I grew up as a Sunday school kid. I grew up listening to sermons about Jesus and warnings about hell. And I wondered what I must do to be saved. One day, when I was around 10 or 11 years old, when I finally had my own room, the sermon was about a change of heart, from a heart of stone to a heart of flesh. That night, in my room, I cried out to God for the first time I could remember. I realized my helplessness in changing my own heart and pleaded with Jesus not to leave me in that state.
Since my confession was private, I did not know that what transpired was monumental. I looked more like a good girl before than after. I transferred to a public school where I became fluent in cursing then I went through high school rebellion. When I got accepted at my dream university, my parents feared I would be even more out of control when I leave home. My mom made a deal with me. She would let me go if I were to read a chapter of Proverbs everyday.
We met a family friend at a dentist’s clinic while going through the medical exam for enrollment. He invited me to his church on campus. I went there and got invited to the Dormitories Christian Fellowship and to the Navigators. I became a member and a leader in all three. I also joined a Bible study with CCC where I learned that I was already a Christian. My regular reading of Proverbs convicted me of my sinful acts of deceit that were committed for the sake of escaping my strict parents and healed our relationship. I had daily external sources of spiritual food due to my involvement in church and in para-churches. Through them, I learned the importance of spiritual discipline. I also had atheist professors who challenged me to know what I believe in. One questioned how we would reconcile God’s justice with His mercy. The simple answer is the cross, but without grace, one would not come to that understanding. I stepped into the excruciatingly difficult field of Computer Science. With these three motivations, I started basking in God’s Word and expressing my dependence on Him through prayer.
Adoption into God’s family brought me more brothers and sisters than I could count. I heard stories of how God radically changed their lives and observed these transformations myself. I foolishly asked God for a more dramatic testimony. Having a God who answers prayers, I came to see just how sinful I can be.
I entered into a relationship after college and I lived off-campus. I continued to be involved in my organizations’ late night activities, but my boyfriend then would worry about my safety and we would fight. Eventually, I conceded to stop going. Suddenly, my world became tiny and my only accountability was to my discipler in church. When he was disciplined by the church for his homosexual acts, I went into another phase of rebellion. My boyfriend then and I pushed the limits of intimacy until it landed us in our own case of church discipline. It shattered my imaginary righteousness. I caused so much dishonor to His name. But He loved me just the same. At that time, the other couples were going down that dark path and it was a wake up call to them. I thought our collective wickedness would kill our church, but painfully restored us instead.
While I was under discipline, my grandfather was diagnosed with lung cancer. I flew home to see Him. With fresh eyes of God’s mercy, I spoke to him about eternity and he went from fearing death to embracing it, knowing that Christ prepared a house with many rooms in heaven for us.
I served in the afternoon service of the church for a decade. But its leaders never designed it for people to stay. Most of my friends moved to the morning service or to other churches. When the pastor left to become the senior pastor of his sending church, we were assigned one who was fresh from a theological seminary. His sermons were hastily prepared as he would confess and sounded more like lectures. I brought it up and stuck around for a few months, but I was not growing.
I met with the family friend who invited me to the church on campus. He invited me to a church off-campus. He said that this church had men he wanted to be like when he grew up and that this church changed his view of the church. At first, there was no afternoon service and I was never a morning person. When I would fail to wake up early enough, I hopped to other churches. Then they had started holding afternoon service. I finally attended a discipleship cell meeting once only to stop once I started pursuing graduate studies. My classes were at night or on Saturdays. I studied and studied until I almost lost contact with the world except for Bible study with the Navigators and Sunday worship. I joined a project that helped save lives affected by disasters. It took me away from church on some weekends and my spiritual life was a disaster.
I entertained the idea of committing to an unbeliever. Knowing that it would eventually land me in church discipline, I put off applying for membership and being accountable to the church. But God is sovereign. He took that person from the lab, then from the city, and then from the country. I lost one friend, but gained a “churchful” of others, and more than friends, they are sisters and brothers. Ours is a unity of great sinners in need of a great Savior.
She who was forgiven much loves much, and hopes to one day love His church unto purity as He does.