Monday, June 27, 2011

I'm being remade; I am new.

The song by Jason Gray, "I am New" has been in my mind for days.  Love that song.

June 26, 2011 at 900 am, I wake up and stare at the alarm clock.  Deep inside of me, I feel the unshakeable urge to go to church.  Not just any church (I’ve been known to flitter from this one to that one over the years) but Fellowship Church. I had been there for different Awana events with the kids and really liked the overall vibe I got from the people there.  I chose to go to the 11 o’clock service because I knew it was the more contemporary one and since I listen to that music for the most part anyway, it greatly influenced my decision.  So I got up, told Adam I needed to go to church and offered him to go.  He declined (partially because he was still half asleep) and agreed to keep the kids for me.  So I went.  On the way to church, I had incredibly sickening feelings of doubt (Why do you want to go to church?  You yourself have said you’re not a church person.  Why the all of a sudden need to be there?) and feelings of inadequacy (Don’t be something you’re not.  Everyone’s going to look at you weird.  You don’t need to go to that church; everyone’s going to talk about you!) and feelings of anger (Why would you go to church?  What do you owe God?  Look what he’s put you through, look at all your pain and sadness!)  But I went anyway. I was immediately welcomed by the pastor of the church, who helped me find someone I knew and felt comfortable with to sit next to through the service.  The service started with three or four songs – all of which touched me so deeply that I could not help but sing along.

The sermon the pastor spoke of was about the growing into maturity of Joseph and how Joseph’s life experiences can apply to our lives, especialy in the sense that so many of us have been wrongfully treated.  I understood this concept immediately, because I have been reeling from recent negativities in my life, especially regarding my career.  You see, Joseph was in a position (by none of his own doing) that he was favored over his other brothers by his father.  This was no secret, and Joseph’s brothers plotted against him to kill him but inevitably sold him as a slave.  The story goes on to say that God was with Joseph even when he was at his lowest of lows – a journey from a favored son to a sold slave. That’s gotta be a pretty low feeling, right?  But Joseph stayed obedient to God.

I work at a prison.  For those who do not know, a prison can be a pretty spiritually dark place to be.  Whether you’re there as staff, there as a resident, etc.  It can be so easy to let the negativity envelop you.  Like Joseph, I too am in a position at work where I have found favor and have been given great opportunities.  Although it’s not because of who my mother is – it’s because I am a capable, skilled employee who is always looking for a challenge.  With three years under my belt as a correctional officer, I am on day shift loan to administrative shift and am in charge of disciplinary reports and recruiting of the Institution.  It’s a lot on my plate, but it’s definitely an accomplishment and a privilege.  Lots of negativity and discord has erupted here and there because of these situations I am in – lots of backbiting, bickering, dirty looks, rumors, etc.  It can really wear a person down.  But one thing that I know for certain, and it was something taught in the sermon on Sunday, is that hurt people do what?  They hurt people.  Hurt people hurt people.  So whatever someone was doing to try to break me down, to hurt me, was because there was some kind of underlying issue there that wasn’t being addressed and was hurting them.  So instead of feeling angry/hurt/ostracized, I felt the overwhelming need to pray for these people. Talk about a 180!

At the end of the sermon, the pastor urged us to turn to the person next to us and ask them what we could help them with this week, what we could pray for them for.  My friend turned to me and said, “Is there anything I can pray for you for this week?” and I told her yes, that I was struggling with continuing my career at the correctional facility because it was really affecting my home life in a negative way.  I come home from work hurt and angry, I find myself yelling at my kids, I am exasperated and depressed – for what?  She told me she completely understood and told me about her experience working for the corrections department.  She told me of the trials in her life associated with that type of work and she completely understood the negativity.  She eventually left that line of work to focus more on her family and felt as though that was God’s plan for her life.  I felt such a deep connection with her and really felt as though God was using her to bless me and let me know that I am not alone and that I have a support system.  Of all the days I could have went to church, I found it AMAZING that this day was the day I went, this sermon touched me so deeply, this person I was hooked up with completely understood me, and I just – words cannot describe.  Even now I have chills thinking about this chain of events.

When I left church that day, I prayed in the parking lot.  I prayed so hard that my eyes filled with tears.  I prayed for forgiveness, I prayed for calming, I prayed for my husband to know  the Lord, I prayed for my children, I thanked God for his wonderful blessings, I thanked Him for calling me to church that day.  I couldn’t believe what I was feeling.  I was on fire – for the first time in my life!  I called my mother on the phone and sobbed.  I told her that through all the anger I’d been feeling in my life, through all the negativity, all the pain, all the sin, all of everything, I couldn’t believe and could not fathom why, but God still loves me.  Despite my strongarming, despite my anger and contempt -- GOD STILL LOVES ME! 

Isn’t that amazing?  I mean I’ve always read it and sang it in songs but I have never really FELT the pure, cleansing love that I felt completely envelop me.  It all made sense to me at that very moment and I was absolutely convinced that I was right on the path that I should be on – the path I was always intended to be on – and though I hit some rough patches and things really felt bleak sometimes, God is here.  That was the “big truth” of the sermon, and the pastor asked us to write it down on our notes – “God is near when circumstances are not clear.”

I am so overwhelmed with joy and love that I wish I could dance in the streets.  I cannot read enough Scripture, I cannot sing enough songs, I cannot tell enough people about God’s love and the sense of renewal I feel at this very moment.  I am ready to rededicate my life to the Lord and grow as a Christian.  I know it won’t always easy (God never said it would be easy, He just said we wouldn’t go it alone!) but I’m ready!  I AM SO READY!

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