I had been away from the Lord for nearly three years which is a testimony for another time. The following is my testimony that I wrote on August 7, 2014.
Since March 23, 2014, I have been on a journey home to the Lord. It has not been a simple journey. At times it has been joyous, but for three months, I have been barely holding on. I wanted to beat myself up about it. A couple of times I thought about just throwing in the towel. Still, I did manage to hold on. I have been visiting different churches and often I would put my Christian music on even though I was having trouble even relating to it. I have periodically prayed during this time, but nothing substantial. It seemed that every time I would try to pray, it felt wimpy, like I was hitting a wall to no avail. I didn’t feel like I was getting anywhere with my prayers. One thing I would pray was for the Lord to help me through this and to not let me go. One of my very last entries into my journal before I began feeling separated was on May 8, 2014. Up to this, I seemed to be on fire and charging ahead. Within less than a week of my last entry, on May 8th, my journal took a different turn. My entries were fewer and not so upbeat. The entries would start with statements like “I feel so beat up today”, “I have been far from the Lord”, and “I feel I have been struggling”. I even tried fasting once during this period of time to try to fight the oppression that I felt heavily weighing on me. This entire time, I was entertaining thoughts of doubt. Old arguments from my past kept creeping up. Thoughts about worshiping, although not acted upon, outside of the Christian faith were common thoughts during this time. If you knew where I had come from prior to my re-admittance when I was 30, this would not be such a shock.
But you know, God is faithful even when we are not. On July 30th, I was at the library. I was looking for a historical fiction book. After a little perusing, I saw a book called “Priscilla and Aquila” published by Guideposts. This unassuming book is what grabbed my attention. With Priscilla being one of the few woman mentioned by Paul in the Bible, I was interested in what story they might lay out with so little information actually mentioned about her.
I took this book home and began reading. It grabbed my attention. I immediately connected with the Priscilla created in this book. All through it, it is showing peoples conversion to Christianity, including Priscilla and Aquila’s. Arguments are laid out that Jesus is the Messiah and, all this time, not one of these arguments is sufficient for me. I realized that I was looking for this book to answer my questions and doubts. I was looking for something substantial. I wanted the intellectual argument for the veracity of Christ. It wasn’t happening. I wasn’t satisfied. I’d argue in my head, and continue moving on with the story. That evening I realized how severely this book was affecting my mood. That evening, I realized I was looking in all the wrong places for the truth. If anything, the lesson I learned from my exodus from religion for three years is that you must pray and stay in the Word to protect yourself. If you do not, you open yourself to all sorts of trouble! That evening after everyone was in bed, I decided that I was going to try praying and reading the Word. I put down Priscilla and Aquila and went outside on the porch to be closer to God.
Nothing should be a shock any longer; the things that I think. When I pray, I know that God not only hears my words, but also understands the emotions and unsaid thoughts behind those words. On the porch, I prayed. I directed my prayer to God, to the Father. Then had the audacity to ask if God was really a “Father” and asked if He may also be prayed to as “Mother” for us women. More often than not, during this prayer and all my previous prayers during this dry time, I also prayed that I wanted the truth. No matter where it might lead, no matter what, more than anything, I wanted the truth.
I decided when I came in from the porch that instead of continuing to read my book, I would actually grab my Bible which was in the bedroom with my husband. I was quite tired, but felt driven somehow. My husband was asleep so I literally went into my closet, sat down and prayed again with Bible in hand.
As I said, I know God not only hears my words, but my thoughts and emotions. Most of my prayer was silent. I remember the doubts being at the surface, I remember the feeling of thinking that maybe there was a depth to God that incorporated all these other theories about energies. I remember begging for the truth, begging for God to speak to my heart, praying that God would soften my heart. Then the verbal prayer was telling Him that I know I don’t deserve to hear from him that I shouldn’t even ask him to speak to me the way I was asking. I told Him I needed to hear from him in a way that I would know for sure that He was speaking to me. What I wanted was to be able to open my Bible and know He was speaking to me and my circumstances without any doubt.
I immediately began to think of the book of Jeremiah. I almost tried to dismiss it, but then the thought felt very bold, almost like I yelled at myself, JEREMIAH! I knew then to read Jeremiah and then the number 27 came to my mind. I opened Jeremiah. It opened to chapter 2 and on the right side of the page was verse 27. Now, if you knew what I had just read in my guidepost book, “Priscilla and Aquila”, you would realize how amazing it was that this is what I turned to.
In the book, Priscilla and Paul are in Ephesus talking to Faltius, trying to convert him. They are telling him that Artemis is no god. (The Roman name for Artemis just happens to be Dianna!) That it is useless to worship chunks of silver. “You have a god made by human hands, worthless as dung. In fact, it might as well be made from dung. It would be just as worthy but cheaper. One is just as good as the other.” At this point in the story is when I had put my book down and gone out to the porch to pray.
So, What does Jeremiah 2:27 say?
“To an image carved from a piece of wood they say, ‘you are my father’. To an idol chiseled from a block of stone they say ‘you are my mother’. They turn their backs on me, but in times of trouble, they cry out to me, ‘come save us!’. Verse 28 kind of goes along with my thoughts and questions in my prayer on the porch. “But why not call on these gods you have made? When trouble comes, let them save you if they can! For you have as many gods as there are towns in Judah.”
I can’t tell you how many or all of the thoughts that crossed my mind. But one of those thoughts was; should I pray to God as a goddess? Should I sincerely try to pray or worship other than God the Father and see if my prayers are answered? When I pray to God, sometimes, a book and verse will come to my mind or I’ll just turn to something and it will often speak to my recent thoughts or prayers. Very much like what happened here. (I do not advocate relying on this regularly.) Would it even be possible if I were to pray elsewhere that my prayers would be answered as real as God has answered me now and in the past? These were just thoughts. At this point, I really felt that God proved himself to me. At this point, my belief in God began to solidify.
I went to bed. The next morning I continued to read Priscilla and Aquila and within a page and a half, Paul is speaking to a group of men in Ephesus: “Some of us would never be tempted to worship Artemis. We know-” he paused dramatically, “-don’t we? That Artemis is only a big chunk of silver. Worthless! But that is because some of us have never bowed our knees to her as others of you have, since childhood. It is the only thing you have known until now. It is more difficult for you to give up Artemis. So we must stand with you, encourage you; but my brothers,” he stopped, “there must be no compromise! Artemis must not be worshiped in any way.”
At this point, somehow, something supernatural happened and not only did I believe in God, I believed in Jesus without needing all of the substantial arguments I had previously been looking for. I still felt fragile and guarded my thoughts closely.
It’s amazing how God works. God amazes me in so many ways. But, he didn’t quit showing off. I spent the next day, the 2nd of August, speaking to a co-worker and sharing all that had happened. I got excited that LCOG was about to have a night service. I knew beyond all doubt that I needed the altar and needed corporate worship. So on August 3rd, I got to church early. I was so excited to be able to go to the house of God. I came expecting to experience the presence of God. Before I went in, I prayed that God would give me more grace that my faith would abound. I prayed for enough faith that I would never doubt Jesus again. I prayed that all the confusion and doubt of my past would go away. I prayed that Jesus would come into my heart and fill me to overflowing. I came EXPECTING!
God does not disappoint! The second song of the service got my attention. It was “Desert Song” by Hillsong. I had been in the desert. Everything felt dry. I have been in the fire lately, defeated more often than not, begging for faith. I had been going through the refining fire. Then came the chorus…No Weapon Formed Against Me Shall Remain! These words were power for me. I began to claim my victory. Even though I had been on my journey home since March 23rd, I always felt like I was in a battle. I always felt under attack. It’s because even though I had made the conscience decision to return to Christianity, the weapons of the warfare had not dissipated. There were still arrows being fired at me relentlessly whenever I tried to draw closer to God. I claim these lyrics. From this point forward, none of these weapons shall remain to torture me, to wear me down. I shall no longer be the victim. I take my stand on the promises of God, I am a conqueror and co-heir with Christ. I tell you what, I had a reason to sing and worship in that service. I was ready to take laps and shout at the top of my lungs! If you thought it couldn’t get better, there was the third song! “Wide as the Sky” by Mark Redman. My hands were up, my heart was open. I was ready to receive! Then the lyrics “let all the other names fade away, let all the other names fade away, until there’s only you, let all the other names fade away, Jesus take your place, Jesus take your place.” This was my prayer! After this weekend I felt and feel like a new creature. I truly feel different. My faith is unwavering.
Guess what, God wasn’t done showing off and proving His providential hand in my life! On Monday, I ended up at the library again. I already had a book to read, but really felt driven to look at the religion section. I picked up a book titled “Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist”. From my days in Catholicism, I knew this had to do with communion. When I looked through this book, I knew that it was something that I needed to read. Earlier in my recent walk I had prayed about communion and even spoke with a dear friend about it, but I got no revelation on the things I had studied. I still had questions, I still could not understand the depth of it. When I got home to read, it dawned on me that at some point in my journal I had an entry about communion. On May 8th, the last entry in my journal, before my desert trip for three months, was when I was journaling and speaking to my friend about communion. I then got really excited about the book in hand.
Before I began reading, I asked for discernment. If at any point in time I did not feel like this was scriptural, I would put it down. On the contrary, this book was awesome. It opened my eyes to the perfect plan of God, set out from the foundation of creation! The atoning sacrifice of Christ is revealed in the manna from heaven, the banquet at the top of Mt. Sinai (Ex 24:5-11) the Bread of the Presence in the temple and the festival of Passover, with all of the Jewish traditions of that time including the four cups used during passover.
On May 8th I had been studying Luke 24:13-41 which is the story of the disciples on the way to Emmaus. They were frightened and filled with doubt. They touch, feel and experience Christ yet they still stood there in disbelief, filled with joy and wonder. (I look back and realize that this was the state I was in, even though I felt close and drawn to God, I had not realized my true state.) Not until food is shared do they recognize him for who he is. This puzzled me. I prayed that God would help me to understand communion on a deeper level. I prayed that God would help me to walk daily with Christ and that I could understand the depth of “daily bread” in the Lord’s Prayer. It took the desert, for three months, for God to bring me to a place where He could draw me to a true relationship with Christ and to a point where I could finally understand the depth of what the passover and communion really are. Before, I had excellent head knowledge, but somehow this journey gave me heart knowledge.
Without daily communion (relationship) with Christ, we cannot hope to understand or believe he is who he says he is. We can have head knowledge yet not really know him. Without a faith based on relationship, we cannot commune, we cannot know Christ. Without communion, you cannot have life in you. John 6:53-58 Only the grace of God can draw you into the hands of Christ.
So what have I learned on this journey that has lasted over three years?
I have learned that I must be patient. No matter how much I love the Father, no matter how high in the clouds my heart soars, I can only move as fast as the Lord wills me to. If I run ahead like a toddler without first learning to walk, I will stumble and fall. I must walk beside the Lord and allow him to patiently direct my path! I’ve learned that always before reading my Bible to pray and seek communion with Christ that I might understand his Word. I’ve learned what grace truly is and that there is nothing we can do to earn it. No matter how much or what you set aside in your life, even sin, it will not earn your salvation. It is a gift not dependent on your current state. I’ve learned that once you accept this gift, all you have to do is sincerely seek Christ and walk with Him daily and if there is doubt in your heart, to seek the Father that He might lead you to the arms of Christ where there is no doubt. If you do this, your path will be divinely ordered and you will walk in the light of truth. I’ve learned that no one but the Father knows the hearts of His creation and that I am called to be His light, not His cattle prod. Even those who are blatantly in sin, I do not know their heart, I am only called to love them. I will be changed through this exodus to heaven, to be like Christ. When I am tempted to worry, when I am tempted to doubt, I only have to remember the providence of God and that all time is in His hands.
I have truly learned that Satan is here to steal the truth, your victory, your loved ones and your joy. He is here to separate you from the Father with anything at his disposal, he is here to cause confusion, hurt, and pain. Only I have the power to separate myself from the Lord and He does not easily let the kicking and screaming toddler have her way. I have learned that I am a conqueror and co-heir with Christ and that no weapon formed against me shall stand.
My life is in the tight grip of God Almighty who loves me unconditionally!
This Sunday, August 24th, 2014, will be a momentous occasion for me, I am being baptized and I really believe!