Thursday, August 16, 2012

Explaining HOW I've been changed

I have been following the Christian faith since August 2000.  My 12 year anniversary is next week, so I wanted to share exactly HOW God has changed me over the years and HOW my life is better because I am committed to learning HOW God wants me to live.   I find reading the bible a great source of inspiration and encouragement, not to mention the people I have relationships with who are striving to live with the same mantra... He is greater; I am less. 

I came to faith in 2000 after going to a bible study for people in their twenties.  Jay was already attending church after coming to faith months earlier.  I only went with him to meet people since I just moved to the USA from Canada.  I believed in a Creator but that's about it.  I didn't care for the concept of Jesus and hated words like sin and righteousness.  I pretty much despised organized religion.  Little did I know I’d come to understand WHY Jesus.  (I won't explain here why it was so important that Jesus die as a sacrifice and why God couldn’t accept us 'as is' but here is an amazing link that explains it. Of course feel free to email me too!)

When you know Jesus and choose to live for God, you can’t help but be changed. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Gal 5:22-23.  Basically that's saying that when you have the Holy Spirit in your life, these character traits should be evident in your life - or at least a work in progress.  I’m going to use the fruit of the spirit as a guide to tell you about how I've changed from the person I was 12 years ago.

Because of Christ, and only because of HIS grace am I able to love my husband the way God has asked me to.  Both of us have parents who are divorced and walking away would have been an option during tough times if we 
didn't seek God’s wisdom for our marriage.  Before Christ I prided myself in being independent, self-reliant and strong.  Without Christ I would want to control everything and a power struggle would have inevitably led to divorce.  Our focus is on God... not ourselves and that is why we've been married 13 years this year.  We try to love one another the way Christ wants us to.  There is a depth of trust that He makes possible to give.  And we both learn about it by seeking wisdom found in scripture.
I am joyful because I know there is a heavenly Father who loves me and is there for me no matter what!  It’s possible to remain joyful even through hard times because as Romans 5:3-4 says:  “We rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.”  I have persevered through a childhood with divorced parents, 27 moves in my 35 years of life, depression, suicidal thoughts, my husband’s deployment and regular time apart, 2 miscarriages, feelings of lonliness living far from my family now among other deeper and very personal things... and I know that I have persevered making me the Mary I am today who is full of hope because of my eternal perspective.  I may not always be happy wappy but I am joyful - filled with joy.

I will never forget the IMMEDIATE sense of peace I felt the night I asked Jesus into my life.  Even though I didn’t understand it all, I understood that I needed to believe that Jesus died for me, so I could have a relationship with the heavenly Father.  I soooo desired that.  And that peace has remained with me.  I have purpose for my life. I am not living alone.  And, I am no longer living for myself.  

The next fruit of spirit is patience and well....  I’m a mother of a 7, 5 & 2 year old!  It’s a constant battle for me to not burst into anger and I fail regularly.  There is a history of abuse in my family and with God’s help, I have stopped the cycle. This ties well into gentleness.  Being an example for my kids is good motivation for me to actively work on being patient and gentle.  I’m raising them to hopefully serve our Heavenly Father.  I know I’d be a fire cracker beating my kids if I didn’t have the Holy Spirit convicting me.  

Yeas ago, I was struck by a photo of Jesus washing Peter’s feet.  John 13:14 says “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you should also wash one another’s feet.”  Our Savior and King gave us quite an example.  It’s not by my own nature to be kind.  It’s much easier to be selfish.  I think I have missed opportunities more than not.  But having that print which I purchased, in my living room is a constant reminder to find opportunity to humble myself and serve, even just with my own little family.  If I hear that gentle whisper in my ear, I try to act on it because I know that is the Holy Spirit and if you ignore it, you eventually stop hearing it.  I’d like to think that I am kinder now than I was before and again that is because of the nudging by the Holy Spirit; definitely not my own doing.

Goodness & Self-Control can be clumped together when thinking of a big issue in my life.  One of the things that people always say about me is that I speak my mind...  Yes that is true but I try not blurting out anything without considering my audience.  Once upon a time I didn’t care what people thought.  I was really vulgar and I liked to shock people.  In junior high school, I asked some pretty direct questions during sex ed class.  That reputation continued on thru high school.  Today I am still bold compared to most but after reading many passages about holding my tongue, this is something I feel greatly convicted about and try to do.  If we are to love people the way Jesus loved people, we can’t just blurt out what we are really thinking; we might hurt them.  Nor should we say things that make people uncomfortable.  But I have to warn you, if you ask me if I like your new haircut, I will not lie.  As far as the vulgarity goes, this was something that the Lord slowly chiseled out of my life.  It can still sneak up on me which is why I must surround myself with healthy people and people I admire and want to be like.  This is where Christian women’s encouragement comes in and why bible studies are so important.  What goes in eventually comes out.

Sorry this is so long but I just wanted to be as real as I could to tell you how awesome our God is.  How powerful the Holy Spirit is, and how Jesus has transformed me.. vulgar, bold, quick-tempered, selfish me.  And that is why I have faithfulness, the last of the fruit to share.  I know without a doubt that the Lord has changed me and continues to work in my life.  And for that my faith is firm.


Patty said...

Thanks for sharing your story. I love knowing what came before the person I know now. I would have never guessed some of the things you mentioned or that you had ever really been anything other than cheerful, energetic, Mary! Keep pressing on--you are an encouragement to me!

Sunflowerakb's Yellow House said...

I remember meeting you at the beginning of your journey to Jesus. It has been amazing to watch how he has grown and changed you over the years. You are a beautiful woman of God.

Heather said...

Great post, Mary, thank you!