that I had best not silence the Voice.
“You’ll have to show me, God, because I’m going to stop this insidious wandering in the world of externals. I’ll go to the Word. I’ll let you show me in your time. Meanwhile, I am going to stop trying.”
The continuing love of family and friends, raising innocent children, living in a beautiful mountain setting, experiencing daily provision, dropping my preconceived notions when reading the Word, all that and more was how God showed me. It is how he wooed me.
One quiet night I knelt alone.
“Father, God.” My voice broke. “If you require anything it’s only to make me whole. You’ve convinced me. You want my best good. You really do love me.”
It was as though a warm hand gently wrapped my heart with a radiating glow. My tears fell unchecked.
“Now, about your salvation. Can you trust me with that? What about your weak areas, those things you think I expect you to give up? Will you let me work them out, or do you want to keep taking them out your way? Will you accept my unconditional love?”
“I don’t know how you’ll do it, but it’s yours. I can trust you because I know you love me. Yes, Lord, my salvation is yours.”
It was my true surrender made possible only because I had finally fallen in love.
Merita Atherly Engen writes from the Southeast.
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