Saturday, June 30, 2007

Kathy's Grace Story

The following was sent to me by "Kathy J," who is someone I've recently come into contact with, and we've been able to share in mutual encouragement and edification. She's really been a great encourager for me in my blog writings. Earlier this year I mentioned that I was interested in hearing true stories of grace and then I put in another plug for that a few weeks ago. Below is Kathy's grace story. Kathy shares with me that as she was writing this, it kept changing and expanding. I can fully relate! Although I fully enjoy writing, I find myself doing a lot of editing and shortening. It can be quite a challenge to be succinct. But I think Kathy did a great job in hitting the "high notes" in her story.
My childhood was one of insecurity, fear and loneliness. Not only were my parents not Christian, they were desperately wounded people without the spiritual, emotional or mental resources to build a home that could be a place of refuge for their daughters. Rather, it became a place to fear and to flee. I can see now, how even at an early age I was looking for a place of belonging. "Hiding' the pain of my home life, even from myself, caused me to seek an identity and place of belonging where I could live in love and acceptance. I tried to 'be' whatever the person or group I was with wanted me to be. Even when people seemed to accept me, I inwardly felt that if they 'really knew me', they would reject me. All the striving for belonging led me to a life of drugs, drinking, and promiscuity in my teen years. Sinful choices I made eventually resulted in immense guilt and depression, and dark suicidal thoughts. God used my fear of Divine punishment and eternal damnation to produce a seeking after Him. I was reading everything from Shirley McLain to the Bible. And I was confused.

One morning, as I drove to work, I prayed--"God, there are so many religions out there, if you will just show me the truth, I promise I will follow it." Two nights later, I met Dave, the man who would become my husband. He had become a Christian about a year earlier. As we dated, he took me to a 'gospel-preaching' church. I heard the message of salvation by 'grace alone through faith alone'. I was overjoyed!! I spoke privately with the Pastor's wife, and she told me that the gift of forgiveness and eternal life were free. Christ had purchased them for me on the cross. I accepted that gift that evening, and I was thrilled to be free of the guilt and shame I had carried for so long. Sadly, what started as a call to "lay down your good works, lay down your religion and come to Christ" soon turned into a call to "pick up your good works, pick up your religion, and get busy working for Christ". 'Expectations' were put on me, with the subtle, and sometimes not-so-subtle message that God's view of me depended on how perfectly I met those expectations. I clearly remember the day I sat alone in my bedroom, crying, and thinking to myself, "They lied to me. They said God's acceptance was free. But it isn't." Again, even when I 'earned' the approval of others, I knew that if they 'really knew me', I would face their disapproval. I got very busy working to keep God (and people) happy. And for a time, I felt like I was doing pretty good. But there were areas of my life I just could not consistently 'pull together'. My walk with God felt like a weight I was carrying around. And God began to whisper that this was not His burden I was carrying.

God used books by Steve McVey and Bob George to whet our appetites for the life of grace. As we began to question our pastor on what it really meant to live "in Christ", we became increasingly 'marked' as trouble-makers and 'grace freaks'. The short story is that we left that church. That was the beginning of the best, yet hardest time of my life. God in His wisdom, put us through several 'trials' at once. We had our sixth child, we endured extreme financial struggles, my 'friends' from the church we left abandoned us, I was overwhelmed with homeschooling, and a sense of failure to live up to the 'expectations' God had of me. I fell apart. I cried all the time, even waking my husband in the middle of the night to just hold me while I wept. I say that this was a good time in my life, because though it was so painful, God also used it to strip me of my 'performance-based' securities. Books like Neil Anderson's "Victory Over the Darkness" and David Needham's "Alive for the First Time" were foundational to establishing an identity that was rooted in Christ, not my performance. I reconnected with a good friend who had moved away, and had since become aware of the truths of the exchanged life. I was blessed to have a fellow pilgrim walk the path to freedom with me, helping me avoid the 'landmines' of legalism along the way.

What once felt like obstacles to my spiritual growth--a broken past, weakness, failure, criticism, and the rejection of men-- have turned out to be catalysts to freedom. To live in the strength, performance, approval and acceptance of Christ alone is the abundant life God promised. He does indeed "really know me". And He loves me. Better yet, He likes me. And His acceptance cannot change, because it is not rooted in me, but in Him. I praise Him for His merciful work in continually showing Himself to me in manifold ways and through seemingly hopeless circumstances.

1 comment:

  1. Incredible story!. Beautiful style of writing. I was tempted to read it again. I think I will. The best part of it was that I can relate many things in my own life - getting saved, performing and burning out, get hold of the grace message, leaving church, friends leaving us, going through tough life while enjoying the surpassing love and peace of God. And now, look back and say 'THANK YOU LORD' for EVERYTHING!