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Jun 26

In Other Words: What Difference Does it Make?

“The eternal perspective is the ability to see all of life
from God’s point of view
and have what you see affect how you live in the present.
Simply stated,
the eternal perspective is the ability to walk by faith in God’s Word.”

by Catherine Martin
A Heart To See Forever:
Embrace the promise of the eternal perspective

 I did not grow up in a “Christian” family. My parents did not attend church, ever, and my mother was actually quite antagonistic to anything that seemed “religious.”  The only explanation I ever heard from her was that every time she had ever attempted to find out about “church,” she would be overwhelmed with expectations . . . . . come to this, go to that, do something every week, wear this, act like that, don’t do this, that, or something else. By the time I realized that there was “something” missing in my life, my mother was so angry with the world and everyone in the world, that I never was able to get to know her well enough to understand what had happened.

When I first discovered the message of the Gospel, and understood that God loved me so much that He sent His only Son to live on this earth and die on the Cross of Calvary to forgive me of all my sins, that was amazing news to me! I was only 17, so I hadn’t exactly lived a life of great corruption, but the recognition that “all have sinned” had a profound impact on my young heart. And in that moment, when I first realized that I could have a personal relationship with God through the Lord Jesus Christ, I accepted His free gift of salvation and I have never doubted or questioned His love.

Of course, I have doubted and questioned myself . . . . . wondering if perhaps the struggles and difficulties of life were a result of my failures and foolishness, but never have I wondered whether God was there, whether or not He loved me, whether He was in control and had a plan for my life. But I frequently felt confused. I could not understand why, no matter how much I prayed and pleaded with God, I could not figure out what I was doing “wrong” that the people who should have loved me the most, seemed cold, distant, and unfeeling. What was wrong with me?

That time of my journey was filled with discouragement, sadness, bewilderment, darkness, and fear. Being married to a “Christian” man, from a “Christian” family, I just assumed that we would live like everyone else in our church community. I looked around and believed that what I saw on the smiling faces of families all around me was actually the truth. I was so naive! I was so trusting! I was such a believer! And I wanted, desperately, to believe that it was all true. It looked so good – I looked so good – we looked so good, that we deceived everyone around us for a very long time.

But I knew the truth. I knew that what was going on in my home, my marriage, my family was nothing like the image we projected every Sunday with our brightly shining faces. Children who were well-dressed, hair combed, faces washed, and teeth brushed offered the perfect disguise for the reality of brokenness that was becoming increasingly painful to cover up. And it was during these years that I began to ask the very simple question: Shouldn’t it make a difference in our lives that we are “Christians”? That seemed like a pretty straight-forward question, and it also seemed like the Bible was pretty clear about such things.

That was when I began my journey of discovery; and what I found was that I was wandering around, feeling lost and hopeless, in a world where there were many voices all proclaiming the “answer.” But it appeared that they didn’t even hear the questions. There were answers to questions that no one was asking, and yet there were no answers to the questions from my desperately seeking heart. I began to read, research, and study the writings of the early Church Fathers. I sought out the writings and history of the ancient and Medieval church. I eventually discovered the voices of women through the centuries who were deeply in love with Jesus. And I realized that I was not alone in my questioning.

Of course, I understood the theological reality that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”  I completely comprehended the truth that “there is none righteous, no not one.” And I truly accepted the fact that we are all sinful, fallen human beings who can only be made righteous through the saving grace and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. But what I didn’t understand is how so many people all around me could speak those words so carelessly, and then live even more carelessly. Recognizing my own failings, shortcomings, sinful nature, and rebellious heart made me understand that I cannot expect anyone to “get it right” all the time. But the confusion I experienced in that place of pretense was overwhelming.

There is a song that I heard many years ago that sometimes makes me sad, and sometimes just makes me mad: “You’re the only Jesus some will ever see.” Because it is true. Because it is a heavy burden of responsibility and I frequently fail to carry it wisely or well. Because those who could have been “Jesus” to me broke my heart. Because we, as Christians, don’t remember that the world is watching us and the very fact that we have been redeemed by the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ and given the gift of grace, mercy, and forgiveness should make a difference. Every moment of every day. Because it took me so long to realize that my hope does not come from the people around me, whether they are good, bad, or indifferent, but my hope is in Him Who alone can guide me home.

I have frequently wished that I would have had the chance to explain all of this to my mother; that she could have understood that “Christians” are just regular people who have been forgiven. I wish that I could have “been Jesus” to her, and helped her to see that “being a Christian” is not about all of the expectations, but it is about a loving relationship with our God through the Lord Jesus Christ and His gift of salvation. And I sometimes wish that I could have been wise enough to understand earlier in my life that just because someone goes to church every time the doors are open (even the kind with the “right” name above those doors!), and can recite all the “right” words, does not mean that they have actually given their heart and life to the Lord in such a way that it will truly “make a difference” in their behavior.

Does it make a difference in your life and mine? I pray everyday that God will give me enough grace to “get it right,” but I also pray everyday asking for His forgiveness because I will always miss the mark somewhere along the way. I pray everyday that it WILL make a difference, and I pray everyday that God will give me the understanding to recognize that I am only responsible for my own choices. And if someone I love chooses to look like a Christian when out in public, but they would prefer not to be bothered with all of this business of “being Jesus” to others, my job is to keep on loving them – and maybe THAT will make a difference.

If you would like to participate in this week’s “In Other Words,” please visit Debbie at Heart Choices  and leave a link to your blog post about this week’s quote. Then you can visit the other bloggers who have joined us this week for “In Other Words.” Hope to see you there!  Nina

 

2 comments

  1. Debbie

    Oh my, I found myself saying AMEN so many times as I was reading this post. How true your words are! I could identify with you as you shared that you never doubted God’s love and presence in your life. However, I too have often questioned what I am doing wrong. Am I responding wrong? Am I not listening to His voice? Am I not living this Christian life correctly? Thank goodness for God’s grace!

    It saddens me that that so many Christians don’t live out what they claim to believe. My brother was at a place in his life many years ago after returning from the his time abroad with the Navy when he had a desire to begin attending church. Unfortunately, it was short lived. Many well intentioned Christians kept telling him going to church wasn’t enough. He must join a Bible study group, etc. He left and never came back. To this day, he walks his own way. I pray that he will see Jesus in me. I pray daily for his salvation and that of his family.

    Thank you for participating in this week’s quote. And I so appreciate your spreading the word about In Other Words Tuesday. You are a blessing!

    Blessings and love,
    Debbie

  2. Loni

    Ohhh, can I understand your heart . . . even now as I think of a family who I never imagined would go through a divorce – a very godly “conservative, legalistic” couple . . . and I was blown away.

    I love that song too “You’re the only Jesus some will ever see.” Yet, I know how disappointed we can be in “people” who fail the Jesus part. Thankfully, Jesus never does fail us.

    Enjoyed reading your thoughts . . . and I could read between the lines, knowing your heart. Blessings dear Nina.

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