― Khalil Gibran
― Khalil Gibran
One of my favorite quotes about the act of writing goes something like this:
“Writing is like driving a car at night. You never see further than your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”
It makes sense. You write, back up, go another way, ask for help, but keep on day after day, until you get where you want to be with the work you value so much.
Being a new Christian can be like this process of writing. For instance, at the moment things are bumpy and my life is less than perfect. I’m divorced and I can feel lonely and disapproved of at times. I also have a degree but am unemployed. It can and, at times, does hurt.
This week I felt overwhelmed. I tried to find comfort and talked to a friend who texted me and said: “Sometimes we need to lose it all in order to gain what God wants us to have. It wasnt exactly what I wanted to hear but what, deep down, I needed. That is why he is such a valuable friend. He gave me truth. I am, by all accounts, completely stripped of my former life. But if I had not lost it all would I have completely turned my life over to God? That is a question I could easily lie to myself about.
In this past week of feeling the pain and acknowledging the loss, I came across a passage from Psalm 119:
As a new Christian, I am on this journey and it is one of change. It is much like a winding road that is neither entirely smooth nor entirely rocky. I welcome it but at the same time, it is a change I must be aware of and there are times I must make choices. Some of these choices are easy and some have challenged me. Some have to do with habits and some have to do with who I surround myself with. All of these choices have made me step back and reflect on my commitment to Jesus.
For instance, every day now I wake and, instead of checking my email and scrolling through the various social media, I reach for my Bible.Though I do not have an organized reading plan, the place I turn to is usually what I need to take into my heart as I read and pray. I’ve discovered that by making Bible reading and prayer my anchors of the day–first thing in the morning and last thing at night–I am grounded in a way I would not have ever thought possible.I believe it is especially important for me, as a new Christian, to engage in this kind of reading/prayer daily so I don’t become a one-hour-on-Sunday-Christian, but instead, someone who has a closer relationship with Jesus Christ. This will serve as a good foundation for me.
Another step on this journey of change is the whole concept of control. Oh boy, how I loved the illusion of being in control. Even when my life was a hot mess (which was…lets see…most of the time) I wanted to think I had it all in my control. When I turned my life and heart over to Christ, suddenly my life wasn’t mine anymore-not that it ever was anyway. But by consciously giving it over to Him, I have this peace I didn’t have before. I admit, it can be a struggle to relinquish that will and that trust, especially when I’ve never had cause to trust very much before. But God knows. He knows and He will take me exactly where I need to be. And I ask Him to use me in all ways for His Glory. Wow. What an amazing, amazing thing to become a child of Him and say “Thy Will be done.” It doesn’t mean I don’t feel the struggle-Im a single mom, seeking work and I have all the same burdens most do in today’s economy…the dfference is now I give it all to Him and I know He will lead me as I walk with Him in trust.
On this journey I have found some of the major stumbling blocks will be people you know. And let me tell you nothing is more painful-humiliating, than to hear someone who knows you, sarcastically bringing up a past sin of yours in front of others. There are those who like to do that. I cannot speculate on why they feel it necessary, only that they do. I call them “draggers.” They grab onto others’ sins with all the tenacity of a young puppy dragging its master while on its first walk. He or she will then tell it all, first chance they get, to an audience while in front of you. If you are confronted with a dragger who wants to diminish your relationship with Jesus, simply say this one thing: “That’s old news to Jesus but let me tell you what I’m doing today that Jesus is *really* excited about.” And it can be a large or small thing in your life but I assure you that Jesus is happy. Don’t let the draggers walk you on their leash away from Jesus.
So as I walk this journey as a new Christian, I am confronted by the fact that I must be a doer, as a lover of our Lord Jesus Christ. I must read The Word and pray as my anchors to the day, I must trust and give Him my will even when its a struggle and I must never let old sins become stumbling blocks in the hands of the draggers but always keep my eyes and heart forward on this journey with Christ.
“And I hope nobody tells them that they’re supposed to act like they’ve got it all together. You don’t often get to see people without a mask. And it’s such a beautiful thing. ~from the book “Not a Fan” by Kyle Idleman. Zondervan books, 2011
I had not planned on writing another post here until sometime next week. What changed my mind was an unexpected gift my pastor gave me in his sermon last Sunday; the day I happened to be baptized. Pastor L. briefly mentioned a book called “Not a Fan” by Pastor Kyle Idleman. Intrigued, (blame it on my degree in English and Creative Writing) I went home and looked it up. After reading a summary of the book and the rave reviews, I bought it.
Best. Baptismal. Gift. Ever.
It has radically changed my view of what it means to be committed to Christ. How easy it would be to just be a fan and not a committed follower. It challenged me and stripped away all the niceties that one puts up as barricades for the world and for one’s church family. I could go to church every Sunday, attend bible study, dress the right way, say the proper things, avoid certain music and movies…but will Jesus know me?
What Pastor Idleman sets before me is the truth. I can do all those things but I better have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I better be passionate and committed and never content to just sit. Don’t misunderstand! Bible study, church service, and all that goes with it are good and necessary things to grow in your faith. But what I understand the book to say is that we get so comfortable with the facade of doing these things we become fans instead of followers. It is our mask we present to the world.
As I read about these masks we wear, the pastor wrote of new church members talking about themselves in a very honest way. And he found that beautiful. Imagine: as a pastor he found this kind of honesty, which shows brokenness and imperfection and need, beautiful. He found it to be so because the new members had not learned to hide behind the mask of doing the accepted and the expected. I want to be that honest for Jesus.
As I reflected on my own “mask” I realized something. I worry about how my new church family will accept me. I’m not exactly a replica of Aunt Bea on The Andy Griffith show. I have a past, as I briefly touched on in my first post. I made some choices in my life that hurt. Those things might be easily hidden under a mask of being the “good Christian” who does all the right things in front of the right people and smiles as if she has it all together. What’s not so easily hidden though, are the visible signs of my past life: my tattoos. A couple of them, specifically the one on my left arm, are hard to hide in 90 degree heat.
The tattoos came at a time when I needed to feel as if I were in complete control. I wanted to feel in control of my life and my body and what I could and could not do. The temporary “high” I got emotionally and mentally from the tattoos was just that-temporary. The real issues had yet to be addressed but unfortunately the ink could not be wiped away once I had finally faced my problems.
So here I am, new Christian, and at times fretting about keeping covered so “no one knows” even when its melting hot. But after reading the above passage I quoted from Pastor Idleman’s book, I saw myself differently.
Jesus knows those tattoos are there-from Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” to the Greek mythology to others-He knows what’s on my skin. But more importantly, He knows whats in my heart. And I don’t want to wear a mask or play pretend.
Jesus already knows every thing, every tiny detail, every miserable decision and wrong choice–I’ve given it all to Him. So why do I hold so tightly to this thing of the past when it’s been soothed by His Love? That is the mark of being a fan who wants her mask to stay on for the world to see. Because its easy.
I’m laying that mask down. I am not in control and I have His Peace. God has alot of work to do with me and that’s OK. So maybe next Sunday I’ll wear short sleeves and if my Van Gogh tattoo peeks out now and then, I won’t fret. After all, it’s old news to Jesus anyway. Then I can just focus on being a follower because the last thing I want is to be a fan of Jesus.
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16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased
On June 3, 2012 I was baptized at Spotswood Baptist Church.This may not seem an unusual event. People are baptized at every service in every corner of the world yet, for me, this baptism…this “dying and raising”…. truly marks the end of one journey and the beginning of another.
It is nothing short of a miracle that I stood in the baptismal waters with the pastor as he uttered the words that branded my heart. I struggled for many years with all the typical wounds a survivor of physical and emotional childhood abuse has. I had issues with self-esteem, revolving door relationships and sexual behavior. You name it, I struggled with it. As I say to people: As a teen and young adult I was a walking reaction to the actions done to me by an adult. It took a long time, including serious committed counseling, before I began to emerge from an unspoken need to self destruct. But even then, even in the healing, there was another Healing I needed. Another Love.
The one constant in my life, from my childhood on, was God. That would strike people who knew my family as very odd. I didn’t have faith practiced in my home growing up, in fact the idea of faith was sneered at and treated with utter contempt. But I had grandparents who were, for lack of a better word, devout. They were simple farmers who lived as they spoke-with kindness and compassion and faith. They took me to church whenever they could and those few moments, along with their prayers at the dinner table and their open love for Jesus, stayed with me. It stayed with me during all the years I was angry and defiant and convinced God was for other people and not for me. Funny thing is, God doesn’t go away. He stays. Even in the worst of circumstances, He stays. He stayed with me.
For the last two years my heart has felt this perpetual tugging of wanting to open and to surrender. I fought it, ignored it, explored other religions, and acted in opposition to what was good and right. It made me downright miserable.The more I considered it, the more I felt the sharp edges of my heart melting. I talked for hours with a trusted friend who wisely asked more questions than preached, shared his life rather than admonished, and just listened.
Three weeks ago I gave my life and heart to Christ. The joy overflowed and the peace entered. The Peace. How do I describe this Living Peace which has entered me? I can only say it is the opposite of what was in my life and it is everything that is and will be.
Lest you think I have “new believer fever” let me tell you what I ask and pray for: I ask that I not be a bright fire that burns itself out too quickly, but instead, a steady flame for Him. That is what I ask.
So this is how I came to be in the baptismal waters on the morning of June 3rd. Joyfully I was buried with Christ and rose to walk with Him.
I realize I didn’t touch on certain issues in depth here with this first post but will probably do so in later ones. This is merely a beginning and a small snapshot of what God is doing in my life. Ultimately I hope this blog serves as a sharing of my thoughts and my journey with Christ and I hope you enjoy reading and sharing with me each step of the way.~Kathryn
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