Psalm 139:23

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way of the everlasting."

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

True Faith is a Never Ending Journey

True Faith is a Never Ending Journey
After being in the Church for almost twenty years I have finally learned that being faithful is a lifelong process! Faith is not based on one experience, but rather on several experiences throughout life. When we are young children we simply accept the faith of our parents. As we grow our faith must become our own. We either develop our own way of thinking or just walk away from faith completely. Nevertheless faith is a continuous journey in which we are growing and changing every day. All our experiences combine to give us an authentic relationship with God.
As a young child my faith was based on tradition. I knew nothing different then going to Church three times a week, reading the Bible, and praying every day. It was simply a part of life that had been passed down to me. For as long as I can remember my parents would read the Bible to me every night and say prayers with me before bed. They would always pray, “Dear God, thank you for one more day to spend together.” I still catch myself beginning my prayers with that statement. On the rare occasion that we would miss Church we would have Church as a family, and I always got to “preach.” I thought it was the coolest thing in the world to be sharing with my family my own thoughts on the Bible. Now looking back we joke about how God was making it clear years ago that He had marked me for ministry.
Even when we are young children our faith is often tested. For my brother and I that time came when our Daddy became very ill. My Daddy was in the hospital for nearly two months. On several occasions we were told that he would probably die. It seemed like every day he was getting worse instead of better. We went to stay with my grandparents while he was sick. My grandparents have always been my faith giants and they were exactly who we needed to be with during this difficult time. My Grammy had an amazing way of conveying God to us through every conversation we had. During this time she continually reminded us that God was big enough to make sick people well. Because of the storm surrounding our lives my faith became based on emotion. Many nights my brother and I couldn’t sleep and would spend the whole night praying that God would make our Daddy well again. Although he did get worse, he had a seizure because of an allergic reaction to the medicine he was given; eventually he was completely back to normal. Other then the scars on his stomach no one would know that he had ever been through such an experience. I was only ten years old at the time and my brother was seven. We were incredibly blessed to see God’s amazing power at such young ages.
Although I always loved the Lord, I honestly had been given a pretty easy faith walk, because I had such an amazing family to encourage my spiritual growth. Shortly after my sixteenth birthday, I came to the realization that I could no longer live through my family’s faith, but my faith would have to become my own. On February 9, 2007 our family was informed that my Grammy had brain cancer that was both inoperable and incurable. Not only was she going to die, she was going to die very quickly. My heart was breaking to the point of unbearable belief! Instead of being strong I curled up in my Grammy’s bed and let her hold me while I cried for what seemed like hours. When I finished crying she made me promise her something, she said, “Kk promise me win or lose you will get up and you will praise Him!” I wiped the tears from my eyes and promised her I would praise God no matter what happened.
            During the next two months my faith became all about intuition. I was desperate for an answer, any speck of hope that God was going to work in a miraculous way on behalf of our family. I had read Mark nine and I constantly prayed that God would help me with my disbelief. I felt like He wasn’t doing anything to help us. He was letting my Grammy, a woman who had worked her entire life to spread His word, suffer. It made no sense that He wouldn’t intervene for someone who had faithfully served Him. There were many hard questions that I continually asked the Lord. After her death I finally came to the realization that He was big enough to handle my hurts. He already knew my heart; it was no secret to him that I was disappointed in His plan for my Grammy. Hiding my pain from the only one who could heal my heart would have been absolutely foolish! Although I still miss her terribly, I have been able to thank Him that he allowed me to experience the death of a loved one. I worked at an inner city church this summer, and I was able to have a conversation with a young man who had recently lost his grandma to similar circumstances. It was a huge blessing to both the young man, and myself to be able to discuss what Christians do when we experience such heartaches.
Even after all of those experiences, my faith was still lacking something. I had yet to realize what God had done for me on a personal level. I began working at Contact Church of Christ in May of 2009. Working at Contact Church completely changed my faith in ways I never thought possible. When you are working every day to help others grow in their walk, you become more and more aware of what your own shortcomings. I was forced to deal with how disgusting my own sin is. The more I tried to teach the kids about the Lord the more I learned about having an authentic relationship with my Lord. For the first time I realized that I was the one that put Jesus on the cross. I killed him so that I could live my life as I pleased, consequently making life harder on myself. Once my heart was truly broken over my sin I was able to make changes in my life so that I could walk closer with my Lord. I was truly experiencing the most authentic reality of who my Lord is and what He desired from my life during this time.
As always, after going through a time of being on top of the mountain, one must return to the valley. Six years ago I began babysitting for Brian and Donna Alt. They had moved in across the street from my parent’s house. Looking back I never could’ve imagined where life would take us. When we met they had two children, Logan (4 years old), Lauren (2 years old), and Donna was pregnant with their third child, Landon. Brian and Donna quickly made me a part of their family. Throughout my high school years I spent at least two nights a week with their family. During these six years we were blessed with three more children, identical twin girls, Lexis and Lindsey, and the baby of the six, Leland. Our family was finally complete!
On October 8, 2009 Brian called to tell me that Lexi was bleeding internally and would be flown to Oklahoma City’s Children’s Hospital. When Lexi was a year old we were told that she had a liver disease. Although the problem never got better it hadn’t gotten worse and she remained relatively healthy for the past two years. In October we were informed that Lexi was now in full liver failure and would need to be placed on a transplant list. I cannot begin to explain the whirlwind of emotions our whole family experienced while we watched Lexi fight for her life! Over the next several months she would endure countless surgeries, hospital stays, and a liver transplant. On February 17, 2010 I celebrated my eighth year as a baptized believer. Growing up I had been taught that the decision to commit my life to the Lord through baptism was the biggest decision I would ever make. Eight years later I was reminded of how important my relationship with my Lord truly is. I was praising Him like I never had before because just six days prior Lexi had received a liver transplant! I believed with everything in me that He was working out a miracle for our family and that someday Lexi would share her story of His miraculous power. While she was in the hospital she told all her nurses that God put a new liver in her belly. Little did I know that twenty-four hours later I would question everything about my faith? On February 18, 2010 Lexi went to her heavenly home. For as long as I live I will never forget that phone call! Even today there are times when I go back to the hopelessness, the brokenness, the feelings of emptiness that came from so deep inside of me when I was told that my baby girl would no longer walk this earth with our family.
For months after Lexi’s death my faith became about reason. I questioned absolutely everything! If God was so good why did He let Lexi suffer? Why does He let our family experience such terrible pain on an every day basis? Why would He give us a liver just to take her away? What was the point? I fought with everything in me to discover a reason. I wanted an answer! Everyone kept telling me that her death was the best answer to her problem, but I wanted to know why. To be completely honest, I still want to understand why. Sometimes I feel like if God would just tell us somehow the pain would be less, but deep down I know I’m just fooling myself. No matter what His answer was I would still continue to miss her every day until I’m able to see her again. Reasoning doesn’t fix anything in our faith, because God’s reasoning is beyond our understanding. Because He is immortal and we are not, we cannot even begin to tap into His thought process. Instead I must accept that He is God. He is in complete control. He is behind and before and nothing happens without His hand. There are times in life when He intervenes and there are times in life when He does not, but all the time He is at work.
After our family experienced such tragic loss I struggled with whether I should continue working at Contact again this summer. I felt so inadequate because of the way my faith had been shaken! Praying about it constantly, I finally came to the decision that I would continue to work at Contact. My Grammy had told me a long time ago, “In hard times you don’t get to quit ministry. It is in the midst of hard times that you push ministry into overdrive,” and this is exactly what I planned to do. Somehow, some way, I was going to continue to teach children about the Lord. I couldn’t have been more blessed through spending another summer at Contact! Working with the kids truly put a fire back in my soul. Watching the kids grow in their walk with the Lord is one of the greatest joys I have ever experienced! They have taught me so much more over the past year then I could ever possibly teach them. I thank God daily that He has placed me in the ministry at Contact and is willing to use someone that is a complete mess to convey His word.
Often growing up in the Church we tend to believe that being faithful means that we always trust the Lord no matter what storm may be encompassing our lives. We go to Church, we sing the right songs, we say the right things, we pray the right prayers, but do we ever really tap into what God truly desires from us? Having a relationship with God is much messier and individualized then the Church tends to teach us. Anytime I question God or His motives I deem myself as being unfaithful or unbelieving. I have a difficult time realizing that God can accept all of my doubts and questions. I would even venture to say He encourages us to bring our questions to Him so that He can grow us and change us to look more like Him. I do not think faith is simply based on reason, emotion, intuition, or tradition, although it is a combination of the four, true faith is so much simpler. True faith is a daily decision to want to know Him more. Some days we are stronger then others, but every day we have the opportunity for a relationship with the Creator of the universe. Today I can look at my faith journey and see God’s fingerprints at every part. He has never and will never leave my side! I look forward to my continued relationship with Him while I walk this earth and I also look forward to the day when I will meet Him face to face! Until then I pray that He will use me to bring others into a relationship with Him. My only goal is to get to heaven and take as many as I can with me.

1 comment:

  1. Faith Giant! keep it close and you'll be alright. love ya