Sunday, November 18, 2012

Life on a Rutted Dirt Road
Final Installment

And so, the question now looms….what did I learn about God, about myself, about people, about life…from my experiences on the rutted dirt road?

It has taken me virtually all of my life to come to a place of forgiveness toward my molester. Though I had accepted Christ at 11, I was raised in a very legalistic religious environment.

I was a very young Christian when I was raped. I was angry with God on so many fronts.  The anger with God grew until I simply ignored it and pushed it deeper and deeper within me.

I began to confront my negative emotions when my husband became permanently disabled.  I started a very slow process of dragging it all back to the surface and trying to repair some of the ruts.

I started to try to find God in all that was going on.  As I did so, I found something I had not bargained for…God is not interested in my comfort; He is interested in my growth as I draw closer to Him. 

I had no time or energy for church. I spent 24 hours a day, seven days a week doing nothing but taking care of my husband.  We were judged harshly by our former church, which made it even easier to pull away.

As I pulled away from the church, I decided I didn’t care what they thought about me.  The moment I came to that conclusion, one very deeply embedded rut began to collapse on itself and I found a degree of peace and comfort in knowing that the repairs had begun.

During that time of pulling away, I began to realize that God was with me.  In ways I had never imagined, God was there.  He had not left me, walked away from me or turned His face from me.  I noticed that I was beginning to feel the joy of the Lord, not glee or giggly, not happy, but joyful. 

You see, I realized that happiness and the joy of the Lord are two very different emotions.  Happiness is a surface, fleeting emotion; it is an emotion you choose and accompanies good times in your life.  The joy of the Lord is an awareness of peace settled deep within in the time of great happiness OR great sorrow. 

The joy of the Lord isn’t something you choose, it is a gift instilled within your heart when you accept Christ.  It is always there in spite of your circumstances.  It may become deeply hidden as experiences are confronted during a lifetime.  As hidden as it may be, it remains in the depths of your heart; it does not leave you, you walk away from the joy.

I also came to understand that, when Jesus told His disciples that they should love their neighbor as themselves, He wasn’t talking about ONLY the good neighbors, He included ALL neighbors. 

Every human being walking the face of this earth is worthy of my love and forgiveness because Jesus commanded me to give those gifts to them.  No other requirement must be met; He loved them, I am also to love them. Love and forgiveness are not choices; they are commands from the Lord.

I’ve often heard different people say “but for the grace of God, there go I”.  I started to get a glimpse of just how much I needed God’s grace; how much the human race needs God’s grace.  The man who raped me repeatedly that night did not deserve love or forgiveness, but I have no choice but to give those gifts to him if I expect to be of real use to the Lord in Kingdom work.  I didn’t/don’t deserve God’s love and forgiveness; He freely gave both to me.

You may be reading this and thinking “wow, this chic is S-L-O-W; I’ve known that all my life”!  Yes, I had known it all my life too, in my head.  Knowing God from your heart is a totally different kind of ‘knowing’.  You know ABOUT God in your head.  That knowledge is useless to you unless you come to know Him in your heart. 

I am also aware that many Christians would question my salvation because I did not learn those lessons during my development as a young Christian.  I held those attitudes against so many people for so many years.  I came to realize I must forgive those people too.  I didn’t WANT to forgive them, but Jesus commanded me to do so.

As I opened my heart to loving and forgiving others, I found it easier to forgive myself.  I remembered that Christ had instructed His disciples to love their neighbors as they loved themselves.  How can I ever love and forgive my fellow man rightly if I have not learned how to love and forgive myself? 

So, I started to work on that and let me tell you, it was the most difficult of any of the lessons I learned.  I would never approve of having feelings against someone else that I held against myself.  Our first and most important journey with God should be learning to see ourselves as He sees us; to love ourselves as He loves us.  Not the type of vain self-absorption the world attempts to convince us of; but real love and appreciation for the individual God created.

Once we see ourselves the way God sees us, we can love ourselves the way He loves us.  Once we love ourselves the way God loves us, we can love others as we love ourselves.  Any other attempt at love will fail because true love begins in God.

You must love him
with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.’
The second most important commandment
says: ‘Love others as much
as you love yourself.’
No other commandment
is more important than these.”

 Mark 12:30-31   (CEV)

Stop being angry and
don’t try to take revenge.
I am the Lord, and I command you
to love others as much as you love yourself.

Leviticus 19:18 (CEV)

1 comment:

Jada's Gigi said...

What a beautiful work God has done in your life! You are so right in saying that God is not interested in our comfort...He is working...always see His Son formed in us...and a lifelong work it is too. His purposes are His own...we are but a piece of His great plan and He is working ALL things for our good and His Glory all of our lives...til we are made complete in Him. His handiwork is so evident in your life!