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Affected

I’m about to get brutally candid here. Ready? I’m not sure that I am, but here it goes, for whatever it’s worth.

I was saved when I was six years old. That means that I acknowledged my sin to God, received His forgiveness and free gift of salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ, and made Him the boss of my life. I became a Christian. Immediately, I could tell a difference in my heart. I didn’t have words at the time for what God was doing. All I knew was that no matter what happened to me here on earth, I was safe for eternity because of His love for me.

God’s love drew me. It fascinated me. It brought me peace, joy, encouragement, and bright moments of thrill that I craved. I found that when I read my Bible and prayed, I felt closer to God. In fact, sometimes He seemed so near that I thought I could catch a glimpse of Him if I turned my head fast enough. I never did it because I had heard what happened to Moses when He saw God, and I didn’t want a shiny face. Fitting in was hard enough without one.

I wish I could tell you that this pattern of seeking and finding God continued without interruption throughout my high school years, but I can’t. After years of struggling to fit in socially in elementary school and junior high, I discovered the secret to acceptance with my peers. Compromise. Relying heavily on my looks (which had improved somewhat since junior high), intelligence, and creativity, I worked hard to fit in, and my efforts were rewarded. Approval was offered. All I had to do was give away that which rightfully belonged to my Heavenly Father, my time, my affection, my thoughts, my allegiance, etc. I could continue, but…well, I just won’t.

With each transaction, my heart bled a little, scabbed over, and became hard underneath. I stopped reading my Bible because it hurt too much. My prayers became stunted. I pretended to enjoy myself because everyone around me seemed content. When surrounded by people who were making the same choices I was making, I played the part of happy human well, but when I was alone, I came undone. My battered heart ached. My soul keened. I was homesick—I was heartsick—for God!

In my head, I knew the Father hadn’t left me. I’d learned enough Scripture before my wandering to know that He was a God who kept His promises. I knew also that He had promised never to leave me or forsake me, but I had lost the closeness with Him that I’d once felt, the peace, the joy, the thrill of spiritual intimacy, and I was scared. I didn’t want to turn around for fear that I might find the Enemy there this time, gloating over my rebellion.

I’m relieved to tell you that the Holy Spirit won the battle in the end. Through a series of events that warrant their own blog posts, my heart, brittle from thirst and weakened by sin, finally shattered into a million pieces. Ever my hero, the Heavenly Father sifted through the rubble with gentle patience, burning up that which did not please Him and using what was left to make me whole again. Scars, silver and slight, remained, of course, beautiful reminders of God’s mercy and grace, but the hurt was gone. The guilt, the loneliness, the self-hatred, the bitterness, the rage, it was all gone, and in its place grew love, joy, peace, and gratitude.

Thrilled to find that Bible study and prayer no longer stung, I got back into the habit of spending time alone with God. For a long time, I snacked on verses like Jeremiah 29:11 and Philippians 4:13, the kind of feel-good verses that show up in greeting cards, ones that promise, but do not require when you take them out of context. The result? A milk-fed youth minister’s wife who spent every Sunday morning of her first six months on the field designing quilts on graph paper during the sermon instead of listening and setting an example for her students to follow.

Thank goodness those kids were hungry spiritually, or I might never have moved on to solid food. As it was, they pushed me. They asked questions. They memorized Scripture. They showed up every single week—some of them—with looks of expectation on their faces and waited for us to teach them something. In order to teach, I had to learn, and that’s when the crush that I had on my Bible matured into something else, a solid commitment to the study and clear communication of God’s Truth. I didn’t want to let them down. Finally, through the careful study and intentional application of God’s Word, my crawl became the walk that those of us in Christian circles talk about, and I became a true disciple of Jesus Christ

Why am I telling you all of this? Well, it’s not to make me look good. That’s for sure. If I know anything, it’s that I am a sinner, incapable of doing any good on my own. No, I’m telling you all of this because I want you to fall in love with your Bible like I did roughly twenty years ago so you can experience what I am experiencing now. I want more for you than a fragile, greeting card faith that creaks and groans when life gets heavy. I want you to stand on solid ground, suited up and ready for battle, confident in your identity as a child of God and resolute in your commitment to defend and build your Father’s Kingdom. I want you to experience freedom, joy, and the thrill of shared intimacy with God, but most of all, I want you to know peace, deep, abiding peace. I want to see you deeply affected by the Truth of God’s Word, shiny face and all!

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