IT SEEMED A LIFETIME HAD PASSED…
I celebrated my one-year anniversary. Though it seemed like a lifetime had passed, it had been just 365 days…365 long, tearful, joyous, and now free days.
My journey began several years ago when I had the opportunity to follow my calling right out of college. I moved to Africa to serve in a ministry for orphaned children. For as long as I can remember my heart was drawn to missions, specifically Africa and children. I can recall the many Sundays of listening to missionaries speak at our church. My grandmother and mother would often have them over for Sunday lunch after the service. I was raised on the stories of adventure, serving in foreign lands. The idea seemed wild and exotic to a little girl growing up on a small farm in Ohio.
Within weeks after graduating college in Atlanta, I set my heart to serve in Africa and I began a seven-year journey with a small ministry. I joined the ministry as a 22-year-old young woman. I felt God had called me and equipped me for my place there. I was ready to commit the rest of my days to serving with this ministry.
My Unquestioned Commitment to Ministry
Unfortunately, my unquestioned commitment to a ministry came at a great cost. Years of great highs and lows brought much anxiety and confusion regarding my love and hope for the children and my perceived calling in contrast to the volatile relationship with those in authority over me within the ministry. How unfortunate that for many the word “ministry” is so often intertwined with much hurt, pain and unchecked claims of power. During my final year, five individuals from within and outside of the ministry encouraged me to resign. Their messages were the same, but it was only after a trusted colleague said to me that I needed counseling for emotional and psychological abuse that I began to think more seriously about my situation.
I would like to say that I took a leap of faith and chose to leave the ministry, but I didn’t. Rather, God graciously allowed those who had heaped insults on me to further push me over the edge of my own fear. There is something courageous in choosing in faith to leap off a cliff. However being thrown off of the same cliff by those for whom I cared and the ministry to which I professed to be called was the realization of one of my greatest fear—complete rejection. It is the most painful experience of my life, to date. But, I am so grateful it happened.
The Unraveling Came
A dear friend, had been shamelessly plugging Life Ministries for more than a year. At every opportunity, she shared her own story of freedom with me. She had graphs and books and verses to illustrate her newfound understanding of a free life. To this day, she demonstrates a relentless conviction about the truth revealed to her during her own journey at Life Ministries- Christ came so that we may have life, and have it to the full (John 10:10).
As I shared my story with my friend and her husband, they offered to me the most generous of gifts. They offered for me to schedule as much time with Bruce as I needed over the next year… and then, like a good Southerner she treated me to a meal of fried chicken, mashed potatoes and sweet tea!
I was in a state of paralysis. I had never been so unable to function, so incapable of holding it together. The great performer in me had been taken out of the game and was laid up, helplessly in the spiritual and emotional ER. There was nothing to be done at that point other than to be still and allow God to remove, redeem and restore all that I thought was mine to manage in my life. It is a most significant little thing called surrender. It often occurs when we have been graciously led to the end of ourselves.
I took full advantage of my friend’s offer and found myself spending a lot of time with Bruce! What a gift to sit in the safety of the 10X10 office and have someone so gently, so caringly and with utter sensitivity to the Spirit, peel back the worn scales of my heart.
As if removing layer after layer of my inmost being was not excruciating enough, once they were removed, my heart was exposed for the first time in years. Raw, fresh, unaccustomed to feeling and expressing itself, I was an emotional toddler learning to walk.
The Walk Toward Forgiveness
Bruce’s office is truly a cocoon, a place of transformation. I had allowed myself to become burdened once again by a yoke of slavery (Gal 5:1). However, words of truth began to replace the misguided beliefs about God, others and myself. What I learned about Truth is that it does not shame or condemn, it sets free. A few of the most significant truths which brought me freedom were:
• Forgiveness includes addressing beliefs, not just actions
• God calls us to Himself alone
• We are meant to live FROM God, not FOR Him
After months…and months…and months spent in the cocoon, I emerged. I can’t say exactly when, but joy came in the morning. With the joy came peace and laughter and freedom. I hadn’t laughed in a really long time. Thankfulness overwhelmed me as I began to see the girl in the ER as a place from where God had brought me. Life seemed to surround me – when I sat with my coffee and journal in the morning, as I walked under the canopy of trees on the Silver Comet trail, when I sang in my car. “…And the life that I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. (Gal 2:20)”
I have been a Christian, a true lover of Christ for most of my life. But, now I celebrate my one-year anniversary of fully enjoying the life he offers in exchange for surrender.
Thank you Life Ministries – for your commitment to me in this journey!
It is finished.
When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
[But] by [Christ’s] one offering [God] has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.
“To be forgiven is such sweetness that honey is tasteless in comparison to it. But there is one thing sweeter still, and that is to forgive.”