The Journey Home, Part 1
I once told an older friend of mine, “I don’t have a flashy testimony. It’s pretty boring, actually.” He looked at me with such tenderness and said, “But yours is the best kind! It’s not about how you found God. It’s about how God has faithfully held onto you.” He was so right. My story is about how God searched for my distant and fearful heart, and how his patience, faithfulness and kindness brought me home.
My story begins with fear. I remember lying in my room one night when I was five years old, contemplating hell. I had just started kindergarten at a little Christian school and it must have been a part of the curriculum to regularly present the benefits of “making a decision for Christ”. At the top of the teacher’s list was that you wouldn’t go to hell. After she described it as a place of uncontainable fires and perpetual screaming, I was certain that I didn’t want to end up there. But I wasn’t certain that I wanted to end up in heaven either. More specifically, an eternity spent with God wasn’t a comforting thought. I pictured him as continually frowning at me with a disapproving look on his face. I spent a fair amount of my school day in time out, so this was a facial expression I was quite familiar with.
As I laid in bed that night, I weighed my options. Hell with its endless torment or heaven with its inescapable presence of God. My decision became an easy one as soon as I remembered my mom would be heaven. I prayed and asked Jesus to live in my heart and thus began my journey with God.
I wish I could say that everything changed for me that night. That a sense of peace and calm and love for God washed over me. Or that from that day forward, I never spent another recess in time out. But that is not my story. Even though I belonged to God, I was not to discover his love until I was 30 years old.
For as long as I can remember, I pictured God as distant and angry—the thundering, fiery, law-giving God of the Old Testament. I wrongly assumed that when I sinned, the Father was waiting to blast me with consequences, unless Jesus chose to intervene and plead with the Father to let me off with a warning. To be honest, I thought of Jesus as the nicest member of the Trinity—the Father was angry and the Holy Spirit was just peculiar.
This kind of thinking kept me on the straight and narrow for a long time. I obeyed, not out of love, but from a deep sense of fear. I did all I was supposed to do, but I kept my distance from God, and (secretly) hoped he’d keep his distance from me. This “fear of the Lord” (not the good kind proposed in Proverbs, but the “I’m afraid of what you might do to me” kind), ultimately began destroying me. If God was not for me, then everything felt against me. Who could I trust? I was insecure, unstable, blown about by my circumstances, full of anxiety and fear. I hid it really well—only of few people knew that side of me.
I knew that I could not continue this way forever. Deep down, I wanted a different kind of relationship with God, but I wasn’t even sure where to begin. How do you learn to trust, when you’ve spent a lifetime protecting yourself? The wide-embracing, wondrous love of God made a way for me. Stop by next week to see how God drew me close to himself through the Gospel of John. Until then, my friend, know that he longs to make a way for you back to his heart too. You are a treasure worth seeking, and he is searching the horizon looking for you. Is it time for you to make that journey home? I hope you’ll join me as we find our way together.
Your friend on this road,