I grew up thinking that the Christian life was an uphill adventure. Every year, life gets tough as your faith muscles are being flexed to their maximum capacity, but whatever happens, you’re always improving. God only knows where I got this absurd idea, and now He tells me to delete it from my system because not only is it wrong, it’s deceiving.
The Christian life is not an uphill adventure. It’s a struggle-packed, roller coaster mess, but beautiful nonetheless.
I received Jesus into my life seven years ago, in February 2006 at the age of 12. Although I grew up in a Christian home, it was only after the Holy Spirit entered my life and started working in me that I felt, experienced, and knew what it was like to be really Christian. I developed a passion for reading and studying God’s Word. My quiet times usually lasted one to two hours. I served in various ministries and tried almost each one–tech, music, Sunday School (we call it NxtGen in our church), hosting, ushering, and retreat organization. For the first four or five years in my walk, I felt like God and I were the closest of friends. Sure, I fell every once in while. I struggled with self-control, discipline, loneliness, a very mild case of depression, and self-esteem issues. Nevertheless, I really saw God’s hand at work in my life, and I felt His power work in and through me. I stuck to God’s Word like masking tape on paper.
Then I started drifting away.
I don’t remember how The Drift started, but I know when it started: when I let my heart, instead of the Holy Spirit with my knowledge of God’s Word, dictate my actions. Feelings usurped the throne; the Holy Spirit and the mind was deposed. Instead of guarding the heart, I let it take the lead. I behaved and acted on impulse.
There was a time last year when I had ill feelings for a certain brother in Christ for no apparent reason! I just didn’t like the way he spoke because I thought he was pretending to speak good English when he occasionally spoke with wrong grammar. I served God with him with these feelings because I did not surrender them to the Lord.
There were times (and sometimes I still do) avoid the gazes of my friends (except the really close ones) and people I know because my heart told me: “They might think you’re feeling close. Don’t greet ’em. Wait for them to call you.” So I looked the opposite direction when a person was heading my way or looking towards me and avoided them instead of making their day extra special with a smile and a sincere “Hello.”
When I’m with friends, I pretended I was a health-freak. I ate healthy food, said I exercised regularly, and counted calories. I did do those things, but I did not tell them that I also binged almost every night, had regular guilt trips to the fridge, and failed almost all my “healthy living” resolutions.
My mind brimmed with me. I’m pretty sure my mind got sick of me. I meditated on the things I wished I had–clothes, shoes, a successful career in the future, a thick checkbook, a desirable boyfriend…the list never ended. Materialism became my philosophy.
The worst side of me appeared at home. You are who you are in your comfort zone. There were weeks when I did nothing but watch television, eat gluttonously, and yell at my brothers to stop eating the snacks that were supposed to be for our baon (packed lunch), when I myself ate them. I played Pharisee pretty well. When my parents made lambing to me and asked me to massage them, I hesitated, but eventually agreed with great reluctance because “I had to ‘pay’ them back for what they did.'” In my head, I questioned what I was doing: Why was I being forced to serve them? Shouldn’t service be done voluntarily? I resented massaging them for 15 minutes, but I never hesitated to ask my Mom for my allowance and my Dad to pick me up from school. Moreover, when they told me to do simple errands for them, it’s either I delayed doing them or thought of things I should get in exchange for doing their errands for them. The list could go on and on. The perfect girl wasn’t really perfect after all.
I realized that something was wrong and that I was not being Christlike when, one night (which was last night), I grew tired of it all. I grew tired of watching too much TV, eating too much junk food, hurting too much people, and leaving myself hurt, depressed, confused, and worst off than when I started. I kept telling myself that I want CHANGE, but CHANGE wasn’t happening. I tried going back to my healthy living resolutions, character-building books, and all the other things I thought would help me bring the change I wanted. Most of them failed, and the others worked only for a short period of time. Where do I turn to? Then suddenly, sentences formed in my mind.
“You were bought with a price. It was for freedom that Christ has set you free. Stand firm, and do not be enslaved again by a yoke of slavery. I did not save you to waste your life on worthless things, Jenny. Wake up! You are a child of the living God. Don’t waste your life away. Come back to Me. I love you so much, daughter! Come home, please.”
A thousand times I failed Him, still His mercy remained. Still His grace enveloped me. Still His love welcomed me with open arms.
Last night, I repented. Today, I come clean. I’ve been meaning to “come clean” a few weeks back, but I suppose God did not put the words in my mouth until I have been truly broken and humbled. The girl who thought she was steadily “pressing toward the goal of her upward calling in Christ Jesus” has really, been stuck in the mire but was too proud and too egocentric to see her dire and depressing predicament. She forgot she was in the state grace, which was accompanied by power. She gave up the power she had access to to gratify the passing pleasures of her sin.
I wrote this and shared my experience, hoping to encourage those who have fallen behind and warn those who are standing strong, that they may watch themselves or they, too, may be tempted. I learned three things. First, starting out perfectly does not mean you end up (or continue) walking perfectly. You trip, stumble, and fall. The Christian life requires hard work! It’s true that God is the one at work in my life, but He refuses to work alone. He wants my cooperation. He wants to teach His stubborn daughter responsibility and obedience, and He can only do that if He gives me work to do.
Secondly, it takes only a small lie to deviate you from the truth should you choose to entertain it. Do not give the devil a foothold! One of Satan’s widely used tactics is Messing With Our Minds. What’s our defense? God’s word! Those times I struggled and refused to come clean before God were the times when I neglected my quiet time and study of God’s Word. Never, ever neglect your quiet time! It may just be your greatest defense for a day of combat against the Deceiver.
Thirdly, the heart is DECEITFUL ABOVE ALL THINGS AND IS DESPERATELY SICK (Jeremiah 17:9, emphasis added). It’s not just sick–it’s DESPERATELY sick. This is truth. Forget about the “follow your heart” philosophy movies, songs, and celebrities advertise. It’s the worst piece of advice in the planet. To follow the heart means to allow it to hold the reins of your will and make your decisions for you, instead of you directing it towards making Godly decisions. The Holy Spirit taught me that I should drown my heart with Biblical truths via the mind in order for it to get used to following Him.
However, the greatest lesson I learned from my troublesome experience is not any of the things I just mentioned. They are nothing compared to this: God really, really does love me. Gently, sweetly, benevolently, passionately, mercifully, graciously. He is one of a kind. He did not give up on me, leave me, or forsake me as He promised. He disciplined me because I belonged to Him. He broke my legs and carried me through the consequences of my actions because He was my good Shepherd. I can’t thank Him enough for giving me the nth chance. God is indeed good, and I testify to that!
If you’ve been standing firm in Jesus, praise God for you! Just be careful, and keep walking by the Spirit. 🙂
If you can relate with me, and you’ve been struggling for some time now, know that there is HOPE. Forgiveness and restoration is readily within your disposal. But here’s the thing: you need to repent. God made it clear to me: once I returned to Him, I will do, think, and speak on His terms. I will work according to His timetable, His will, and His plan for me. Jesus desires not just to be your Savior, He also wants to be your LORD. He asks simply this: deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Him. To do that, you must repent or make a 180-degree turnaround to Jesus. He can and will transform you! But you have to let Him. You have to admit, as I did, that you failed and need help, and that you don’t know everything. As for me, I had to accept the fact that I won’t be completely perfect as long as I’m in my earthly body, and that I was going to be perfect on God’s terms and in His time, not mine. (As a self-confessed perfectionist, this was hard to accept at first).
Forget perfect. You are being transformed.
Forget uphill. You’re in for a rollercoaster ride filled with ups, downs, and occasionally, loops.
Forget pride. Get rid of it and repent. Saints need repentance too, you know. 🙂