Do You Have God in a Box?

BeFunky_ColorPinhole_3I am in the middle of doing a women’s bible study at church.  We are going through Beth Moore’s study “Believing God”.  It has been a long time since I have done a women’s bible study.  I felt led to do it recently when I was desperately searching for more God in my life. Knowing we have to seek Him to find Him, I figured this would be a good start to figuring out His will for my life.

I had no idea the study would become a test of my faith.  One question Beth asked of us was to sit and think about who we think God is.  When I prayerfully pondered this question, I realized I have packaged God in a box my whole life.

Who do I “think” God is?  Growing up I thought you had to be perfect in order to get into heaven.  I was always full of guilt about the “bad” things I did as a child.  My grandma was perfect in my eyes and my great-grandma was also perfect in my eyes.  They were pretty much the only Christian women I was ever around who were truly walking the walk (at least that I recall).  They were women completely and totally devoted to Christ.  They read their bibles, preached the word, went to church, and lived the life. I often wonder if they ever sinned!  I know they did, as everybody sins and falls short. I just don’t recall ever seeing it.

Add to that that as I got older and began meeting adult women,  I would always see more “perfect Christian women”.  You know the ones…the ones you see and think to yourself, “Wow, they are for sure going to heaven”.

The box (of lies) I had God in my whole life was something like this:
1.  If you do good and are doing every thing you should be doing I’ll let you into heaven.
2.  If you do good and are doing every thing you should be doing I will bless you here on       earth.
3.  If you do good and are doing every thing you should be doing I will answer your prayers.
4.  If you do good and are doing every thing you should be doing you will have all of the fruits of the Spirit that you have been longing for.
5.  If you are not doing all of the things you should be doing, or if you fall down I will not do these things because I am disappointed in you.

Wow, what an awful box I have put God in.  I struggle with believing that I have a seat in heaven based on faith alone.  I still struggle with thinking I have to earn my way into heaven.  I struggle with unbelief that God loves me and wants to do wonderful things for me!

While reflecting on this realization, it occurred to me.  These women I thought were so perfect, weren’t.  They were merely women bearing the fruits of the Spirit.  Women of faith. God’s word alive and active in them.  Some of these women have had great obstacles thrown in their path, yet their faith never faltered.

I want that!  Why am I choosing to believe God isn’t who He says He is?  Why am I choosing to believe He won’t do what He says He will?  He is much bigger than the tiny little box I have put him in.  He is who He says He is.  He will do what He says He will do. Now I just have to figure out how to open that box and let those past lies out and throw the box away!  I have to let go of my unbelief.

He touched their eyes and said, “According to your faith will it be done to you“.  Matthew 9:29

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Gotta Start Somewhere

jesus_seek_and_ye_shall_find_mousepad-rb6b811609093013056a600ff1020fc04_x74vi_8byvr_324I don’t really remember the day I became a believer in Christ.  I do however remember the many times in my life I have wandered away from God and ended up on the wrong path.

I grew up knowing and believing in Jesus.  As a young girl my grandmother would talk to me about Him.  She had this big white bible that I loved to look at.  It had beautiful drawings that showed pictures of Jesus during his ministry.  I loved the pictures of Jesus and the little children.  My grandmother made sure that God’s word was something I heard from the very beginning.  I was saved at age seven (I know this because I wrote it in a tiny little white bible I had as a young girl) and I was baptized at the age of twelve.

I was not raised going to church.  I remember going a couple of times, but not with my parents.  A bus would pick me up in front of my house.  That didn’t last long though.  I would go with my grandmother when we would visit her in Texas.  However those memories are a bit scary, as she was what they used to refer to as a “holy roller” and people would dance all around the church aisles.  I don’t remember my grandmother doing this, but there were several other people doing it.  That was a bit odd for a kid who wasn’t used to going to church.  I preferred to sit on my grandmothers couch and look at the big, white, Bible.

My parents divorced when I was nine years old.  I lived with my mom and saw my dad as often as I could, however not as often as I needed to in order to have a positive male influence in my life.  It didn’t take long for me to fill that void with “boys”.  Of course because of my early foundation in knowing about Jesus, sin, and forgiveness, I often found myself feeling guilt and condemnation.  Because I wasn’t a part of a church, I just accepted that I was unworthy of being loved by God.  I would often find myself depressed and praying for help.

My years as a teenager were difficult.  My mother didn’t have a lot of money and I moved back and forth from Kansas to California several times throughout my high school years.  I was extremely boy crazy, and rarely without a boyfriend.  I experimented with some drugs, but thankfully was never addicted to any.  I loved to go out with my friends and party. Thankfully I never suffered any consequences from my wild high school life, other than making a lot of bad decisions.

As I got into my upper teens and early 20’s, I always fell for the wrong guy.  You know the one, the one who just looked like trouble.  The first time my heart was broke was my junior year of high school.  My boyfriend cheated on me and I was devastated.  A few years later I entered into my first abusive relationship.  I was just 18 years old. Not long after that I met the man I was going to marry.  However, we didn’t marry because of the right reasons, we married because I was pregnant.  We married in 1988 and ended up with four beautiful children over the years. However, sadly, the marriage ended in 2010.

Throughout those 22 years of marriage, I sought God many times.  His word is true, if we seek Him, we will find Him.  Many times He did wonderful things in my life, and I knew He had not let me go.  In 2003 when my marriage had it’s biggest challenge ever, I sought after Him like never before.  He led me to a wonderful church.  Our family made it our home church.  I saw God do some pretty amazing things in my marriage and in the lives of our kids during that time. However, the enemy is alive and well on this earth.  He is here to destroy.  And he was successful in destroying much of what God did, and ultimately our family.

When my husband left I was determined to stay on track in my walk, despite a very angry and bitter divorce battle that I knew was ahead.  I was blessed with a wonderful church family that I had been a part of for almost seven years.  I landed a great job at a different church.  Everything was going in the right direction.  But again, the enemy is alive and well. Soon after, I found myself wandering from everything I knew as right.  I didn’t feel comfortable at my home church anymore. I stopped going.  I was once again seeking men to fulfill my void.  I dated a lot, went out with the girls, and stopped having a real relationship with God.  I felt abandoned. I felt like God had let me down. I felt so unworthy and once again guilty, just like when I was a young girl. I now know that God doesn’t leave us at these difficult times.  We choose to leave Him.

At the end of 2010 I met a wonderful man.  We became friends and then soon after began to date.  He was Catholic.  He grew up with the Catholic traditions, but had never owned or probably opened up a bible.  I had been going to a rather charismatic Christian church, however my job was at a Presbyterian church.  I asked him if he would go with me to the church I worked at and he did.  I figured he would like it because it was very traditional.  I was right, he felt comfortable and enjoyed hearing the messages from the pastors.  Our relationship got more serious and we made plans to marry.  I could tell my pastor was a bit concerned about the fact I was not marrying a “Christ follower”.  Yet I was hopeful that would change and that my future husband would come to have a relationship with God and know what it means to really believe.  We married, we moved, I quit my job, left my friends, and I fell further away from my relationship with God…once again.

I began finding myself resentful, frustrated, and just not happy.  I was not in a good place and I did not like who I was becoming.  One day I felt an urge to start playing worship music on my iPhone while I walked the dog.  I figured it may be the only way to set my heart and mind straight for the day ahead.  I did that for a couple of weeks.  Then I felt a deep desire to once again go to church.  We had visited a couple of churches when we first married and moved, but nothing became regular.  There was one in particular that I really liked.

One weekend when my husband was out of town with his kids, and my kids were with their father, I made plans to go on my own.  I went out with a girlfriend the night before church, and let me tell you, I thought there was no way I was going to make it to church the next day.  We went to bed at 3 a.m. and had more than our share of wine.  God however, wanted me at church.  I woke up on time and miraculously felt fine.  The message was about work because it was Labor Day weekend.  Work?  Really?  I’m a stay at home mom.  As I sat there and listened, it didn’t take long to realize the message was meant for me to hear.  I left with the realization that this is my job right now.  I have been put here to do Christ’s work in whatever I am doing.  I am to have joy in this.  Easier said than done. Things take time.  I went home with every intent of smiling, loving my husband, loving my marriage, loving my home life, etc…it didn’t happen.

I continued to pray every day…continued to walk the dog and listen to worship music.  I signed up for a bible study at church.  I felt such a strong pull to do everything I could to seek God.  My husband went to church with me…we heard a great message again.  The next Sunday came along and he went with me again.  He even asked a few questions about the gospel after that service.  My bible study started.

God is working in my life.  I know He has not let me go.  He has answered several prayers and questions.  He has revealed some pretty amazing things. Parts of me that I need to change.  But most importantly, God has shown me He is still there.  That I am not lost.  I am on a journey and He is by my side.  If I just chose to seek Him, I will find Him. (…seek, and you will find… – Matthew 7:7)