I can’t go to sleep until I write what is on my heart. This truth has been pressing into my spirit and I believe that it is not only for me as a reminder, but is for all those that would have “ears to hear what the Spirit is saying”.
There is a simple child song that has come back to my spirit over and over the past couple of days. “Trust and obey, there is no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.” Wouldn’t you say that is a simple song? But when you truly meditate on it, it is one of the most profound truths in walking with Jesus. What two things do we often struggle with but to “trust and obey”.
This song brings me back to my first days as a Christian, and the first days of meeting and knowing Jesus as my first love. As an “older, more mature Christian” there is a crustyness that sets into my heart, unless I remember and become and stay childlike and pliable as I was in those first days.
As we read in the book of Revelations, God confronts, those older, more “mature” Christians as read the letter to the church of Ephesus. They, “we” are forced to look and remember our first love as the Spirit tells us, Yes, I know your deeds (all that you have done to follow me) your hard work (all the difficult situations and trials you have faced along your journey), and “I know your perseverance.” (Yes, you haven’t given up on Me. You have persevered some wilderness experiences). “I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men” (Yes, I score pretty good on that count as I see wickedness all around me, in politics, on T.V., in leadership of the nation, and even leadership in the churches. I see oppression of the poor, the imprisoned, the “little guy”; and I hate it). “that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false.” Yes Lord, it is very difficult when we want so bad to follow a leader into truths, but then find them full of themselves and using others to build a “personal kingdom, with money, power, and position”. This trusting is getting much more difficult as our eyes are cast down and discouraged when those we want to trust are proved to be untrustworthly, so we begin to withdraw unto ourselves. Yes, Lord, are you not speaking to the leadership of our churches today. Then He commends again by saying “You have persevered and endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary”, thanks Lord, it looks like I am making the grade. I am this worn traveller on this journey for the past 33 years. You see! You Know!
Then we come to the next paragraph. Ouch! “Yet, I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at the first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.”
This portion brings me to the topic of “simple truths that are oftentimes the most profound”. Do you remember your first love experience with the Lord? I do, and when I do, this song comes to mind. “Trust and obey, there is no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey. ” Yes, those first days bring me back to that childlike place that God so loves.
Will you allow me to share and reminise of those days. For you see, I was at that time I was working at Shaw AFB, S.C. as a secretary to the Deputy Wing Commander. I had been divorced for a couple of years, and was a single mother with a daughter that was four years old at the time of our separation and had to leave my home at the base as well. I was the first in my family to have experienced divorce and it was not looked on well in my family, for “a good Catholic girl didn’t get divorced”. In those days, divorce was much more rare than it is today. In the “religious circles” it was if I wore the scarlet letter stamped on my forehead “unclean”. At that time, my brother must have had some pity on me, for now I was not allowed to receive communion at the Mass, so he came to show me how I could get into the good graces of the “church and God”. After he gracefully explained the necessary things required for me to do, and the fees (that seemed enormous at the time that I would have to pay the church), then I might be graced with an annulment and allowed once again to receive communion. The whole process proved impossible on most all counts. Instead of helping me, a deeper understanding of my “lostness” was sealed. There was no way for me to receive communion again, and to me that meant something very huge, for it meant that I could never “receive Jesus”, that He too rejected me. My heart had been in a place of despair not only to be accepted by family, but to be accepted by God. I am only bringing you to the place to understand my desperation and despair before “grace appeared that drew me to meet Jesus”.
In my desperate status, I concluded that since I couldn’t have Jesus in the communion, what was the sense of going through the Mass that was all centered around this communion sacrament. So if God could not forgive me, and I couldn’t be close to Him or Him to me, then I was alone. And since I couldn’t go through the annulment, it also meant that I wouldn’t be allowed to remarry in the church, and to get married would be a sin of adultery and I would go to hell. So I accepted that I most likely was headed to hell and there wasn’t anything I could do about it. My conclusion was then, to at least try to have a little heaven here in my remaining earthly years by finding someone to love me, and someone who I could love.
So my search began. I looked for love in all the wrong places, and in so many faces. I gave myself to them for I was a desperate woman, needing love, and this seemed like the only path left open to me. Because I was young, and somewhat pretty, there were men who genuinely wanted me and told me the things I longed to hear. Even though I met several very nice men, there was still something missing. There was still a “hole” in my heart I was looking to fill.
I had just broken another’s heart, when I broke our engagement coming back from Georgia. I told Doug that I couldn’t marry him, now that I had met his parents. For their marriage was full of love for one another. There was a type of royalty that they treated each other with. I had never in my life seen such a beautiful marriage, and I had decided that Doug and I missed whatever it was that they had. (For you see, it was his dad that had asked me if I had a personal relationship with Jesus. Doug had successfully changed the subject, but had never talked to me about it again. All I knew is that they had the “something” that I must have, if ever I was to get married again.
I was acquainted with a friend of Doug’s who was also a fighter pilot at Shaw Air Force Base. He often sat by himself at the Officer’s Club for lunch. I approached him to see if I could join him for lunch. I knew he was married and was a man that I respected. He oftentimes did not join in with the other men that partied and had been part of the group that I had come to know. As I asked if I could join him, he closed the book he had been reading and set it aside to make room for me to place my tray of food. It was a Bible. Interesting! I asked about the Bible and he began to speak to me about his relationship with Jesus, and what Jesus was telling him to do. Through that conversation, I realized that he was speaking about a “personal relationship” with Jesus and he asked me if I have ever heard of such a thing. I told him, “yes, Doug’s father asked me if I had this personal relationship, and I didn’t know what he was talking about. I had poked Doug to ask him, but his response was that he would change the subject, and the conversation went another direction. I believe now, that Doug was being confronted himself about leaving the way he was raised and going another direction with me. However, here was God, bringing this man to explain the very question that I had wanted to ask Doug’s father, but didn’t just a few months earlier.
Yes, this is all leading up to that day, that hour, when I did meet “my real First Love, and His name was Jesus”. This man, Rick, gave me a Four Spiritual Laws tract, and wrote his name and phone number on the back. He said if I had any questions to please feel free to call him or his wife and they would be happy to answer any of my questions. I quickly took it back to work and I couldn’t wait to read it and find the answers that it held. After reading, I thought this is “just too simple”, that God so loved me, that he gave His Son to take the penalty of my sin, so that I might come into this relationship. Wow! Could this be true, after all that I had messed up in my life. Could it be true, that I could come to Jesus and He would forgive and set up His throne and rulership in my life? Could it be true, that it didn’t matter what the Catholic Church required for me to have “Jesus” love me again? Could it be true, that Jesus wanted and loved me, and all I needed to do was to believe what He did to pay for my sins? Could it be true, that I could have a personal relationship with Him, and it wasn’t about going to church? Could it be true, that He would remove the “stain of being unclean” that was stamped over my life by the church and others?
Rick and his wife extended an invitation to come to church with them. I thought it better for me to drive my own car that day, in case I needed an early escape. So I decided to meet them there. That day is marked as the “day of remembrance” in my life that I will never forget. For you see, I was a sinner, and had left a man in my bed that morning, as I got dressed to go to church. This was to be the second time in two years that I was to step inside a church (for I was unclean). However, God’s presence surrounded me like a blanket that day that I stepped into this small, quaint, mission church behind the Air Force Base. The pastor lovingly preached the gospel of “good news” to a dying young woman, one who was marked “unclean”. God looked at me that day as his eyes must have caught the eyes of that woman caught in adultery. She was me. All the church men, had come with the law, to bring her to Jesus, supposing that He too would pick up a stone along with them, to finish her life. For she was declared guilty, and guilty she(I) was. I fell to the ground condemned by the law. But Jesus, spoke and possibly wrote about their sins, and said “he who is without sin, cast the first stone”. Quieting the thirst for blood and righteousness, they too, one at a time put down their stones. Jesus, I believe, lifted her face and said “who condemns you woman? She saw that they had all walked away, and she was left alone with Him. His eyes were full of compassion and liquid love! I saw His eyes and He saw mine. There was no condemnation in His eyes! Love had come to this sinner! He said to her (me) neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” Love had come in its purest form, and His name is Jesus! My heart was undone!!
That Sunday morning, was the first day of my “new life”. As I drove home, the car was full of a perfume that I was later to learn was one of the ways he reveals his presence. Just then a heat started at the top of my head and began to move slowly over my body and then down and out my feet. I was clutching the steering wheel, and crying and asking the Lord what He was doing. He said; “I am washing you with my blood. You are now a virgin before Me! I was clean! I was declared by God a “virgin”. I knew that I was now a new person, with a new beginning, and that all that had been done at this point in my life was gone. He had cleansed it all away! Then He asked; Will you come and follow Me?” My response was “Yes, Lord, wherever you want me to go, I will go!”. He said; “I want you to move West.”
Then I realized, that I was experiencing a personal relationship. He was talking to me, and I was talking to Him. The God and Creator of the universe was talking to me and loving me. When He had finished washing me, He filled me with so much love I couldn’t contain it all, and it was like a river immersing me in this river of life, and love. I had never in all my life ever experienced or imagined such a love. I knew that I had the “hole” filled to overflowing in my heart. All I wanted to do was shout, and sing, and tell everyone about Jesus and what He had done in my life. I was full of His love, and a holy boldness. (Up to that time, I had been a shy and fearful person) I ran into the house to tell John my good news. John was sitting up in the living room couch. I ran in and told him all about my meeting Jesus, and the things that Jesus spoke to me, and that we could no longer live in sin, because Jesus had cleansed me, and I wasn’t going back. He had declared me a “virgin” and I was going to stay that way until one day I would get married again.
Needless to say, John was not prepared in his heart for this “good news”. I told him he would have to leave and stay somewhere else when he came to town. Plus, God was telling me to move west.
(There is more to the story – and I will continue with part 2 of simple truths ) Returning to my first love has been a tearful experience as I have written this story in the wee hours of this morning. It is now 4 a.m. and I had better get to bed. I have a full day awaiting me today of mentoring future leaders and missionaries (something that I love doing), and then I have been asked to speak to a class tonight at church who are preparing themselves to go into the prisons and be “carriers of His love and compassion, and declare the Good News. Pray with me, that they will be carriers of God’s love in the purest form, and present Jesus!!