Salvation — When “IT” Becomes a Person

I’m joyfully expectant of spending eternity in heaven! My ongoing testimony is all about God and what He has accomplished and continues to do in my heart and life.

imgresSome people put a lot of emphasis on “spiritual birthdays.”  But not everyone can pinpoint the date, and repeating a particular prayer is not meant to be an eternal insurance policy.

I was saved by His grace when He led me to believe. I can’t take any credit for this; it is purely a gift from God. I know I’m a Christian, because today — right now — I trust Jesus as my only hope in this world and for eternity.

Glimpses of my story help illustrate when and how salvation didn’t happen and the magnificent work He has done.  At 50, I have less memories and more hindsight. I can reach deep into old memory files and fill in gaps with knowledge of how things turned out. Here’s how I see His hand at work —

When I was a plump baby, a pediatrician dubbed me “the perfect specimen,” and the nickname stuck. For decades, I tried hard to live up to it. Spoiler alert: Jesus calls us to Him by name, and mine wasn’t Perfect, Worthy or Good Girl.

IMG_0176My children once found my old trophies and report cards at my parent’s house and teased me about being a teacher’s pet.  I’m pretty sure they were put off. I bet they wondered how I could relate to their lives if they didn’t inherit my perfectionism?

I hope by now they understand my over-achieving brand of “self” was just as sinful as any misbehaving. Self-righteousness and perfection are simply more difficult to recognize as sin. They look good on the outside and often win praise from the world. The successful, good girl persona is hard to exchange for surrender, exposed weakness, dependence and ruthless trust — despite being rotten at its core.

When I participated in 6th grade confirmation,  I saw our class as good kids completing the next step in a good life. I joined the church.  I didn’t understand the Gospel, and I wasn’t saved — but God had long been actively and tenderly wooing me. It’s hard to express, and I couldn’t have called “it” God at the time, but I knew I did matter and Someone cared. I was searching for “it,” because from the tastes I had of Him, I knew He was irresistibly good.

By fourteen, I could no longer imagine perfection, much less achieve it.  I continued performing pretty well, but inside I felt an insatiable emptiness. If I ignored “it,” life worked okay and people appreciated me and my efforts — except for boys.  I so wanted to be chosen: loved and cherished. But high school romance was much more complicated than gaining the praise and approval of adults.

DSC00297One night I went to a Baptist Youth rally, because the boy I liked would be there. During the service, I was upset; I couldn’t miss that my guy was very interested in a different girl. I was confused and trying hard to figure out how I could be more of “something” I couldn’t name much less understand, when God overwhelmed me and my thoughts — and called me to another relationship. 

All else was silenced as the speaker explained that living in the strength of my flesh and for my own purposes was sinful — even if I was trying to be good. I thought sin was murder, stealing, lying and the like. For the first time in my life I really heard the good news. God showed me my heart of flesh was wicked. I deserved hell and NEEDED a Savior. And that Jesus would have died to save me, even if I had been the only one who needed Him. He loved me that personally?

I didn’t know what an altar call was, but when they asked anyone who wanted to be forgiven of their sins and accept Jesus into their hearts to come forward, I was there — alone in a crowd  — with Jesus. My contrition was sincere.

Was I saved that night? For many years I thought so, but later in life I questioned “it.” Was it dramatic enough to have been real? I was certain the Holy Spirit had touched me deeply and definitely gained significant ground in my heart, but did I need to do more?

IMG_0756I’m not sure anyone else noticed a difference in me back then. I didn’t talk about “it” and kept living for the perceived expectations of others, including God. However, I knew deep inside that I couldn’t measure up, even to my own goals. Achievement was increasingly less meaningful and more tiring to live for.

I did read the Bible and pray more often — usually asking God to bless my plans and decisions, but my desire for Him was not exactly a hunger or thirst. I used God as an avenue to achieving better success. I sensed there was more to God and faith than I understood. I wanted more from “it,” but I had no idea how to get close enough to Him to ask what else I needed to do.

When I went to church last Sunday, the above post was finished (with a different, shorter ending), but for some reason, I hadn’t published it. I think God knew why.

Through the sermon from Acts about Paul’s conversion, God revealed a little more of His work in me. I always struggled with how little my behavior changed following that night at the altar. After church, I saw “it” differently.

IMG_3410God did begin to transform my heart at the Youth Rally. While I didn’t understand all it meant to follow Christ at the time, the Holy Spirit came to dwell in me. No less dramatically than an alcoholic who quits drinking or a criminal who repents, I believe God took away my thrill in the world’s offering of achievement and recognition. I never would have nor could have given it up by my own volition. I thought I just floundered for years due to indecisiveness; I didn’t recognize His hand until now.

Years later at Vanderbilt, I met Flip. We made a foolproof plan… we would get our Engineering degrees, then MBAs. Because we could do the geeky stuff AND communicate, we figured we would climb to the top fast!  Flip is now CEO of a Fortune 500 in the energy field.

I  on the other hand, derailed.  I left Engineering, changed majors a few times and earned a schizophrenic BA in English with related work in Communication and Business and all electives in Engineering. I earned no accolades and left no mark in college. After graduation I debated getting an MDiv or MBA, but instead got an MRS.

Despite some giftedness, I just never felt any passion around engineering, math, or business. I looked “good enough” to a disinterested world, but on the inside I knew I was more broken and empty than ever. I felt some guilt about not living up to my academic/ career potential, but couldn’t seem to care. I later gave grad school another shot, but dropped out with severe nausea and vomiting on my way to my next title: MOM.

IMG_3209Only the Holy Spirit living in me could have broken my addiction to worldly success. He saved me from hell and continues to transform me. Now I know my greatest success in life is something He did for me, though I never deserved it. My greatest success is knowing God and experiencing Him intimately through His Son, Jesus. If not accomplished in this light, all else is rubbish.

My next posts will be of His continuing work of grace in my heart. “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” (Phil 1:6)

PS:  I ran across Flip’s name recently in a google search. We haven’t kept up, but it’s my hunch that God is smiling on Flip’s path — ‘our’ plan just wasn’t His plan for me.

I am greatly encouraged by your comments and thoughts!  If you would like to get future posts by email, please let me know below. You can unsubscribe at any time. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12 thoughts on “Salvation — When “IT” Becomes a Person

  1. Lou, that post really touched me. I have never heard many of your experiences. Mine are the same but “different.” Through the Grace of Jesus and faith provided by Him “help me in my unbelief,” the Holy Spirit will keep nudging or pushing (His pace) towards His plan for me. He truly called us by our names!
    I love you, Mames

    1. Thanks, Mames. I’m glad it did. I think many of us try really hard to “be good,” even to serve, love and forgive — but in our own flesh, instead of in broken dependence on Him. Self sufficiency continues to be my flesh pattern. I forget so easily, and it is applauded by the world, so I can totally miss I’m doing it again!. Good news: God is still working in me! Love you!

  2. Between the Cross and Heaven there’s a lot of living going on. May God bless you for your faithful, selfish-less testimony. As one in need…thank you!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *