Monday, June 16, 2014

My Testimony

Psalm 96:2-3 Sing to the Lord; praise his name. Each day proclaim the good news that he saves. Publish his glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.

I share because there is power in a testimony to defeat the works of the enemy.  I share so that upon hearing how God has pursued, redeemed and blessed me that you may believe that He can and will do the same for you.  I share to proclaim the great things that He has done for me and praise His holy name, loving heart and mighty hand...

I haven't always had a thriving relationship with God, or known Him, or even believed in Him.  In fact, I spent the majority of my thirty {plus} years completely denying Him.

As a kid I had no desire whatsoever for anything spiritual in nature.  From time to time I was exposed to a small taste of various spiritual beliefs and paths, but I was very put off by them and wanted nothing to do with any of it.  Other than a few scattered experiences I didn't grow up in any particular church or beliefs.

We celebrated Easter and Christmas in my home, but we were not Christians.  In fact, I really had no idea at all that those holidays were about anything other than a bunny and Santa Clause.  My only memory of having any exposure to the name of Jesus prior to the time I was 24 was seeing the movie Dogma and the big Jesus statue in it.

Although I didn't know Jesus, or even have a taste for spiritual things, I grew up always having a hunger and need to feel loved.  I was created to be in relationship with my Maker, and until I found Him I spent my life always searching, always trying new things to fill the void that I felt inside of me.  Trying to dull the ache in my heart and find satisfaction for my life, but always coming out empty handed.

I tried drugs.  Lots of them.  Almost all of them.  I used them a lot from 8th grade until I graduated high school.

I tried self mutilation.  I cut my arms with razor blades, almost daily, for a large part of middle and high school.  Really it was just a cry for attention.  I just wanted someone to tell me and show me that they cared.  That they loved me.  That I mattered.  That I was special.

I tried boys, and physical contact.

Yet none of these things satisfied me.

In my early twenties I was still feeling the ache in my soul.

I tried finding my worth by pursuing a career.

I tried buying things to give me pleasure.  22 pairs of shoes alone in 1 year.  Racking up LOTS of debt.

I still tried boys.

I tried regular binge drinking and bar hopping, always seeking attention, dancing on bars, flirting with everyone.

I tried my image.  I got in shape.  Bought/ wore nice clothes.  Got my hair and nails done regularly and wore lots of makeup.

Still aching.  Still lonely.  Still searching for love, satisfaction and purpose in all of the wrong places.  Still feeling empty.

At the age of 24 I was invited to a church for the first time.  I don't really know why I decided to go other than that God was working in my heart, drawing me to Him, and His Spirit was nudging me to take this small, first step.

So I agreed to meet this friend at church.  I didn't really know what to expect to happen at church, in fact, the only two things that I knew about church were that I was supposed to dress up, and that I was supposed to give money.  When I was running late that Sunday morning I remember realizing that I didn't have any cash in my wallet and told my friend that I would be late so I could go to the ATM and pick up money.  To which she assured me that it would be fine if I did not give any money, but I decided to be late and make the stop anyway.  (In hindsight, I find it very interesting that the only two things I knew about church were dressing up and giving money... just a glimpse of the perspective I had).

So I went to church.  And I started going regularly.  Every Thursday evening to a young adult service, and every Sunday morning.  I learned a lot.  I listened to the entire sermon each week and ate it up like food for my soul.  I learned about God creating the world, and the fall and sin entering the world.  I learned about God sending His son, Jesus, to earth in the form of a child.  I learned about Jesus' life and earthly ministry.  I learned about His death, burial, resurrection and ascension.  I learned about the disciples and their lives.  And I learned about the promises for what is to come.  And I believed it.  Every.  Single.  Bit.  It resonated with something inside of me and I believed it all, instantly.

Despite the fact that I believed all that I was learning about God my life still looked very different from most church goers.  I lived with my boyfriend, cussed a lot, smoked cigarettes, and went out and got wasted (to the point of vomiting) several times a week.  As I mentioned earlier, my life wasn't really making me feel happy or fulfilled, but it was all I knew.  I was scared of change.  So I carried on in what may have been a double life for a few months.  Then I hit what I believed to be rock bottom.

There had been a certain behavior that I had labeled as what "bad" people did and became irritated with people who would do such a thing.  Although a very low standard, it was the moral bar I had told myself I was above.  And then I did it.  That exact behavior that I had found so disgusting in others.  And through that I hurt several people who were really important to me.  It was then that I was finally willing to accept that on my own I wasn't the "good" person I thought I was.  That I had royally made a mess of my life and didn't like the direction things were going.  And all the truth that I had been hearing about God, His redemption, His grace and forgiveness, His salvation, and His transforming work in the lives of His people began to beckon to me.  At that point I completely surrendered my life to Jesus.  Decided to follow Him and live for Him, regardless of what that meant.

He was the most important person in my life.  I spent almost all of the time that I wasn't at work with Him, reading His word, wanting to know Him more.  I would call my friend up with questions like "Do I need to quit smoking?", "Do I need to move out from living with my boyfriend" and so on.  And she would gently nudge me not to go out and make a bunch of quick lifestyle changes because that's what I was supposed to do, but to let God lead me and guide me.  And He did.  One step at a time.

I was a poster child for Hebrews 11:6, that God rewards those who diligently seek Him.  I sought Him and He revealed Himself, and He changed me... completely.  I was (and am) a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17).  I was (and am) so passionate about Jesus.  I felt like the woman from the Bible who had been forgiven of much sin and was therefore extremely grateful of the pardon she had been given.

I spent the next several years pouring myself into pursuing God, studying His word, and serving those around me.  Constantly growing in my understanding of Him and the Christian life.

And then a few years ago I had an awakening of sorts.  God became alive and real to me in a much deeper way than He ever had been.  He challenged a lot of my beliefs, theology, practices etc {like speaking in tongues}.  He showed me a bunch of legalism and rule following I'd been living in.  He taught me about grace, freedom and wholeness.  He taught me about my identity in Him, my oneness with Him, the finished work of the cross.  He taught me about rest and ceasing to strive, not trying to please Him or earn anything from Him, but how to just be, receive, and let Him naturally flow out of me.  I became intimately acquainted with Him... we went from just acquaintances to friends, and then to something much deeper than that.  I began to hear Him speak, see Him in everything and everyone around me, and began to believe for and experience Him in supernatural ways that I had always had a theology for, but that were never what I had seen or known.

All the loneliness, emptiness and discontentment disappeared as I got to know my Maker, and started fulfilling the purpose and destiny for which He had created me.

His transformation in my life really has been miraculous.  I know that people tell you that once you are an addict and/ or alcoholic that you are always one.  But I can honestly say that my old self is gone, the sinful desires and habits of drug abuse, alcohol abuse etc. no longer have a hold on me.  The former dysfunctional behaviors are completely gone.  The emotional wounds from physical violations, experiences, and ties have been completely healed.  Now that I know my identity in Christ I no longer seek to find it through attention from others, through what I do or a career, through my looks and image.

I have found a love so much greater then I ever could have imagined.  A sense of purpose and wholeness too good to be true.  I have found forgiveness and redemption... salvation and freedom... I have found the life I was intended to live.

And here I am now... constantly having my mind-rewed, challenged, and blown by my God who is so much better, and so much more intimate and personal then I ever had imagined.  Each day with Him is never boring, never dull, never monotonous.  Each day is a special adventure with my Maker, getting to know Him, enjoying Him and experiencing Him through the world around me.

There's a lot more detail I could have added in here and a lot more specifics, but some of those are stories for a different day {like the time He blew my mind with provision, or the time He gave me insight into my calling}.  He's constantly teaching me things, giving me revelation and crazy experiences and this is just a very basic framework for how He has and is continuing to work in my life.  This story isn't over, it's an ongoing, ever changing journey with new aspects, insights, and dimensions being added daily.

I hope this inspires you to remember your story... to remember the ways He has worked in your life.  To praise His mighty deeds and loving heart.  And to see His fingerprints as you go about each day, each moment, enthralled by His presence.


Jamie Cramer said...

Thank you for sharing your testimony! It is something we all go through and feel. I can surely relate to a lot.

DangAndBlast! said...

That was lovely. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Janet Olson
What a powerful testimony. I pray that the youth of America will hear really hear how much they are loved . thank you for sharing . It has encouraged my faith for my grandchildren.