Every story matters. Whether big or small, polished or rough, perfect or far from it, every story matters to God. And he wants to use each story to impact another. And another. And another. Until the whole world knows. You don't have to be a teacher or speaker. You just have to be prepared to share your own relationship with God. To give a reason for your hope. So I thought I would share my story.
While I don’t have a dramatic conversion story, I often compare my relationship with God to that of a marriage.
I grew up in church - like 3 times a week, 52 weeks a year in church - so I always knew about God and had a general understanding of what the Bible taught. I knew what sin was - in childlike terms, “the bad and disobedient things I did.” I understood that even though I wasn’t doing really bad things, God didn’t distinguish between “really bad things” and “little bad things.” He just called it all sin. And sin required a punishment. I think I was around the age of 6 when I consciously acknowledged that God sent his son Jesus to die for me and my sin. That’s when I basically said, “Jesus, I believe you died on the cross to take my place because of my sin.” I remember parts of it, but it was not much more than me saying a prayer in my head in the church basement. Simple and childlike, for sure. But that was kind of when I said, “I do” to God.
At that time I was taught that Jesus now “lived in my heart,” so I guess that’s when we moved in together and started getting to know each other better. Sometimes I was really interested in him, sometimes not so much. I was baptized around age 12 and learned a lot about God and his Word during my tween and teen years. I definitely had a relationship with him, but it didn’t always have a lot of depth to it. It was in college that God began to woo me to himself, and I started to pursue him more earnestly. This was my first experience with a small group, and I started to look for some of my own answers in an attempt to make my faith my own. I was falling deeper in love. And I finally had some mentors who helped me see what it really meant to be in this “marriage,” this relationship with God. From that time on, I had seasons of complacency as well as seasons of deep desire. I was committed to the marriage which, up to that point, had been pretty easy.
Most of my story with God has really happened in about the last 15 years of my life, and over the last three years, my relationship with him has taken huge forward steps. The depth of intimacy I now share with God is well beyond what I ever previously experienced, and I attribute this to our first really, really big fight. I knew a lot of his promises and many things from his Word. Through the years, he had taught me several aspects of his character through challenges I had faced, and while my faith was definitely growing, God and I had never experienced any significant conflict.
Then my daughter, Katie, was diagnosed with cancer. And I thought avoiding conflict was better than confronting it. So I repeatedly said, “I’m fine, God. It’s fine. It’s fine,” while trying to believe that myself. I was a passive-aggressive fighter, and I wasn’t really acknowledging my pain or letting him into that with me. But at some point during that time, God got in my face and forced me to take him one on one. I had never had to do that before. And it was then that I had to decide whether I was in the marriage or not. It was either give up and walk away or stay and fight for it. From then on, our fight was hands on and face to face, and it forced me to a level of intimacy which I would have never found holding hands with him in a field of daisies.
Because I was unwilling to give up and walk away, when I wasn’t actively fighting with God, I was forced to just sit with him. I couldn’t read. I couldn’t pray. I couldn’t understand his side of the story. All I could do was sit. I would wake up early, say “Good morning, God,” and then just sit. Sometimes for hours. And even though I didn’t have anything to say to God, somehow, in my spirit, I allowed him to sit beside me on that couch. And, through that time, I learned how to simply let him love me without any effort on my part. I honestly don’t think I had ever done that before. My prior relationship with him had always been built somewhat on my own efforts. But it turns out the time I spent sitting was truly the most affectionate time I have ever experienced with God.
For some people, saying “I do” to God is the hard part. For me, that was the easy part. But either way, “I do” is only the beginning of the marriage. The relationship I have with God now is more intimate than I ever had before because I share the deeper parts of my heart with him. Sometimes he just holds me close, and sometimes he says some pretty stern things to me. But I love him. And he loves me. And we’re gonna make it.