1 Timothy 1:16 (NLT) says: But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.
I am a New Zealander living in the Bible-belt of the United States. Many people have asked me why I’m here. Don’t get me wrong — I love my country! Although Texas is not my first choice of places to live, I do know this is where God brought me 33 years ago.
God already knew (but I still had to find out at that time) that for me to come into relationship with Him, He’d have to bring me out of my birth country and into a totally different way of thinking. A place where being a Christian is accepted and commonplace, almost even expected.
Of course, God is readily available wherever we are and we don’t have to be in a church to seek God — but years ago, that wasn’t part of my thinking. I wasn’t brought up to know that or think that way. I can’t honestly remember knowing or even thinking much about God growing up, not in any depth anyway. Really the only exposure I got to Him was through a neighbor friend, with whom I went to Sunday School a couple of times, and when I read the Bible as a kid.
As a youngster, I loved to read and would read the dictionary, encyclopedias (that dates me), and even the Bible (surprisingly, my Mum had one among the books on her headboard).
None of those books had any more significance to me than any of the others, but maybe reading the Bible or Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach, (also on Mum’s bookshelf) as a pre-teen, helped kindle a curiosity in me. Looking back now, I believe God was drawing me to him.
But I loved to write, too. I wrote poems, songs, and stories. I remember wanting to write a book since I was about ten years old and have started many times over the years. I’ve realized for some years now that it is a desire the Lord put in my heart. My calling, I believe (and yes, I’ve been fighting that, too!).
As a teenager, the running around, partying, drinking, drugs, and sleeping around, all seemed so shallow, so superficial, to me. Life seemed to lack meaning and purpose.
I remember feeling hopeless (the beginning of a lifetime battling depression) and asking myself, “Is this all there is to life?”
Even though I had questions about the meaning and purpose of life, my own in particular, I still kept on doing the same things year after year, mainly because I didn’t know what else to do. That was life, and that’s all there was to it. Nothing really helped answer the questions I had, but then, I was looking in all the wrong places after all.
Have you ever noticed how easy it is to just keep doing the same things you’ve always done, even though you may not like the results and you wished things were different? Many of us wish for change, yet when the opportunity to change comes knocking at the door, we balk.
Bad habits are easier to keep than they are to break.
Looking back now, I can see how God had his hand in my life to get me where I am today. Have you noticed how we can be so blinded by everything going on when we’re in the middle of things, but looking back, we can see more clearly how He has been working in our lives all along?
I had the desire to travel and I thought a working holiday would be the best way to do it since I didn’t have a lot of money saved up. I found out from my half-sister that her ex-husband knew some people in California who had some friends in Texas who wanted a nanny. Could that get any more convoluted? If that wasn’t a God-thing, then I don’t know what is!
I’m very introverted and, for me, taking the initiative to contact people I didn’t know (by snail mail, no less!) to ask them about their need for a nanny, was a very big step. But I did it, and next thing I know, at 20 yrs old, I’m selling my meager possessions (car and bed) and heading over to Texas by myself, to meet people I didn’t know. I even stopped in Hawaii and Los Angeles for a couple of days each and saw a few sights, by myself. I see now how the Lord protected me as I traveled alone.
I made it to Texas and was met at the airport by strangers; a pharmacist, his wife, and their two boys aged 1 and 2—the family I would live with for the next few months. They soon introduced me to church and that gave me people my own age to run around with. I got emotionally caught up in the fervor of a revival in their Church of Christ and got baptized, even though I didn’t really believe everything I was told.
The nannying was a great experience and I got to do a lot of things that I may never have got a chance to do otherwise. I drove a Mercedes convertible, went on a ski trip to Colorado with the church, and flew with the family in their 6-seater airplane, with the pharmacist as pilot, to Oklahoma to visit his extended family. However, after 5 months the wife became jealous when her boys starting preferring me over her and calling me “mommy”, so the husband reluctantly let me go (with severance pay) to keep his wife happy.
Anyway, to make a long story shorter, I managed to resist the pull of the Lord for another ten years, and instead pursued fun, relationships (including two marriages that dissolved), and other self-serving endeavors, until I finally messed my life up on a grand scale. I was going through my second divorce and was at the point of losing my two children from that marriage in a custody battle when it finally dawned on me that I had no other choice but to seek God’s help.
He had allowed me to get to the end of myself.
I knew I didn’t stand a chance of winning the custody battle without His help. My children were only three and one. I loved them and couldn’t imagine losing them. They were important enough to me that, if I lost custody of them, I wasn’t sure how I’d survive. In fact, I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to survive.
I hated myself, who I’d become, and all that I’d done. I was still suffering from depression and had already tried to commit suicide once, before my children were born. The thought of leaving them motherless was the only thing that stopped me from trying again.
I was more than 6,000 miles from any family support and had alienated a lot of my friends and co-workers through my own selfish actions. Not only that but I also had a tendency to keep people at a distance as a way of hiding my own shame and the embarrassment resulting from those actions. Being a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I was not a stranger to shame. Keeping people at a distance was my way of preventing them from finding out about the real me and giving them a reason to not like me. (I’d like to say I no longer do that, but I still do. Shame runs deep and, like depression, keeping it at bay takes consistent prayer and effort.)
When I finally got to the point of realizing I needed Him because I had come to the end of myself, He knew I had to be in an environment where I had the opportunity to find Him.
It was during my custody battle that my lawyer, a Christian, suggested I go to church because it would be “good for my case”. I obeyed, knowing I needed to do anything within my power to add points to my side. I slipped in the back row Sunday after Sunday, feeling like a hypocrite and fearing someone would find out who I was and shoo me out the door. Gradually, the Lord opened the eyes and ears of my heart to the point where I could hear Him beckoning me and my own softened heart answering His call.
I asked the Lord Jesus to forgive me and to take over and fix the mess I’d made.
My love for Him grew as I spent time in His Word and in prayer, and I got a glimpse of how much He loved me (unconditionally). Our relationship caused a dramatic and instant change in me. I was totally different than before—truly a new creation in Him—and it was very apparent to those around me.
I reached the point where I trusted Him completely and He gave me His supernatural peace about all I was going through. I knew God was in control, He was going to do what was best for my children’s future, and that He would help me get through this ordeal, whatever the outcome.
I won the custody battle.
That was a little over twenty years ago and although it hasn’t always been easy, I’ve never regretted my decision to trust Him, even when my NZ family berate me for my “religious talk”.
So the Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For the Lord is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for his help. (Isaiah 30:18, NLT)
What are you waiting for? He’s waiting for you with open arms!