This is my story of God’s goodness… the God who called me out before my birth… the amazing Creator who brough life from this body of death.
In college, I lived with one of our exchange student’s family for a summer. The questions I had constantly nagging in the background (how can I know this is real? does religion simply depend on where you grow up? are there really absolute truths? it’s possible to be convinced but to be wrong, so how can I know my convictions aren’t wrong? etc.)… these and more questions welled up for years, yet I never found a satisfying answer. For me, “just have faith” was not sufficient. My heart was longing for answers that could not be found. Throughout high school and college, I began to believe that there was not absolute truth – that each individual simply needed to do what they believed was best and that as long as you were genuine, you were okay. I believed that you could not know for sure and therefore it didn’t matter. God didn’t matter. How I lived my life didn’t matter.
Outwardly my life reflected the good “Christian” I was thought to be. Inwardly, I knew that was not the case. Conforming was easier. And since I was in a Christian culture, I conformed. During this time, I came to know people who (like me) were sinners. But in my “culture” as long as you looked good on the outside, no one asked questions. Everyone seemed more concerned with others thinking you were perfect than dealing with the root of the problems.
I became convinced that Christiany was merely a game. In my opinion at the time, no one cared about my heart or questions, they were more concerned with my actions. And I was tired of playing the game. I had played the game for 23 years and was sick of it.
Three days before college graduation, I was expelled from school. For me, that was the final straw. There seemed to be no point conforming anymore. At this point I began conforming to a different culture – the world’s. I sought satisfaction in everything I desired. There was nothing “off limits” for me. I did what I wanted, I bought what I wanted, I served only myself and convinced myself that this was the best I could ever hope for.
Please keep in mind, there was no difference in who I was from the previous years, simply a difference in what I did. I did not believe there was any eternal happiness possible. Life was hard, the best I could do is simply cope and then I’d die. A life of miserable “coping” is not a life worth living. That was my assumption.
At that point in my life, a friend of mine told me of a place where people cared about you, weren’t judgmental of who you are, and truly loved you for who you are not simply how you appear. I remember telling him “I don’t believe that exists, but if it did, that would be the best place ever.”
On August 10th, 2003, I visited Grace Covenant Church (now Sovereign Grace Church). That Sunday, the pastor and his wife invited me to come to their house the following Sunday for lunch. Free food? Sure, I’d sit through 2 hours of anything for a free homecooked meal. So, I came back. I ended up at their house from noon until 10PM that night talking to (and mocking) them for what they believed. But they were patient and loving each step of the way.
I remember the pastor asked me if I was a Christian. I said yes. He asked why I believed that. I told him because I knew that Jesus was God’s Son and that He died on the cross to save sins. I will never forget what Jim said to me next. He said. “Emily, Satan believes that too. Tell me, why is he condemned to hell for all eternity and you expect any different. What makes you different from him?” I had no answer. For the first time in my life, I was scared about that.
Fast forward … I came and left again countless times over the next 6 months. I would show up at church dressed immodestly, hungover or high and mocking so many of those that were there to worship God. But despite my antagonism, these people loved me and cared. They were different. I couldn’t explain it. God used that love to show me the meaning of the phrase “the kindness of God leads to repentence.”
God used the kindness of my church family to lead me to my Savior. He used free homecooked meals, little notes and cards, countless tear-filled prayers, trips to amusement parks (another long story) and so much more to show me His love. I didn’t earn the love I was shown. I tried to push it away. Yet they pursued. God Himself pursued me through them. As I was running away, He came running after me. He came after His little loss sheep. It was unexpected, unwanted, and supremely kind.
About 2 1/2 years ago, God drew my hard soul to Him. He broke the walls down and showed me true hope – it happened after a trip to Carowinds (an amusement park in Charlotte, NC). That trip could be a separate post, and maybe one day will be, but to summarize, what I saw that day was a group of eight 20 somethings who were serving each other, loving each other and prayed for God to be glorified in all they did that day. My thought was “that’s stupid. God’s not at an amusement park, He’s in church.”
But God proved me wrong. This thing called the “gospel” affected how those seven people lived that day. As Jess prayed for God to be glorified, something in my heart told me to simply watch. See if what they believe matched how they lived that day. So, I watched what I now know as the gospel, played out in human form that day. The Cross of Christ had changed their hearts, and was producing beautiful fruit. This truth I had been hearing about, didn’t just affect the pastors, it changed how those people spent a day at an amusement park – those people I referred to as “stupid 5th graders” showed me true maturity that day. I had no explanation. They were serving. They were unselfish. They were loving.
Through God’s grace, new life was breathed into my dead soul. I am undeserving of that grace. God’s kindess led my sinful soul to repentence of my infinite sins and to a trusting faith in Jesus as my only Hope. Not a “coping” anymore – this truth became a new reality. This was a new life. It was beautiful. The awful cross became to me a place of sheer beauty. Though I wanted to look away in shame, He drew me closer, ever reminding me that my shame was paid for completely in full on that bloody cross. There is NO PART of my sin that was not exponged that day.
I am truly undeserving of such grace. All praise to my God, for He is infinitely worthy!
I’m looking forward to the next step of this journey on May 18th. God is truly good. I’m eternally grateful.
The story He has written for me is amazing and humbling. It is only by God’s mercy I am where I am today. His grace is beautiful.