I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. Yet I was shown mercy because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus. It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all. Yet, for this reason, I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen. 1 Timothy 1: 12-17
This passage is always a part of my testimony when I am asked to give it. Paul’s words refer to his activities before he met Christ on that road to Damascus (Acts 9), and they say so much about me as well. Paul and I share the same disgrace- we were once blasphemers, persecutors, and violent aggressors- and ignorant of the truth.
While I was raised in a religious home, I had no connection with the Head, that is Jesus Christ. My religion was works oriented and empty of anything but guilt and I abandoned it in my youth to serve and even worship the arch-enemy of God, Satan. Living this kind of a life brings one lower than low and I found myself saying and doing things that were degrading and disgusting. What once brought me a feeling of power and control now left me feeling lost, miserable and trapped in a hopeless spiral of sins like hatred, anger and idolatry. Finding no refuge in that life, I escaped after a few years.
As an adult, I was bound by fear for things I had done in the past and suffered from an aching sense of emptiness. I attempted the usual methods of coping with emptiness: Drinking, drugs, and losing myself in one bad relationship after the next. I even married in hopes that I would find some security in life. This too was a disaster as the marriage was fraught with fighting and abuse. “Perhaps a child would help” was my next thought, and while my beautiful baby boy gave life meaning I was still desperately alone and frightened.
The knowledge was very real that my soul was in peril. I lived with a constant inescapable terror of death. It haunted me in my waking and sleeping hours and in desperation, I attempted to return to my childhood religion. I wanted to be clean and rid of the fears that plagued me. I did not find it there! I found only the same stale rituals that were void of any cleansing for me.
Christ made Himself known to me one December afternoon as I sat on my bed, once again in the depths of fear and depression. A friend who was recently converted to Christ had been begging me to read the Bible, something I had no interest in doing. What did I want with that book? I never found any answers in there before! But this day was to be different…
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, when his son asks for a loaf, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” Matthew 7:7 -11
I recall reading that over and over and telling God that I was asking, but I was not sure what I was asking for, I was seeking, but I knew I had no right to be- for what I had been and what I had done. I was knocking on the door, and fearfully asking to be let in! Verse 11, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” was what broke my heart. I WAS evil, I DID know how to give good gifts to my son…was God possibly saying that He wanted to give good gifts to me, a sinner such as I?
I recall a flood of tears and words as I began to cry out to God and confess what I was and what I had done and how lost I knew I was. I finished it up with, “God if You are real, I need You. I know I don’t deserve You, but You are my only hope. Please come into my heart and save me.”
“Yet, for this reason, I found mercy, so that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life.” He carefully brought me to and through each stage of life until I was ready to see that His mercy was my only hope.
My life was different from that moment on. The Word of God became real and as I applied its truths to my heart and life, I began to see changes. My journey was not easy. I had many sinful habits to overcome. I still battled the old anger, and I was bitter and did not know how to respond rightly. I tried “doing the right thing” in my flesh but was met with failure after failure.My marriage ended when my unbelieving husband left me for another and I was a single parent of two little boys for a while. This brought heartache, financial hardship, and fear as I was uncertain about my future. During that time, the Lord was my husband and I continued to cling to Him.
By His grace, He brought an old friend back into my life. We eventually married and he adopted my two older boys. To add to the blessing, God gave us another child together. Over the years, we have added daughters-in-law and a beautiful granddaughter to our family. We have had 25 wonderful, joyful years as a family. I am so completely undeserving.
I live each and every day with the knowledge that I found mercy for the sake of others. I found mercy for your sake, dear reader. Not that I have an exaggerated sense of self-importance- any old pot will do! I am just very aware of the ministry God has placed in my life and the love He has placed in my heart to fulfill my calling to His women. My trials have been for your sake. My hurt and pain and experiences have been for your benefit. I am amazed at the ways He uses my life and testimony to bring glory to Himself and to benefit others.
It is truly the joy of my life to teach His Word and principles of change in discipleship counseling.
It is for Him, His glory that we do all that we do in Christ. He is the source, the power, the enabling force and He is worthy to be praised!
Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen