Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Truth Hit Me, Not like a Storm, But More Like a Whisper

August 11, 2011 by  
Filed under Monthly Articles

Well, the other night I just had to get some of my thought out of my head and on onto paper, and this is what came out.  The following is my testimony of my salvation.  Many of you may be surprised to learn that I was not saved before my trip to Uganda.  I had heard of God and learned a whole bunch about Him, but He wasn’t truly in my life.  I am forever praising God that He sent me to Africa and that the wonderful people in Uganda are such amazing examples of the awesome power of God in people’s lives.  Everyone that I met in Uganda on that trip helped me to be saved.  Praise God for your joyful hearts!  I just wish now that this testimony will be able to do some good for anyone who reads it.

Normally, I like to write out my thoughts with pen and paper, but I felt that this topic was one that I wanted on a more secure place.  I’m not quite sure how to begin to talk about this, but I’m hoping and praying that God will be with me every step of the way as I transfer my reflections onto this paper.

I guess I should start by remember who I used to be, recalling everything that made me who I was.  To start, I was miserable.  No, I never admitted it to anyone else; I rarely ever even admitted to myself.  I just went on with my life faking happiness and looking for ways to create a new mask for myself.  This all sounds pretty intense, but it’s just a roundabout way of saying that I was just like everyone else.  I looked to the world for joy, and when that didn’t do it for me, I pouted and hoped that tomorrow would be better.  If I was having a particularly rough week, I would scream out to the God that I had heard so much about, hoping that maybe He could step in and change my circumstances.  Rarely did I ever see a change in the life that I was living.

To help me cope with my distress of this weary life, I sought religion.  Both my parents are Christians, so why not try that on for size?  I went to church every Sunday, went to a Christian school, hung out with Christian friends, read my Bible and memorized verses, prayed to God every night, sang worship music, and tried to be what the law told me to be.  It seemed like a good plan at the time.  In fact, I figured that all these things qualified me as a Christian.  I had told God that He could come into my heart and then proceeded to tell everyone that I was saved.  I believed that Jesus died on the cross, that He rose again, and that His sacrifice was enough to cleanse me of my unrighteousness.  I knew there was sin in the world.  I knew that I was a sinner.  I knew that there was no way into Heaven without trusting in God.  I knew what God’s word had to say about salvation.  Name any Christian value, and I knew of it.  I was by any earthly definition a Christian.  So why did I still feel miserable?  What was I missing in this grand equation of Christianity?

At age 11, I figured that what I was missing was ministry, so I decided to go to France with Teen Missions Int.  To be completely honest, I didn’t enjoy that trip a whole lot.  Yes, looking back I’m very glad I went, but when I was there, most of the time I was miserable.  So, when I came back, I decided to look for other solutions to my problem.  While in France, I learned about the importance of making friends, so I figured that maybe being nice to people was the answer.  The Bible does say “love your neighbor as yourself,” right?

In seventh grade, I stepped out and tried to make new friends.  Boy, did that backfire.  I just ended up causing chaos in every part of my life.  To say the least, middle school was not a good time for me.  Most of my nights were spent asking God what I was doing wrong.  Why didn’t people like me?  Why wasn’t I happy?

Then came high school.  As I started off high school, I struggled quite a bit with just the school aspect.  I did well those first two years, but that was probably because I locked myself away from society until summer came around, and even then, I still focused on school.  I guess I figured that if I was diligent and did my work well, God would be proud of me.  That thought transferred into my junior year of high school, too.

By junior year, however, I stopped and looked back at my life, and what I noticed was a disturbing pattern.  It brought to mind the Israelites in the book of Judges.  Like them, I would have periods of happiness and good times, and then I would do something completely stupid and selfish that would through everything out of whack.  I couldn’t control my own actions.  One day, I would do something good, and then the next day, I would say something that would completely ruin someone else’s day.  What the heck was wrong with me?  I wasn’t a bad person, was I?  I did well in school, I tried to please my parents, I had never gotten a detention, and I went to church.  I was a good Christian girl, wasn’t I?  If I asked anyone I knew, I think they would all say that I was a good Christian girl who loved God, who knew the path to righteousness.  Then why was I doing such mean things to other people?  Why was my tongue continuing to say hurtful words?

To answer my questions, I turned to God’s word.  In James, it says that no one can tame the tongue.  Okay, so I have no control over what I say.  So it’s not my fault I’m being mean.  Okay, next subject.  I turn to Romans 7 and 8.  It says that even Paul did things he hated because the sin inside him made him do it.  Okay, so I’m not alone in hating who I am.  In Romans 8, it says God will take care of everything.  Okay, so all I have to do is sit back, do nothing, and just let God handle it.  Okay, sounds easy enough.  Moving on.

That thinking didn’t work so well.  It seemed logical, but at the end of the day, I would look back and see how many times I had screwed things up.  I would cry to God telling Him to change me, telling Him that I didn’t like who I was.  I wanted Him to come swoop me out of the situation I was in and make me some awesome person.  But He remained silent.  Everyone said that God worked in people’s lives, but I had rarely seen it happen in mine.  Romans 8 claimed that He works all things together for good, but all I had seen in my life was sadness.  Sure there had been good times in those seventeen years, but for the most part, I ended each day with a little bit of sorrow in my heart.  Why, oh, why wouldn’t God just change my situation?

One Sunday, Mrs. Guthrie shared her stories from her trip to Uganda that she took over the summer.  It was interesting to see what she got to experience.  However, only one thing she stated really caught my attention: the experience changed her life.  Immediately after church, I came up to her and asked her how I could come on the trip that was going the next summer.  I figured that this was my last chance to change.  A trip to a third world country could be just what I needed.  It hurts me to say that I went on that missions trip just for selfish reasons, but that’s exactly why I signed up.  I wanted so badly to change that I was willing to fly halfway around the world to do it.

And so, I did.  On June 19, 2010, I got on a plane with the team and flew to Uganda.  My first night there, all I could think about was the fact that the next few days could change me.  I could finally be a different person.  This was God’s big chance to fix me.

Then I went to Smile Africa.  All those kids.  Oh, my.  That was an overwhelming sight to see.  If I had hours and hours to write, I would write all about them.  It was shocking for me to see the conditions in which they lived.  But me, being the sinful person that I am, could only pray that God would use these sights to change me.  There were kids wearing only rags, playing with mud, and eating only rice for lunch while I was praying that God would fix my life.  I have everything and they had virtually nothing, and I was praying that God would help me?

Day after day, I went to Smile Africa.  Day after day, I would end the day with yet another prayer that God would change my situation, but I didn’t see a change.  I was still me.  On Saturday, I was still me.  We went to the youth rally, I witnessed thirty kids giving their hearts to God, but I was still praying for Him to change me and not rejoicing in what He was doing right in front of me.

On Sunday morning, I was still me.  As I climbed into the van to head to church, I still was consumed with selfishness.  As the van stopped in front of the small two-roomed building, I was still praying for a change.  I greeted all the people as they took us into the small room and sat us down at the head of the congregation.  I sat down in the little plastic chair that they were so grateful to have and looked out over the sea of faces.  Every single one of them had a big smile.  Every single one.  They had nothing, absolutely nothing compared to those in America, and yet they were smiling?  That didn’t make any sense.  I had read Job and how he praised God in adversity.  I had tried doing that myself, but it never really worked out when I was truly in pain.  I would claim it did, but truly, deep down, I was angry with God every time He threw a trial my way.  These people sitting in front of me were obviously in the midst of trials, and yet they were all still smiling.  They weren’t forced smiles either, for they didn’t leave the entire time I was there.  They were all genuinely filled with joy.  How in the world could that be?  They didn’t seem to have anything to be happy about.

As they started singing praise songs, I began to get even more confused.  They were jumping all around, lifting their hands in worship to a God who hadn’t seemed to provide them with anything.  How could they love someone who seemed to have abandoned them in their time of need?  I certainly didn’t feel like dancing, and I had so many things: a house, a family, clothes, a good school, a good church, and the list goes on and on.  What in the world was I missing?

Then it hit me.  Not like a storm, but more like a whisper.  A faint idea popped into my head that began to build as the music did.  It wasn’t God’s responsibility to fix me, He had already made me just right.  It was I that needed to change myself.  I needed to get rid of the wall that I had created between me and my Creator.  Over the course of seventeen years, I had constructed the largest wall known to man full of my anger, distrust, worldliness, selfishness, and downright sinfulness.  I had blamed all of it on God and not myself.  I was destroying people’s lives because I was filled with sin.  Of course, my life was miserable because I was separated from God.  I was not in communion with Him.  I yelled at Him, but never let Him answer.  Instead, I just made up what He would probably say, and go off that.  I was an empty, blind, fool who had a God shaped whole in her heart.

In that moment in that church, I literally threw up my hands and begged God to forgive me of who I was.  I told Him that I knew I deserved nothing He could possibly give me, but I cried that He would let me in.  I told Him that the heart within me was His know and only His.  I would give Him everything if only He would forgive me and tare down the wall that I had built but couldn’t destroy.  And you know what He did?  He, the master of the universe, the Creator of all things, the Lord of lords, and the King of kings, made the wall disappear into thin air, wrapped His arms tightly around me, and forgave me of everything that I had ever done wrong.  His Spirit filled my broken heart.  My chains were gone, and I had been set free.

After that moment, I didn’t quite know what to do.  I was filled with this overwhelming joy.  I was reborn.  I was no longer who I used to be.  He had saved me! Me the sinner.  Me the one who had used His name in vain all these years by masquerading as a Christian.  Me who had no right to be in communion with Him.  Oh, how can I describe the joy that I felt?  I felt that I might burst.  I had no hint of sorrow in my heart that night, and the next morning, all I could do was try to find ways to glorify Him more and more.  It was exhilarating.  After being asleep and blinded my whole life, this new life was overwhelming.  I had truly become a new creation in Him.

With my last few days in Uganda, I tried hard to change other people’s lives with sharing the gift He had given me that Sunday, but I was still too nervous to really break out of my shell.  I was a new Christian, and I didn’t quite know how to go about sharing my faith.  When I stepped on the plane to go back to America, I was filled with this sorrow (not like the sorrow I had before) that I had wasted my trip.  I felt that instead of me ministering to people as was the original point of the trip, I was the one being ministered to.  I asked God why I hadn’t figured out my problem sooner so that I could have worked in more people’s lives there, but then I realized that He had His plan and that it is perfect.

I’m still a little shaky as to how to go about sharing my faith with people.  It’s not that I don’t want to; I just don’t quite know how to do it.  I guess I’m afraid that the people won’t listen or receive it well, but I shouldn’t be afraid in anything.  God is there for me, and He can make sure a heart is ready when it needs to be.  So I guess my closing prayer is, “Lord, help me to share your word with the world.  Use me to spread the good news to everyone I meet both through my words and through my actions, and let everything I say and do ultimately bring honor and glory to you.  I praise you forever for what you have done for me, and never let me forget your mercy and grace.  I love you more than words can express.  Amen.”

____________
Note:  Emily returned to Uganda in July, 2011, as a Victor, freely sharing her faith and rejoicing in the God of her salvation.  She was baptized in Tororo as an outward sign of the cleansing she received when she surrendered her life to the Lord.

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