Want to know something about me? I'm not perfect. Are you shocked? It's true. In fact, I am FAR from perfect. Want to know something else about me? Until recently I thought I needed to be perfect for God to love me. Silly, I know. I have spent the majority of my life punishing myself because I thought God couldn't love me because of the bad choices I have made, being the "adventurous" soul that I (sometimes) am. I have spent years focusing on my sins...I was unable to let go of the past and look forward, allowing myself to make better decisions and live a life that God wants me to live. I feared death. Unable to imagine how I could stand before the Lord and explain myself, would he even listen or had he already made up his mind?
Growing up I attended church and Sunday school every Sunday with my family. I went through confirmation. Each summer I was enrolled in Bible school. I believed in Jesus, but that is where it ended. I didn't have a relationship with Jesus. I didn't get any meaning out of the sermons on Sunday. Bible school...it was merely crafts and new songs, a social time. I knew what it meant to "sin," I knew the Ten Commandments and not to break them. I guess I never knew about forgiveness...true forgiveness. I never knew that God doesn't keep a record of wrongs...in fact, I thought my record was probably longer than anyone else in the whole world. I could not understand how God could love me and so I doubted his love for me. I thought that all the "bad" things that happened to me, the skin cancer, the epilepsy, my grandparents dying at such a young age, my miscarriage, my failed marriage, my parents divorce, all of it...I believed it was God punishing me for my sins...
And then God sent me Angels...(okay, so I'm a bit dramatic...but I do believe). God had a plan for me. His plan brought me to Covenant Graphics (did you know that's the name of the holding company for Modern Litho-Print and Brown Printing?) and blessed me with new friends, Darla, Darrell, Greg and Becky. They became my "spiritual mentors." Never pushing, never overbearing...in fact, it started with me asking Darla if I could join her Bible study. And so began my journey.....
It wasn't easy. In fact, I guess you could say I "failed" the first try. I was doing so well...going to Bible study each week with Darla. My family and I started to attend a new church, the church that Darla and her family belong to. I began to develop a deeper relationship with Jesus...and then I doubted myself. I let others opinion of me get to my head. People began questioning me. Comments like, "We like the old Betsy better...the 'party' girl Betsy!" My friends would laugh when I told them I was going to Bible study. I drew back. And then I stopped my journey all together.
After being diagnosed with epilepsy in October last year I began to re-evaluate my life. I took a step back. I realized that for the past several years I, as a mother of three and a wife, was leading a "single" person's lifestyle. I was never home. My husband felt alone. Our marriage was stressed. I had nothing in common with the people I was hanging out with. I had no friends that were married and/or had children. For the first time in years I opened my eyes, and I realized that my diagnoses was God's way of saying "you need to change." I listened. I pouted at first. I was angry. I thought it was another "punishment." And then on Wednesday evening during Bible study, Gayle (the groups lesson leader) asked all of us to go around the room and share when we were "saved." I sat in silence. I could feel my cheeks turn hot. In my head I was praying that the Earth would open up and I would fall through. I had no idea what it meant to be "saved." I have been baptized. I was an infant. But I was sure that my baptism was not the same as being saved. I listened in horror to each and every woman talk about her experience. I was completely ashamed.
Three weeks after that evening I left for New York city with Greg and Becky. We had gone to New York on a business trip, I had never been. One night Becky and I were visiting and I asked Becky, "what does it mean to be saved?" Becky explained to me that being saved means that you have asked Jesus to come into your heart, you have confessed with your mouth and believe in your heart that Jesus Christ died on the cross for your sins. It means that your sins have been washed away by the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the cross and that when you accept him into your heart you now have access to forgiveness for your sins by prayer. Wow!
That same night as I laid in my bed in the hotel room in New York city I listened to my heart. I was quiet. I began to cry. I couldn't believe that after all my sins...after all the bad in my life, the wrong choices I had made that God still brought these wonderful, amazing and forgiving people into my life. I was surrounded by love. The women in my Bible study had opened their hearts to me from the beginning. They never judged. They didn't gasp when I said I had not been saved. Darla never gave up on me, even when I quit the journey. She loved me unconditionally...knowing my "adventurous" soul. Greg and Becky believed in me. I laid in bed wondering how I had come so far. How could these people love me so much? And then I realized the one common thread in all of their lives. Their faith and their relationship with Jesus. I wanted it. I've never wanted something so badly in my life. I wanted a relationship with Jesus. I wanted to be forgiven of my sins. I wanted to change. I wanted to begin the life that Jesus wants me to live. And so I asked Jesus for forgiveness. I asked Jesus to come into my heart and show me the way.
I'm still on a journey. I'm still traveling the road to a more Christ like life. I sometimes stumble...but with the help of Jesus I pick myself up. Jesus forgives me.
I will never be able to express my thanks enough to Darla, Darrell, Greg and Becky. Not only have I been "saved" in Christian terms, but Darla, Darrell, Greg and Becky "saved" me too.
For the first time in my life, I am truly happy. I feel peace. I am proud of who I am and what I have become. For the first time in my life I have opened my heart to Jesus and developed a relationship with Him, not just Faith. I don't have to look back anymore. I no longer feel the burden of my sins. Jesus died on the cross for my sins. Now that's something to fall on your knees about!