These are things God has done. These are Redemption Stories.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Redemption Story #10 - Seeking in all the Wrong Places

I was not brought up in a Christian family. I had a fairly happy childhood, with parents and family who loved me. I ended up hanging around with all the Christian girls in school and tried youth group, but I didn’t fit in. My best friend was the BEST example of a true Christian. She didn’t swear, wasn’t boy crazy, was friends with everyone, and just loved on people. I never thought I could live up to all that and so I turned to boys and alcohol. 

That choice led me down a path of pain and emotional turmoil, I almost didn’t survive. My views were very liberal and at the time I believed in evolution, and a woman’s right to choose, and many other “modern” philosophies and “new age” trends.

One day I was trying to debate the evolution/creation theories, with a very simple, yet devout, Christian lady. As I carried on about the Galapagos Islands and the variety of different animals being suited to their particular environments, this simple(WISE) woman said to me, “Isn’t it beautiful, how God has made it?”

It was at that moment, I believed in God the creator. I knew that if God was who (I thought he should be…) he was, all powerful and absolutely perfect, why would he have created these creatures or anything, but in a way that would suit its environment?

This was only the beginning. I now believed, but I wasn’t ready to change anything in my life and didn’t understand God’s love and grace. I thought God and faith were crutches, with rules and a life of boredom.

I became an alcoholic by the age of 20 and one night about a month after attempting suicide and waiting to enter a treatment centre, I said my first prayer.( You see, I believed and held God in my own weird and misshapen box. I didn’t say “bless you”, when somebody sneezed because I thought God would find it insulting, coming from me. ) I prayed to God that night in desperation and at “rock bottom”, I saw no way out of my despair, except for God… IF he was real and would even listen to me.

I know he heard me and I know he has been with me through every moment. It took another 9 years of trying things my own way, abusive marriage, more alcohol, drugs, having 2 kids living in this situation, it was insane actually. One night my husband hurt me in front of the children. That was it. I left. I stayed at a transition house, went in for counselling, started attending AA, and met my new husband who believed.

For the first time ever, I was attracted to someone who spoke of God. I can only attribute it to God opening my ears. While we were living in New Westminster, my land lady, invited me to a Christian mom’s group. Then to an ALPHA course. We attended together (it was our “date night”). It was through this amazing combination of events, I became a Christian. I found a mentor and a women’s group, read my bible and prayed. It was the beginnings of an eternal life. I had made so many mistakes and God forgave ME.

When I got baptized, my best friend from school came. I didn’t know she was coming. When I saw her there with some of the other Christian girls from school, I was so happy. They told me they had been praying for me for years. Wow! I am so grateful to those girls and especially to God, who never gave up on me. This “walk” has never been boring. At times it has been brutal. God has used me, through my experiences, to reach out to others. So what can I say, but, if our God is for us, then what can stand against us?

My most inspiring bible verse is Romans 8:28 "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Redemption Story #9 - Redemption from Religion

I grew up in the Christian world. The one where you do everything and anything Christian. Christian school for 13 years. Church since the womb. Youth group since middle school.

The kind of world where you know the Bible back and front, you know the classic “I’m praying for you” and “praise God!” in the good and the bad times. The Ten Commandments you have memorized. The right answers you know how to say.

This unfortunate lifestyle I like to refer to as the mind religion, not the heart relationship. I’m not mad or ashamed of the way I was raised- I learned core values that I still have, and really did feel supported and surrounded by people who loved me. The problem was I thought I knew it all, and because I spent so much time surrounded by Bible class and youth group, I never really imagined that it went beyond what I knew. What I knew was empty, boring, repetitive, and dry like toast.

After grad, I wanted to do one thing: travel. I was accepted to YWAM in England, though I only went to meet people and travel (after all, I thought I had God down pat). When I arrived, I was quickly shaken to the core.

People I met loved God because, well, they simply loved Him. They didn’t emphasize rules or the right things to say, they loved God because they knew Him. I realized VERY quickly that the God I thought I knew was not the God I saw and wanted. At first, I began to resist everything. I was afraid God was going to call me to be a missionary somewhere far away, and I was also ashamed that I missed the point for my entire 18 years.

I remember one night I was reading the story of Jonah, and something clicked. Sobbing on my knees in my dorm room, I promised God that I would stop running, and I was shocked and delighted to find that in that moment, I didn’t have to get up and search for Him. I crashed into Him: He had been chasing me the entire time. From that moment on, He began to speak, and I began to hear Him. The Bible became alive, as if I never read it before, and prayer wasn’t just something I did before I ate.

For six months I went on a rollercoaster of emotion, a wild adventure involving living on a sailing ship on the Mediterranean, crazy stories of his faithfulness and divine encounters, and repetitive God moments. In that half a year, it was as if a tube was placed between my head and my heart, and suddenly following Jesus wasn’t just something I claimed to do, it became my identity. It changed me.

However, when I got home, I fast slipped into a pit of self-pity and homesickness. I quickly discovered that my friends were different, my home was different, and my former life was different. All I wanted to do was go back to life overseas, where God was so easy to hear and life was stress-free. Four months after being back, I was again sobbing on my bedroom floor. I was about to start university, but I felt lost.

Life was HARD. I felt like I was tested and failed. The passion I had was gone, I was deflated, and I felt like a fish out of water. I would cry myself to sleep because of loneliness and frustration. But I knew that I needed to begin to live a life different from what I had before, and I begged God for a second chance. It still is hard for me to hear God, and to seek after Him wholeheartedly without getting distracted by life.

Slowly, God began using me at school, and I got to reap rewards from sharing about him to classmates. He put burdens on my heart for the city, and he placed wonderful and encouraging friends in my life. Sometimes I remember the life I was living before, one consumed with the rules, church on Sundays, the emptiness, and I cringe. I am so thankful for the faithfulness of God, and for the relentless way He pursued me in my ignorance.

He redeemed me from the rules and facts that dictate a religion, and connected all my head knowledge to my heart, sweeping me up in the beauty of a genuine relationship with him. I’ve learned that following Jesus has nothing to do with a religion- it’s a relationship, woven into the fabric of who I am.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Redemption Story #8 - Sampson's Struggle

During my highschool years, I never got involved with the wrong crowd of people. Never got into the party hardy scene on weekends, never sold drugs or used and abused them, none of that kinda junk. So then what was the thing that God did a drastic turn around in my life? Girls.

I was always dating someone or after some girl. But mostly dating someone, and mostly dating someone who did not have any sort of faith in their life. Faith, I've learned, is something super important in any Christian relationship and I wish I had figured it out long ago instead of using the 'flirt to convert' excuse.

So grade 10 rolls around and I'm in a new school with new peeps. As geek-ish as this sounds there was this girl in band class who kept turning around and looking at me. She played clarinette and I played the bass. To be honest I never really got to know her at all. We just started talking one day over msn (old technology), and my good friend figured out we liked each other and decided to let us in on these secrets. So we decided to date, over msn, and that was that. The next day at school was kinda awkward because I wasn't sure what I was suppose to exactly do. Haha.

Anyways, time went on and as bodies and minds matured, we became interested with each other in more than just a friends way, know what I mean? Now, at this point, she had been going to the youth group I was attending and really enjoyed it, as well as church with me on Sunday mornings. So that was working, but only in some areas.

We often stretched our physical boundaries whenever we could. Time and time again, and every time when I left her house to go home for dinner, I felt horrible, but the next day brought the same outcome as the last. Now let me clarify, the V card was never lost during any of these afternoons but it was still not a good place to be in a christian relationship. So to end that part of the story, 3 years of dating went by and we just lost our dating connection and split. Ya, it hurt alot emotionally, 3 years is a long time, but since then I have kept in touch with her and she had definately strengthened her faith. She's now married and attends church every Sunday and is legit about living it out.

Next - right around the time of the break up I had met another girl in school, I was coming up to the end of grade 12 at this point and with a recent breakup and no one for a grad date, we became friends. She broke up with her boyfriend on the rigs in Alberta and started dating me right after the phone call. That was kinda awkward. She was awesome, she was funny, smart, all those cliche things you say about a girl. For a while anyways.

The relationship quickly turned very jealous and controlling. Then guy friends started dropping off the radar. I lost all my friends for her. All we did was hang out with each other. No one else. And guess what we did. NOTHING! Sat on the couch and watched tv or a movie. Never did anything exciting. Other than our daily yelling matches. Sometimes it was more than one.

Things got worse as the foster home that she lived at kicked her and her brother out because of our relationship. She felt more alone even though I never left her side. During the time when I lost all my guy friends. I also lost my V card to her and she lost hers to me. And man was it tough. I mean for that moment it was awesome but in the end it destroyed our relationship and our individual lives.

Since then it became a regular occasion and just like before, every time it happened I felt horrible inside, like God was upset with me and I could feel his aching heart towards me, but I pushed it more and more away. I still attended the youth group and lead a worship band Tuesday nights but I was living a double life. That band was empty for me because I didn't really believe in it. All that mattered to me was that couple minutes that we snuck out and steamed my car windows. In the bitter end, we broke up , after a year and a half, in a massive conflict which included: Egging houses, death threats towards the other person, vandalism, harassment at work, and ultimately a restraining order.

To be honest there was two more girls after that but these will be brief. both of these girls were what you would call a 'rebound'. It took two of them to get over this second relationship. Crazy I know, stupid, I know, as well. The first girl I met through a friend and she was a strong Christian who sang and led worship at her youth Group. She read her bible every night and was always on top of her prayers. She was also the only Christian in her family. She was physically pure and all around an encouraging person to be around. I was surprising not craving that need of a physical satisfaction like my previous relationship and we kept ourselves both pure during our relationship but it never lasted that long being a rebound. I think it was 3 months.

The 4th girl was not what I was expecting. She was "sort of" dating a friend of mine and he decided to have a bunch of people over for a games night. She was there and I was there and in that evening she completely ignored her boyfriend and was quite interested in everything about me. I didn't really know what to do, and because those two weren't officially dating she kinda just decided to hang around me, alot! Which I didn't mind. I really liked her but I didn't think it would skyrocket to where it did.

We started dating and soon after I had found out she was previously married at the age of 21, as I was 19. Yikes. Although at the time it didn't seem like a big deal to me. Boy was I wrong. Things happened both physically and spiritually which shouldn't have happened. Things seemed to be going back down that slippery slope again. Then one night as I was laying at home in my bed about to go to sleep I had this thought that was put in my head by God.

Basically he was saying, 'What are you doing? Why are you doing these things against my will? All this needs to end, now'. And I just sat up for a few minutes trying to comprehend what just went on in my head. And no joke I called her up, as cowardly as I was, and broke up with her over the phone at 11:30 at night and never felt an ounce of heartache. I felt relieved and free. I felt refreshed and new. Like I was starting over. Things from there kept getting better. I had rekindled all my lost friends and gained new ones as well. I felt like I didn't have this heavy weight over my shoulders anymore. It was the greatest thing I've ever experienced.

I made a vow to one of my close friends that I would not date again until I ran a 12.5s on the 1/4 mile in my racecar. Well guess what, that didnt happen. But it did cause me to slow down in the relationship aspect of my life and focus on other things before I started being a part of someone else's. To this day, the fastest time I ever hit was a 14.7 @94 mph and I'm a married man. Life couldn't be any more awesome. Amen!!

And as a word of encouragement to guys out there who have slipped physically in past relationships, one thing I did was tell my wife, before we first started dating, all that had happened to me in my past. Including all the physical stuff that you know she doesn't want to hear. But if she carries a strong faith on her shoulders, she will have the strength to forgive you and move forward in your relationship together. Being open and honest, no matter how hard it may be, is the best best best thing to do to build a strong relationship. Boom!

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Redemption Story #7 - Letting Go

I was someone who thought I had it all figured out.

Especially when it came to what kind of boy I should date. I never listened to what God wanted because I thought I knew better. I didn’t think I had to give that area of my life to God.

That prideful way of thinking got me into some pretty awful situations with the boys that I chose to go out with that included abuse in every sense of the word. I let boys run my life and dictate what I would do and how I would do it. I would not even consult God to see if this was what He wanted first. And it almost never was. I made the boys God in a sense, in my own mind.

For five years this continued until God took me and shook me. God did an amazing thing in my life, but it was one of the hardest that has ever been done to me at the same time. It was the most loving and quiet gesture but it rocked my world. My laptop started going a bit haywire one night after one of the roughest and most abusive nights I had ever had, and it started playing a song called 'How He Loves', except skipping each time and going back to the “He is jealous for me” part at the beginning. It continued to do this until the message completely sunk in.

I felt so broken, but not the every day broken that I had always felt. I felt broken for God. Through my tears, I started typing out a promise to God. “He is jealous for me. He doesn’t like it when my love, affections and trust go to others alone. Those things deserve to go to Him. He needs to come first in my life, above all else. From now on I will live out what He wants for me.”.

That was the last night I ever got abused by a boy. It was liberating, but hard. When you give your life over to a person like that instead of to God, it can be hard to give it back to God until you get used to it. I just had to pray and stay away from boys and focus on God and building myself back up to where He wanted me to be. It was hard, but I could not do it without Him.

And after a year and a half, God gave me a man that loves Him with everything he has and treats me like a man who loves Jesus should. He is nothing like the man I had ever pictured myself to be with. But this is who God wants me to be with, and I know that deep in my heart. I couldn’t be happier, and it surprised me because it was never what I wanted. It was entirely God’s choosing.

I am now someone that knows I don’t have it all figured out. But I know God does. And if I listen to Him and do what He wants, I know my life will be better than anything I or anyone else could ever make it be. I am now someone who lets God run my life, because I know I can’t do it on my own.