Experiencing Life through God

joyContinued from here.

If God had only transformed me from hating to loving myself, it would have been enough. If He had only released me from my emotional bondage through forgiving others, it would have been enough. If he had only healed the suicidal urges, it would have been enough. But those were just His starting points of an invitation to LIFE!

While I am glad that I’m not going to hell when I die, that fact is low on the list of reasons why I am excited to have a relationship with God. He has transformed me from death to life in many areas of my life, and He continues to do this by placing heavily on my heart that it’s time to make yet another change. Every change, no matter how difficult, is leading me to LIFE, and I’m happy to do it, even when it’s really hard for me, such as humbling myself in my marriage so God would breathe new life into those dry bones and submitting to my husband’s authority so God could bless my family as we align with His design for families. None of this has been easy – ALL of it has been life-changing!

God’s ways are LIFE, and the world’s ways are death. Every natural inclination our sinful nature entices us with leads to death. Our sinful nature lulls us into “falling asleep” to the ways of life through keeping us comfortable. I have accepted that I’ll likely never be comfortable in my life again, and that’s OK – I would rather be ALIVE! Life is growing, changing, and transforming into the image of Christ, and nothing about that is comfortable. It involves doing things God’s way – ways that run counter to the culture and are often not popular with the people around you, whose agendas are the ways of death.

I have given up a lot to follow God wholeheartedly – self-loathing, suicidal urges, an eating disorder, an anxiety disorder, anger, and bitterness. What I have gained is so much more – a close, deep, personal, and intimate love relationship with the Living God! I had to give up myself and what I want, replacing those desires with what God wants. My daily mantra is this:

Lord, help me not only to do what You call me to do, but to be who You call me to be.”

I have let go of my own plans, dreams, and desires and have made knowing God my desire. As I follow God wholeheartedly, He has changed my heart, giving me new desires that align with His. Of course, I don’t do this perfectly, but I do it authentically. God truly is the #1 desire of my heart – not what He can do for me but being in a close relationship with Him. He is the blessing, and He is who I seek.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace smiling and holding out her arms in joy. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

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Changing in Response to God’s Love

lifeContinued from here.

The spring and summer of 2013 was one of the best seasons of my life. After 44 years of feeling parched for the tiniest drops of love from others, I was completely saturated in God’s love for me. So many of the rough edges of my personality became smooth in response to experiencing endless love. I had believed that I was “too needy” because of my childhood trauma. I learned that God’s love was more than enough to meet not only my own needs but also the needs of everyone around me. I changed radically over this season, and numerous people commented on it. As Beth Moore had said at the Sacred Secrets Living Proof Live Event, secrets manifest. As I had changed what I did “in the secret” with God, the fruit of my life also changed.

If I could have stayed in this honeymoon phase for the rest of my life, being a Christian on fire for God would have been super easy. However, God wants us chasing Him not for what He gives us but, instead, for who He is. While I try not to compare my own experiences to those of other people, I would not be surprised to learn that experiencing such as long honeymoon phase is unusual. I was particularly broken, so God might have known I needed a particularly long honeymoon to heal enough to get to work. If your honeymoon phase does not last as long as mine did, don’t feel cheated. That was drinking milk, and God wants us moving on to eating solid food as soon as we are ready.

Once God had healed me enough through His unending love to begin eating sold food, God called me to do something I really did not want to do – first to forgive a friend who broke my heart and then to forgive my child abusers. As motivation, God asked if I loved Him more than I hated them. I had declared numerous times that I would never forgive my child abusers, but I chose to believe and obey God by praying for them day after day, week after week, and month after month for well over a year until I realized I had, in fact, forgiven them. I knew I had forgiven them because the pain was gone.

I learned through that experience that God’s ways are always best. He didn’t tell me to forgive because “it’s the right thing to do” – He had me to do it because forgiveness is the path to LIFE! When I declared that I would never forgive, I was declaring my own death sentence. God’s ways are LIFE, and forgiving is the vehicle God uses for healing our emotional wounds. Once I learned this about God, obeying Him because much easier because I learned firsthand that EVERYTHING God commands is to give me life.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace standing on the beach next to a seagull beside the word, “Life.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

God is Found when We Seek Him Wholeheartedly

drawing_heartContinued from here.

I don’t remember how much time elapsed between my deciding to seek God with my whole heart and finding Him, but it did not take long. The only tangible marker I have is that by June 2013 (three months later), I realized that God had fully healed the suicidal urges that had plagued me every minute of the day since I was a teenager. That came after I was already giddy with God’s joy and peace for a period of time, so I must not have had to wait very long…perhaps a few days or weeks.

Part of seeking God involved choosing to believe Him over my own experience, and that was challenging for me. I needed something to do during my quiet time hour after giving God my list of things I wanted Him to do for me and completing my Bible study homework. Beth Moore had said that God loves me wholeheartedly while I believed I was fundamentally unlovable, so I figured that would be a good starting point. I looked up scriptures that talked about how much God loves me. I then downloaded several Christian songs that focused on how much God loves me and started singing along to those during my quiet time. I started looking myself in the eye in the mirror and saying, “I love you” or “you are lovable,” even though I did not believe it. God used all of these simple acts of obedience to change my heart – to remove my heart of stone and give me a heart of flesh.

Meditating on God’s truth that He loves me radically changed everything. I experienced joy and peace as never before. The best way to describe it is that I felt like I had gone through life holding out a Dixie cup, asking people to please spare the tiniest drops of love. Even a few drops could help. Because so few drops ever fell in my cup, I spent my life feelings empty and dry. God poured gallons of love into my cup, overflowing the entire room! For the first time in my life, I actually felt loved, and this came not from someone in skin but from an invisible God who I met with morning after morning. I was so saturated with His love that I had plenty to give to anyone I came into contact with. I had no need to hoard it.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace drawing a large heart. Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Figuring out What to Do “in the Secret”

i_dont_knowContinued from here.

The first morning I tithed the first hour of my day to God, I didn’t know what to do. I was leading a Bible study, so I knew I could complete that work during this time, but that would not take the whole hour. I did not have a robust prayer life – it was mostly a laundry lists of things I wanted God to do for me, which was mostly healing my emotional pain and taking care of people in my life who I love. I wasn’t sure how to hang out with someone “without skin” for an hour.

I was authentic with God on that first day. I told Him that I’m here but don’t know what He wants me to do now that I am. I was used to rushing through my prayers at night before falling asleep, and I would squeeze in doing my Bible study homework between errands. So, having the luxury of a full hour enabled me to slow down with both and really “be there” in the moment instead of focused on whatever was next on my to-do list. I got more out of the Bible study homework because I could slow down and really soak in what I was reading. Since I ran out of things to ask God to do for me, I spent some time simply being quiet to invite God to speak to me.

I reminded God that He promises to be found if I seek Him with my whole heart:

You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” ~ Jer. 29:13

I told God I did not know how to do this, but I wanted to learn. I said I was going to show up day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year until I find Him. That first hour was dedicated to Him, and I wanted to find Him.

To help me focus on this goal, I downloaded songs with a theme of “in the secret” – anything that talked about wanting to get to know God better, meeting Him in a hiding place, or anything else that would focus my thoughts on finding Him. I burned a CD of those songs and listened to it repeatedly so even throughout my day, my thoughts constantly returned to wanting to get to know God more. And then God showed up!

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace scratching her head and saying, “I don’t know.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Making the Decision to Enter “into the Secret” with God

Continued from here.

February 2013 was my breaking point. I decided that if years of therapy and a long-term relationship with God wasn’t going to bring me any more relief from emotional pain than it already had, I wanted out. As I drove home alone from a road trip, I resisted the temptation to drive my car into each body of water I drove over while sobbing to God. If the end result of my hard work of therapy was only going to result in a few days of relief between weeks of emotional misery, I wanted out. If I could be assured that suicide would not result in hell, I would have driven my car off a bridge that day.

I challenged God when I got home – “If You really are bigger than my emotional pain, prove it!” I would do my part by only listening to Christian music and holding every thought captive to Christ for one day. If God didn’t come through, I was ready to end my life. To my complete shock, I experienced joy and peace in such an overwhelming measure that I wondered if my sanity had snapped, and I didn’t even care if it had! I had never experienced a day of such complete joy and peace, and it made me determined to find the secret to having regular access to it.

A few weeks later, in March 2013, I attended Beth Moore’s Living Proof Live event, which has been released as her Sacred Secrets study. The theme of this study is that “secrets manifest.” Whatever is going on “in the secret” of my heart bears fruit in my day-to-day life. Because myself and my pain were the primary focus of my heart, my life was bearing the fruit of bitterness and pain.

Moore shared another way to live. She pointed out that God created me “in the secret” and that before my mother knew she was pregnant with me, it was only God and me “in the secret” of her womb. She talked about how God wants a close, personal, intimate love relationship with me, but I would have to do my part to enter into His presence “in the secret.” I did not fully understand what I needed to do, but I left that event having made the life decision that I would begin the first hour of my day as a tithe of my time to God, no matter what – even if I am sick, or traveling, or have to get up early, or have insomnia. I would seek God first in my day and see what happens.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cover of Beth Moore’s Sacred Secrets – Small Group Kit: A Living Proof Live Experience. Courtesy Amazon.]

 

Removing Yourself as the Center of Your Relationship with God

it_meContinued from here.

I had a sincere walk with God for most of my life without actually entering the presence of God very often. I received Jesus as my personal Savior at age 8. I rededicated my life to God at age 27 after walking away for 11 years. Part of my rededication at age 27 was to reread the entire Bible, join a Bible study, and join a church, which I attended weekly. I observed the Sabbath regularly and later started tithing. By my mid-thirties, I was leading Bible studies through my local church. I memorized scriptures and even sought God enough to develop a primitive way to determine a “yes” or “no” response from God about His will for me in particular situations.

Nevertheless, I mostly walked in defeat. I was plagued by the aftereffects of severe child abuse that colored every aspect of my life: my marriage, friendships, parenting, and especially how I felt about myself. Despite leading Bible studies and memorizing scripture, I loathed myself. Even after years of therapy, I believed I was fundamentally unlovable and that if anyone ever saw the “real me,” she would run from the room screaming. I did not believe that God’s love for me was personal. I honestly thought I was an “add on” – that Jesus was already dying for others, so he might as well tack me on since he was going through the pain, anyhow. I actually believed that my brokenness was bigger than God’s ability to heal.

Note how self-focused my relationship with God was. Every aspect was about ME. **I** was too broken to be healed. **I** was fundamentally unlovable. **I** had suffered too much to experience God’s promises. I believed I had suffered more than Jesus had, since there is no record of him having been raped as a child, and I vehemently refused to forgive my abusers, believing that my own sins did not come anywhere close to the sins they had committed against me. **I** was at the center of my relationship with God, my thoughts, and my world.

Note that my faith was sincere. I did believe that Jesus died for my sins and was my only way to heaven. I did not question whether I would go to heaven when I died. My prayer used to be just to get in the door – for God to give me a tiny corner near the very back entrance to heaven. I knew I did not belong there and simply sought His grace in not going to hell, where I belonged. Knowing Jesus was in my heart and that I was going to heaven when I died did not bring about God’s promises in His Word about joy and peace. I was simply a miserable Christian.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace in a hole next to a sign pointing to her that says, “It Me.” Courtesy Bitmoji.]

 

Daily Quiet Time is Necessary but Not Sufficient

carContinued from here.

Daily quiet time is critical to experiencing the presence of God. After all, how can you build a relationship with someone without ever spending any quality time with him? We set aside time for the relationships we value. Our time with God cannot be an afterthought or squeezed in whenever we have a spare moment throughout our day. While God certainly welcomes our invitations, even when it’s a minute here and a minute there, Jesus did not come so God could get a sliver of your time whenever it’s convenient for you. Jesus came to reconcile us to God and restore relationship with Him. This relationship will only blossom by prioritizing regular time with God.

Because my entering into the presence of God coincided with establishing daily quiet time, I thought this was enough, but I have learned from others that it’s possible to set aside daily quiet time with God over an extended period of time without entering into the presence of God. Thus, setting aside daily quiet time is necessary but not sufficient. Let me explain what I mean by this…

For my car to work, it is necessary for me to fill it with gas. However, having a full gas tank is not sufficient to ensure my car will run – I also need to turn on the ignition. So, filling my car with gas is a necessary component to running my car, but it is insufficient without also turning on the ignition.

I’ll share another analogy that a friend gave me: When you received Jesus as your Savior, God turned the electricity on in your house (soul). However, until you plug something into an outlet, your house will function as if it is without electricity. It is possible to live your entire Christian life without using the electricity, causing your life to appear functionally no different from those without a relationship with God/without electricity. What a travesty to have access to electricity that you never use!

I am not in a position to judge why someone else’s quiet time is not bearing the same fruit that mine is. However, I can examine what was different in my own walk with God before and after I started spending daily quiet time with God and share those differences with you. I hope that seeing the before-and-after contrasts in my own experience will help lead you to the door in your heart so you, too, can enter into the presence of God.

Continued here.

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace driving a car. Courtesy Bitmoji.]