Thursday, February 12, 2009

Testimony time.........

Years ago, I gave my testimony on stage at my home church, telling of how God captured my heart for Himself, despite myself. Problem was, my testimony wasn't really well told back then. Back then, I thought it was a miracle that, despite my past and the trials I faced due to my 'rebellion', I was now 'living' for God again. Basically, my testimony was shared to say, 'see how God turned my life around, and now I am back in church serving him and living my life for him'. At the time, I honestly believed, I had been rescued from a life of sin and rebellion and had now returned to God. Kinda like the prodigal son. Only thing was, I wasn't returning to the Father like the one in the story of the prodigal. Well, essentially I was, but I soon realized the God I was being taught about was not like the Father with open arms ready to throw a party for me and give me His finest robes and signet ring. It was more like once I got back initially the arms were open wide, but after awhile, they were folded across His chest and He was tapping His foot at me. So, here I was 'restored' to God, yet stuck. I was essentially the same person, except that now I zealously went to church and tried to practice godly living and disciplines. 
Well, today I'd like to remedy that poorly told tale. In case there is anyone else out there who has decided to run home from the pigpen like me. I would simply want you to know the God, I know now. The God, who has always been the same. Who has always had nothing but love and acceptance for me. I just didn't know it. Maybe you don't either.
I grew up in the church. From a wee babe to a young adult. Christian school too. As a young adult I began to want to see the world, the world outside of the walls of Christianity. I wasn't afraid to explore, but unfortunately there were those who were afraid of me getting sucked into a 'lost' and wicked world. Well, the world was way more welcoming to me than I had formerly believed and soon I was enjoying my freedom from all the restrictions Christianity placed upon me. Years went by and I found myself pregnant and not married. This was the one thing I had always said wouldn't happen to me. But it did. If only I could describe the shame and guilt that I experienced back then, but I am sure that would depress anyone. My whole world began to crash down around me. I lost friends. I lost everything. I was cornered into a pit of despairing and there was only one place to turn. Towards the end of my pregnancy, after the decision to parent my child was made, I had a debate with God that went like this. 

"God, I know I need you, but I can't do it! I can't do this christian life, I just can't do it!" 

I knew I couldn't live up to all those standards that I had believed were part of what it meant to be a christian. I didn't even want to. He lovingly reassured me;

"You don't have to do it! I will!!" 

Me, with a bit of surprise and relief; "Well, then if that's the case, then I am all yours!!" 

Wow! This was freeing to me! Just in time, too,  for me to enjoy the birth of my precious son. I still felt quite weak and frightened, but clung to the hope in the words He spoke to my heart. It wasn't long after that, that I found a church to attend. Thinking this was the first step to my new life in Him, I began to get involved. I slowly began to enjoy myself and let go of fear, and began to read my Bible and enjoy worshipping Him in freedom. Unfortunately, this did not last too long because I slowly got all bound back up again by the same things I had been bound by before. Standards, principles, expectations, fear, and this time a greater consciousness of sin than ever before in my life. I somehow thought and was taught this was holy living. Let me tell you, it slowly sucked all the life and joy right back out of me. 
What I wish had happened then, was that I remained in my freedom, my childlike joy and trust that God would hold me and keep me. Somehow I knew that was true in my head, but in my heart I could not understand this truth. Deep down I felt like a failure again. I didn't feel like I knew God anymore and I was saddened because I had just started to get to know Him. He felt distant, though He was not. He was always right with me and beckoning me to draw near, but the veil was over my eyes and I couldn't see or hear Him calling out to me. What had happened was, I was being taught that my heart was deceitful. I was constantly being taught all kinds of principles for godly living. How to be a better wife, mother, lover, home-maker, friend, servant, witness and so on. Day in and day out, I felt guilty if I did not have a quiet time. And the list goes on. 
I wish someone had told me the truth. That the Gospel was way better than I thought and that God is not angry with me. I wish I had heard the truth about how I was no longer under the supervision of the law. I wish I heard that I was more than just forgiven, and that I know had a completely new life! I wish someone had told me to rest and abide in the amazing love of God and that nothing I ever do will seperate me from His love. I wish that someone had told me, God isn't trying to still fix me, or sanctify me, but that He has made me perfect forever. That He finished the work that needed to be done, so I could live in a perfect unity with my God and Father. That He is no longer counting my sins against me and remembering them no more!! 
The truth all along was that I had not truly rebelled against God back when I strayed from church and into the world. I had rebelled against religion. I had rebelled against the self-righteous church life and legalism. I ran away from that, because it was not attractive to me. Once I heard God tell me I didn't have to live right, but that He would live for me, I perked right up! I thought now this is a God I can come to! 
God is not the god that religion and most of christianity paints Him to be. Don't fall for that god! Run into the arms of the One who did it all! The One who all along was looking from a far and waiting for you. The One who runs with arms outstretched no matter what you have done, or where you are coming from. The One who will clothe you with His royal robes of righteousness (not your own) and give you His very name and inheritance! The One who will throw the hugest party ever as you return from the sty. Not only that, but a God who dealt with the 'old' me and made me new. By giving me a brand new nature, HIS!! 
That is my real testimony. I found out that all along God had always loved me despite how I lived my life. God always wanted me, despite the fact that I slept around. God chose to call me righteous, because He gave me a gift of righteousness, despite the fact that I had lived in sin for so long. He chose to call me His own and to place me in Christ and seat me with Him in Heavenly Places, despite that fact that I had been living in the muck and mire. This great God and Father, will never condemn me, will never point out my faults and will love me ridiculously and lavishly no matter what!! Hallelujah! 
Now don't you wish someone told you about this truly awesome amazing loving God long ago?That's why I am sharing it now! He wants to live through you too! Not you living for Him, but Christ in YOU! Alive and living only the life He could live!! Grace and peace to all who read here.....................!!


Jamie said...

Brave, beautiful Lydia,

We who are forgiven much, love much, don't we?? And to FINALLY realize that we have been reconciled and accepted ALL ALONG in Christ!! That the Father is constantly watching the horizon for His child's return and longs to simply call us all sons/daughters...joint celebrate US...isn't it AWESOME?

Is it possible to preach God's Grace too radically??? NO!! God becoming man and dying as and for us so that we might live indwelled by Him? Justified by Him? Kept by Him? We cannot even begin to comprehend that kind of love. But we can try...aren't you loving throwing yourself into His waiting arms??

Blessings on you, Lydia full of Joy.

jul said...

Now THAT is a testimony!!! Loved it. I think it will draw those prodigals to the Father and whisper hope to the poor souls who had the unfortunate childhood of legalism, who are still wondering what's wrong with them. There's nothing wrong with you my dear brothers and sisters! It was the wrong 'gospel'! God is so much better than you know, come taste and see that the Lord is GOOD.

Thanks so much Lydia for sharing a fuller testimony, of the early years anyway! Can't wait to hear more. You are one of the most amazing women I know.

Dan Bowen said...

As Jamie said;

Can we ever preach grace too much!?!?!?!


Because it's grace that pulls in the sinners! The only people that grace repels are the Pharisees!!

Wow I got the complete shivers of "first love" joy when I read that. I forgot how awesome new Christians are and how wonderful it was to be saved!! Maybe I should share my testimony too at some point as to what it was like growing up as "God's grandchild" in a Christian family but then He found me Himself!

Good on you! I love your transparency!!

joyfullydia said...

Jamie ~ I am always grateful for your thoughts and encouragements! You are brave and beautiful and rubbing off on me!!

lydia said...

It appears I am still a schitzophrenic christian, what with my two identies, sheesh! When I forget to log in, it automatically signs me in under my gmail identity that I don't use, instead of my main identity...........kinda funny considering don't ya once and for all folks that's why you see 2 different joy filled Lydia's out there in blogland! Haha.........(maybe it's time to fix that, huh?)

lydia said...

Julie ~ Yup it was the wrong Gospel all along, not the GOOD NEWS. The beauty of all of this is that it was God who began a work in my heart and it is God who will woo and draw me and complete that work!! All of Him, all of Grace!!

Thanks for your encouraging words, and your faithfulness in sharing GOOD NEWS only with me!!

Love you BIG!!

lydia said...

I just love your enthusiasm, we will be a crazy trio in Hong Kong, no?
I think it would be wonderful to share your testimony sometime, I think it's the testimonies of people that really can touch people's hearts in a profound way.
Thanks for always sharing encouragement with me and for your passion for Grace!!

Much love........

Bino M. said...

Awesome story, Lydia! Thank you!

Leonard said...

These are the best kind.
Thanks Lydia.

Leonard said...

Ps. Click Me

lydia said...

Awww..................Thanks Leonard!!

Now how on earth did you do that red arrow, I am thinking you are the guy I need to call when I can't figure out computer stuff.................!!!!