Friends often fill the chambers of our hearts much like the Jews filled the Tabernacle. Those who don’t know much more than our names gather in our Outer Courts. A few others who show interest in our faith, family, work, and hobbies are granted access into our Holy Place. However, few times in our lives do we actually allow access into our heart’s Most Holy Place. There, emotions lay uncovered, our deepest desires are revealed, and all the good and bad of our lives are poured onto the altar of true friendship.
We all need a friend or two who will lovingly act as witnesses to the transformation happening our hearts, and then, in return, allow us to observe the intricate maneuvers of the Spirit’s power in theirs.
My husband Ron has been my greatest witness, but many times I’ve needed a like-minded female to speak hard truth plainly. My friend Kim has witnessed my life for many years now. She’s heard my snorting laughter and seen my ugly cry more than a few times. She’s not afraid to speak the truth in love. But most special to me, she allows me to see all of HER triumphs as well as her turmoil. Occasionally, we’ll have people tell us that friendships like ours are rare. While I enjoy this kind of rarity, it also makes me sad to see so few take the time to build something so valuable.
Kim couldn’t be at our small group last week when we shared our salvation stories, so she wrote hers out and asked me to read it to the group. It was so good, I thought I’d share it with you. (She even gave me permission.) May we all be as intentional in our relationships with God and one another.
There’s Always Room for More
Growing up I was very blessed to have parents who loved each other enough to stay together, live in one place, and go to the same school system all the way through school. (Not having to be a stranger in a new school year after year, as I would learn later in life, was a big deal. Some of my friends didn’t have that luxury.) In September of 1961, when I was just two months shy of age 3, I had an accident that almost took my life. I was run over by a car. For three days, it was touch and go.
Some 18 years later, I married my husband of 42 years. Since then, I have been blessed with 2 sons, 2 wonderful daughters-in-law and 6 precious GRANDS. God spared my life for reasons only He would know. He had a plan for my life, but I did not fully submit to His plan and His will for my life until about 12 1/2 years ago.
You see, even growing up in a “good” family, we WENT to church for a few short years of my early life, but that was about it. We never read the Bible together as a family or on our own for that matter. The only prayer that was prayed together or even known of was “the blessing” at mealtimes. Jesus was not really spoken of that I recall. But … we had a family Bible sitting on our coffee table that would get touched weekly as the dust was wiped away.
As I got into high school, some of my friends would talk about going to church, so my older brother and I got to where we’d meet them at church periodically to have something to do.
I got married a few years later in that same church I was attending. My husband and I didn’t go to church together until we had our first child. The birth of this precious child motivated me to have him in church. We went and were truly loved by so many and grew to genuinely love in return.
After about three years, I knew in my heart I wanted to be saved. So, in May 1985 I confessed Jesus as Lord and was baptized. Why did it take me three years? I had to wait until I had it all together (I thought) and could make it to church three times a week and do all the things that needed to be done. I was all in, or so I thought. What I realized after many years was that I was wearing myself out because I couldn’t “do” enough.
And then many years later, it happened … I met Jesus! Have you ever KNOWN of people, thinking you knew them, but you didn’t really KNOW them? Well, I knew of Jesus all those years, but I didn’t KNOW HIM.
Rewinding back to a dreaded weekend right in the middle of May 2009. I had been invited to a three-day spiritual retreat which I begrudgingly accepted. I was going to “have to” leave behind my family (and cell phone), be around people I didn’t know, let go of keeping up with the time, and give up a full weekend! Talk about fear, pride, and selfishness! I was full of myself! By the end of the weekend, I was totally taken back by the enormous love and generosity of the 130 people who graciously served me and 39 others who were in the same frame of mind (so I thought). Finding out later that these folks had been preparing for this three-day event almost every weekend for a full year was mind-boggling to my narrow-mindedness and egotistical thinking! How could this be? How could they give up such precious time to love and pour out their heart and soul to people they didn’t even know? These people loved Jesus and His love was gushing out of them! I had much to learn!
What was passionately demonstrated to me over that short span of time began the transformation of my life’s journey of coming to KNOW God and His unconditional love for me. Throughout the years of my mediocre Christian life, I only “knew of” God. I merely went through the motion of checking the boxes: going to church, reading my Bible (hmm?), taking food to the sick, and reluctantly playing the part of a Christian because I thought that’s what was expected. Why this shallow thinking? Because God was not the priority in my life. Ouch! When I got back home, I began to get into the Word, hungry to get to know this Jesus! Being shown this kind of love like I’d never appreciated before, I realized there was a huge void in my life that needed to be filled. Getting to know Jesus on a deep, personal level became my highest priority.
Knowing that the secret to developing deep relationships is quality time together, focused attention, and building trust, I was on a mission! I began to jump out of bed early in the morning with great anticipation of getting into the Word, studying the life of Jesus, and talking with Him! Because God had gotten the leftovers during my half-hearted attempts earlier in my life, there was much catching up to do!
During this time, the Spirit gently led me to recognize that my striving to earn His love could never cause Him to love me more. And no matter my faults (and there continue to be many!), God would never love me any less. I didn’t have to be perfect before coming into His presence. I came to know that to fear God didn’t mean He was an angry judge trying to find a reason to disown me. I began to grasp the concept that to fear God was recognizing His attributes as being holy, almighty, righteous, pure, all-knowing, all-powerful, loving, and gracious while I was sinful, weak, frail, needy and selfish. I concluded life was not about me, and I couldn’t, nor do I want to, do life without Him!
Through this process of deepening this intimate (into-me-see) relationship, I have come to realize He already knows everything about me (good and not-so-good), and He still loves me!
This past September, I was reminded it has been 60 years since the accident almost took my life. But God said, “Not yet”. His plans continue to unfold in my life, and I am most thankful He has allowed me the high honor of being a wife, mother, Mimi, friend and child of God. The metamorphosis changed my “have to” to “want to”. And God has allowed a little girl’s heart to beat with a passionate desire so that others may come to know how much they are loved; all because Jesus lives through a life He spared many years ago and gave His life to make her holy before the Father.
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.”Romans 12:2, NLT