The Mess Of A Normal Life – Part 3
Read part 1, Rebecca’s story.
Read part 2, Nate’s story.
Outwardly, as we would have liked to write our story, it would be one of control and comfort. We wanted people to see us as a couple with everything we ever wanted, not perfect, but close to it. My wife is a woman who makes friends easily, has an infectious laugh, loves to tease and be teased, and naturally excels at finding ways to help others when they have a need. I have always been quiet but comfortable in a crowd, funny, organized, and I excel when given the opportunity to lead. Between the two of us, we have 3 college degrees, 5 years of Navy service, one precocious 5-year-old, a home in a beautiful neighborhood, two great jobs, and a bounty of friends and family. Yet, in our own hands, all these things earned us nothing but heartache; our own inability to be trustworthy, kind, compassionate, and wise has been evidenced in a lifetime of selfish choices. Our circumstances specific to us were merely the vehicle we used to get what we wanted, however, we could, in a way that most glorified us. I don’t say that to gloss over the truth or downplay our experiences; I say that because this is not the story of how Rebecca and I got to where we are now. We are a story of God’s faithfulness and redemption. Romans 3:20-24 “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law, we become conscious of our sin. But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.”
Our dating life was a whirlwind of sin and excitement. We lied to ourselves as we made the choices that we wanted to; we were only doing what everyone else was doing. Our early marriage simultaneously compounded all our favorite desires and sins all while we practiced hiding them better. Our own choices with money forced us into joining the Navy and moving to Connecticut, removing us from family pressures. Our daughters birth forced us to choose to think about our actions, how our choices would affect this little family of ours. Our family that we knew, from personal experience, was exactly as fragile as we would let it be. Our daughter is not the one single moment that God used in our life to get our attention, but it is certainly the most glaring. She was a complete surprise. A complete surprise because we were planning very actively not to have children for quite some time. God interceded in our lives, directly through Ava at a time when young parents are tired, scared, vulnerable, and He knows are likely to have to pray. We began to cry out, not together, not always coherently, and certainly not consistently but we started to pray for help. James 1:13-18 “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.” Our choices had led us to death, but God’s faithfulness and redemption were waiting for us to choose life.
We moved to Joplin in July of 2014 and “immediately” began looking for a church. The truth is that we wanted a place to take our friends and family that were Christ followers when they visited us. The whole truth is that we wanted to pretend that we were like them. But only while they were around. Rebecca and I met through the church, were married in a church, occasionally attended a church service on a Sunday, but we had no idea who Jesus was. Our choices still reflected people who wanted to get something from God, rather than give ourselves to Him. On June 28, 2015, we attended our first service at Christ’s Church of Oronogo and God radically got our attention. On that Sunday, the entire book of Ephesians was read instead of a traditional sermon. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work”. The evidence of this truth was clear in what we heard in chapters 4 and 5 “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly love children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”
God is faithful. He is a Redeemer; Jesus paid for our sin on the cross, not because we deserved it and certainly not so that we can earn it. Our growth has been slow, and often painful. It is not easy to be transformed by the renewal of our minds. It is not easy to cling to the Truth that we are not guilty any longer because of our faith in Jesus. Our righteousness is not because we are in a certain place on Sunday morning, or because we tithe, or because we have finally kicked habits that plagued us for decades. No. Jesus conquered our sin on the cross, and His victory is enough. We have run to Christ, completely spent and ruined by our own twisting of desires and choices and asked Him to change us. We cannot explain the joy and peace that we have experienced in our last 3 years; when we have willingly surrendered control to the Father, He has blessed us beyond measure. It has not been easy. Far from it. We had to obediently respond to the Holy Spirit; there were and are a multitude of sins to surrender to Him. Our own desire to change was never enough. We had to be willing to treasure Jesus more than what we wanted, and often had to ask Him for the help even to do that.
God has been redeeming our thoughts and desires in every part of our lives; to truly give Him our hearts meant surrendering to His desires for where we worked, what we do with our money, and how we spend our time. Hebrews 2:6 “What is mankind that you are mindful of them, a son of man that you care for him?” God is so good and loving that He didn’t just provide a way for Rebecca and me to be freed from our sin, but to also be free to follow Him fully, to be involved in His Kingdom work. All we had to do is choose Him. Peter put it this way in Acts 2:38-39 “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off – for all whom the Lord our God will call.” God is faithfully waiting for you to surrender to Him. Don’t stop at the idea that Jesus is your Savior, although He is certainly not less than that; surrender your whole heart to Him. The faith that we found on this side of obedience to Christ as only strengthened our hope. And our hope is in eternity with God, regardless of how our years on this earth come to pass. Begin with the end in mind; not your own desires and pleasures, but the knowledge that God’s love and faithfulness have prepared something for us that is greater than we could choose for ourselves. We thank God for His Gospel of faithful, redemptive salvation.