Father of Lies

While my baptism granted me the privilege to call God my Father, it also brought a much different father into my life with a seemingly renewed kind of brute force. Jesus called him the father of lies, and from practically the moment I emerged from that water, I know he was there to steal my joy. He’d failed in his attempt to stop my baptism from happening, but he had already proven his skill at flooding my mind with fear— fear so powerful that it could conquer any trace of love I had inside of me.

I should have seen it coming. After all, my fear of having to publicly expose my sin had nearly kept me from proclaiming my love. But, for a moment, that love was so complete. The depth of my passion was so overwhelming that I would never have believed anything could be strong enough to break it. Yet, soon enough, I began to hear this voice. All of a sudden, this torrent of unwelcome thoughts started rushing through my head— thoughts that I would be mortified to speak out loud, or to write on a page. I can’t even describe how terrible it was, but it made me question everything. I started to doubt my motive for wanting to be baptized in the first place. What if I had just done it because I wanted other people to think I was good? Or worse than that, what if I had done it because I wanted to make myself feel superior to other people? What if this had nothing to do with love at all? Maybe I wasn’t even capable of love. How could I possibly be, if after hearing that beautiful story of God’s love for me, I could do nothing but exploit it for my own selfish gain? All of a sudden, I just felt like a monster. A wolf in sheep’s clothing. Evil.

I’d like to say that those feelings eventually subsided, but the truth is that they really never did. They actually began to grow worse the more I tried to grow in my understanding of God. In the course of my Scriptural studies, I found passages that referenced an unforgivable sin, and I became convinced that I had committed it. Furthermore, I began to reason that because I had committed it, I was destined for Hell— no matter what I did from that point on. God no longer wanted me, and it would be of no use to pretend otherwise. Thirteen years old. Thirteen years old, and these were the kinds of things I thought about.

It wasn’t until many years later that I started to allow myself the freedom to draw the connection between my self-image as a pretender and the snares of the ultimate pretender. There’s a reason why Jesus called him the father of lies. It’s what he does. And behind every good lie, there always seems to be some small facet of truth that is just significant enough to make the lie convincing.

I’m not going to say that I’ve triumphed over these thoughts and feelings of self-condemnation— because it isn’t true. Even to this day, I still struggle with them. But maybe that’s okay. Maybe it just means that, for now, I keep fighting. I keep fighting because I know that the only reason why my accuser continues to assault me is to keep me believing his lies. He doesn’t want any of us to know the truth— because the truth will be the end of his lies.

 

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A New Creation

The day of my baptism was January 7th, 2001. Even the date was significant, although I couldn’t have known how significant it was when I chose it. For several members of my family, January 7th recalled the tragic loss of a father, and what I didn’t realize at the time was that, in a much different way, it would someday come to mean the same thing for me. I couldn’t have known that, but He did. Looking back on it now, it’s as if He chose the date for me—as if He were saying: Though you shall know the pain of losing an earthly father, be comforted in also knowing that I will never leave you.

I remember being so excited that day. Happy. Nervous. And I remember that I almost didn’t go through with it. At one point, when I was waiting to be brought out to the water, someone told me that I would have to “make a confession” before being allowed to be baptized. Having a total misunderstanding of what this person meant, I assumed that I would be required to stand before my  family—and an entire congregation of people—and confess in graphic detail every sin I’d ever committed to my knowledge. Of course, what she’d actually meant was that I merely needed to confess that I had sinned. I needed to proclaim my acceptance of Jesus of Nazareth as the Son of God, my Savior, and agree to submit my life to Him. In the end, it wasn’t a hard decision to make, considering what I knew He had done for me. But in the anxiety-fueled moments leading up to that confession, I was a teenage wreck. I was trembling. I was crying. I was hiding in a corner thinking, how can I possibly go out there and confess my sins to all these people? I’m grateful that someone finally figured out what was going on and eventually calmed me down. Otherwise, I might not have been baptized at all.

That experience remains with me to this day, because it makes me wonder if the main reason why I’ve hesitated so often in expressing my faith is that I’m afraid to be held accountable for it. I’m sure I sinned on a daily basis before I came to faith in Christ. And I  know I’ve sinned every day since then, too. It’s hard to call myself a Christian in the presence of those who know my failures. It makes me feel hypocritical and fake. Yet, somehow, it also encourages me to try harder. It helps me to be more purposeful in my words and in my actions toward others so that I don’t fail quite as often.

The Bible says that when a person is baptized, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell inside of them, so that they die to themselves and become like Christ. But I don’t think it happens all at once. Like all living things, the Spirit born inside of us has to be nurtured in order to grow. And we can’t expect that to happen if we suppress it out of fear. I admit that I’m guilty of doing this, and I pray for forgiveness because I never want to spurn this gift—this precious gift of new life.

 

 

Still, Small Voice

It’s been nearly sixteen years since I first heard the still, small voice of my Creator. My grandmother had been bringing my sister and me to church with her as often as she could since we were born. She had even ensured that my premature birth was mentioned in her congregation’s weekly bulletin, so that everyone would pray for my recovery. I had attended Sunday school and vacation Bible school in addition to the regular Sunday morning services in that congregation as I grew up, and it was a very familiar place for me in my childhood. But it wasn’t until the year I turned thirteen that I finally understood the reason why. Up to that point, I had always thought of going to church as something I did either to appease my grandmother, or to be a “good girl.” I can remember being awakened from a sound sleep on certain Sunday mornings and insisting to my grandmother that I was too tired to get up for church that day, only to be coerced by her warning that the devil was telling me to stay in bed. I also remember the way she would bring notepads and pencils for us to play with to keep us occupied during the hour-long service and, of course, sticks of chewing gum to keep us quiet. For the first thirteen years of my life, such was my experience—until one day, when something began to change.

The funny thing is that I can’t remember what was said. I can’t remember what the preacher was talking about that finally got my attention. I just remember that, for the first time in my life, I was engaged. I actually started to become interested in the story of Christianity, because even though I already knew it in a superficial way, I was ultimately beginning to feel it. As a little girl, I had always been enamored by love stories. My favorite Disney movie, by far, had been “Beauty and the Beast,” and it had been quite a common occurrence for me as a child to be caught daydreaming—most often about the handsome prince who would someday carry me away to his castle in the clouds and make me his princess. As I grew into adolescence, my romanticism about falling in love never diminished—although it might have become slightly more realistic. But, as my knowledge of Christianity grew, I couldn’t help falling captive to what I considered to be the most profound love story I’d ever heard. Just the thought that the Creator of life— far too virtuous to condone evil and to break His own laws—would love me so much that He would become human and die for me, just so I could live with Him forever… Well, suffice it to say that that one expression of love came to mean more to me than any expression I had ever known about before. And I knew that from that day forward, any expression of love I would ever know in the future would be founded upon it. I was spellbound. It was as if I’d been sitting in a darkened room for thirteen years and someone had finally turned the light on for me.  I just couldn’t believe I’d been coming to church there all that time and never understood any of it, and it wasn’t long before I approached that preacher and asked him to baptize me.

As I started to delve more deeply into the words of the Bible and to spend more time with other Christians, I came to understand the way in which God draws us individually to Himself. Having designed each of us uniquely, He knows how best to get our attention. And if we are willing to listen, we can distinguish His gentle whisper to our hearts. Mine is just one of the countless stories regarding how God has sought to passionately pursue and make Himself known to His creation. I have shared it because I believe that in revealing ourselves to each other, we are better able to solidify and affirm our faith. I hope this helps.

 

In the beginning…

I’ve never tried this before. Not just the whole “blogging” thing, but becoming proactive in my personal spirituality. I’m a very private person, and throughout the majority of my life since I was first brought to Christianity, I regret to acknowledge that my journey in it has been very tumultuous. I’ve struggled a lot—so much more than I could ever try to express tonight. But in spite of everything, and no matter what else has transpired in the nearly sixteen years since that time, of one thing I still remain certain: my life would be nothing without it. I’ve done a lot of floundering in the midst of fleeting moments of transcendence—moments when I felt the embrace of my Creator as genuinely as I could feel anything in this world. I’m holding tightly to those moments as I try to push forward, and I’m writing these things because nothing in this world can ever mean more to me than that embrace. If there’s anyone reading this who feels the same way, I hope I can connect with you. And if there’s anyone reading this who doesn’t, I hope I can connect with you.