Sunday, January 07, 2007

15 Years - A Testimony

I wasn't "born again" on this day, January 7, 1992, but my life drastically changed.

Today has been one of reflection for me, one of happy tears and thankfulness. To back up a little, I was a just three months away from the age of 23, but I believe I had been saved long before this day. Looking back, as long as I can remember I have always believed. But since my actions didn't always line up with how I thought they had to be, I didn't really think of myself as "saved." I sort of remember asking Jesus to come into my life at various points in my teenage years and into those early 20's. "Someday," I would sometimes think to myself, "I'll begin living a Christian life."

But I just couldn't seem to make it happen. Smoking, partying, fornication, drinking, swearing, etc... those were just some of the things on my list that I thought I had to stop doing before I could truly come to Jesus. I mean, it really was a state of mind in which I thought I had to stop all these things. I think I believed that a person was saved by grace, but yet I still carried around those thoughts that I had to change first. I remember having 'thief on the cross' thoughts like, "I hope that if I'm driving my car and I get in a wreck, I have enough time to call out to Jesus to forgive my sins and save my soul in the instant before I die." :)

I would also have these hopeful times when I thought, "Yes! This is it... I'm finally going to live the Christian life." I would go a few hours without a cigarette. Or I would go a few hours, or even days, with feelings inside that made me think I had really changed. But then I'd go back to the same old lifestyle, with no real change. It was very discouraging at times. It was kind of frustrating that I thought I had to change, and sometimes thought I could change, but then when it came down to it, I didn't change.

There are so many details in all of this, but the short of it was that deep inside, I wanted to "live the Christian life," but it was just too far of a goal to reach for. In a sense, I thought that the only way it would ever happen would be if that great light came from the sky, and an array of angels appeared, and all that jazz, and God would just change my life in an instant! But I knew that fantasy was just a fantasy, and I thought I still needed to change. How I wish I'd known back then that it wasn't up to me to change, but that I was God's workmanship! I simply believed, and it was His work in me that meant anything and everything.

Well, I had this friend, Rob, who was a Christian. Every once in a while, perhaps every 6 months or so, during a period of a couple of years, I'd see him. He either stopped by the gas station where I worked, or I'd see him downtown somewhere. He had such a peace about him. We'd go walking downtown at night, and he'd point out the beautiful night sky with all the stars, etc. We'd go back to his humble little house, which was really an old garage that had been converted into a house. I just sensed a peace there, a peace that I knew I wanted. I would leave Rob's house and have great hopes and expectations that this peace, this relationship with God, would be in my life.

But after a day or two, or even an hour or two, that feeling was gone and I was back to my old self. Until... this day, January 7th, 1992.

I lived in Waverly, Iowa at the time. That day, I had driven to a larger town about 15-20 miles away, Cedar Falls, for one reason or another, and I was on my way back to Waverly. I drove by the place where Rob worked in Cedar Falls, a small lawn mower sales & repair shop that was on the highway to Waverly. It had been a while since I'd seen Rob, and I thought to myself, "I should go see Rob sometime soon." Today wasn't going to be the day, though, or at least that's what I thought. I just wanted to get back to Waverly. So... I kept on driving, past the shop. But about a quarter or a half mile down the road, something happened. I really can't explain it. It just seemed like something was happening that was beyond my "will," but yet it was ok. I found myself turning the car around at the next intersection - it was as if it wasn't really me turning the steering wheel - and going back to the shop.

I walked into the store, and back to the repair shop. When Rob saw me, he asked me what I was doing there. I know that I wasn't really sure what I was doing there, but I said something like, "I think I'm looking for Jesus." He joked about it, making certain that I knew he was not Jesus. :) But he knew, of course, that something was going on. Long story short, he invited me to his church the next night (a Wednesday). I left the shop thinking, hoping, that perhaps this was it. Perhaps this was the start of my Christian walk. But since I'd had so many other letdowns in the past, I just wasn't sure.

Today, January 7, 2007, I can look back and tell you for certain that my life truly did change that day, 15 years ago. There's so much to tell! I'll just say that even though I know I had truly been born again when I was much younger, I had a completely renewed "feeling" inside, and I knew that the Lord was doing a work in me like I'd never sensed before. My head literally felt lighter. It's like I sensed this invisible "halo" around my head. :) My vision, my outlook, my mind, was changed forever. I did spend quite a bit of my first 2 or 3 years as quite the legalist (oh the stories I could tell, and I'm sure others could tell about me!), but a faith was being built up inside of me - the Lord's doing - that was one of trusting in Him, not myself.

Today, and yesterday as well, as I was out on the road and as I was anticipating this day, I have had such a feeling of gratitude. As I said, I've been shedding tears of happiness as I've looked back on these past 15 years. And what is it that I'm happy about? What is it that I'm joyful about? What is it that I'm thankful about? It's that "He who began a good work in me is being faithful to complete it..." (Phil 1:6). I had spent so many years thinking that I must begin some good work, and not only that, but that I must sustain it. As I look back on the past 15 years, I see that I have absolutely nothing to boast about. Although the Lord has done much in and through me, a vessel, I can tell you that I have no sense of having accomplished anything for Him. He started the work, I'm His workmanship, and He's continuing the work! It can never and will never be about what I can accomplish for Him. He's made that ever so clear to me, and it's something I can rest in.

I think Philippians 1:6 has been somewhat of a cornerstone verse in my life during these 15 years. Another verse that truly helped me to trust in Him and not in myself, right from the start, was 1 Peter 5:7 "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." See, right up until that day - that very day, January 7th, 1992 - I had been struggling with anxiety, and panic attacks for several years. I had seen a psychiatrist, and was seeing a counselor to help me wade through all the reasons why I was living with anxiety. My very best friend for 2 or 3 years had been Xanax - a prescription drug to help calm anxiety. I could do nothing without my Xanax. If I drove more than 5 miles from home, I needed to pop a Xanax, or else I'd have a panic attack. I could do all things through Xanax, which calmed my nerves.

Well, during those first few days, after January 7, 1992, I had begun reading from a prayer book that I'd been given when I was a teen. There was a certain "anxiety" prayer in there, and that verse, 1 Peter 5:7, along with it. So I prayed the prayer, and took the verse to heart. Again, none of this was my doing. I look back and see it was the work of the Lord all along. Well, I ended up driving out of town. I can't remember the reason for going out of town, but I do remember bringing along my Xanax, as usual. But this time I pictured myself "casting" all my anxiety on the Lord, because He cares for me. Instead of popping the pill - and I really can't explain this - I just trusted that He was in control. And I made the whole trip out of town and back, with no need for Xanax.

Two weeks later... I was digging around in my mess of a bedroom, and I saw the bottle of pills. Since that day two weeks earlier, I hadn't even thought of the Xanax, never mind feeling the need for one!

This was the work of the Lord, my friends! It's ALL the work of the Lord. Take no credit for yourself. Stop trying to live the life. You know you can't do it! And you know that He truly can!

1 comment:

  1. What a great testimony! 15 years! WOW!
    I envy you my brother:). Isn’t our God awesome? Your 15 years testimony gives me much encouragement that there are people walking the grace walk many years, not quitting just after 1 or 2 years. After all what is there to quit? It is Jesus who lives through us. I think once we taste His love, we are "spoiled" :)
    I am walking this grace walk less than a year now though I was born again much before that.
    And all I can tell you that within the past couple of months Lord has been teaching me amazingly! I CANNOT live without Him!
    Thank you for sharing your testimony.