I can’t believe that it’s been two years since I first walked in to NOLA Church. I know I gush about it frequently, but it’s because of the incredible impact being there has had on my life.
When I arrived I was broken and in desperate need of the radical life change that Paul described in Romans. I was drowing in sin, directionless, and I was scared to change any of it.
I thought I had to get my act together before I could turn to God. I knew what the Bible said about repentance, which is the act of turning away from sin. I just wasn’t ready to turn away; I honestly didn’t know where to begin.
My sins felt so big; my shame felt all-encompasing. At the same time I was filled with pride. I wanted the folks around me to know that I had grown up in church. I know verses like Romans 3:23 and Jeremiah 29:11. I had tons of Bible passages memorized, even the one in John when Jesus says that we’ll have troubles, but don’t worry because He’s overcome the world. (John 16:33)
I knew all about Him, but it wasn’t until I showed up (and kept showing up) that I began to understand the difference between knowing about Him and having a relationship with Him.
I wrote about that a year ago. Those changes were significant, but I’ve gone through many new changes over the last 365 days. I’m definitely still in a season of major change, but it’s cool to look back at where I was and where I am right now.
At this time last year I had experienced a lot of growth, but I was still struggling with surrender. I struggle with it now, but it’s not as hard to invite God into my situations as it once was.
The first time I met with my pastor, Monte, he said, “Don’t be afraid to be uncomfortable” or something like that. I remember looking at him like he was crazy (and a little scary) because I love comfort. I seek it constantly…through food, relationships, and all kinds of other things that provide momentary satisfaction. I didn’t understand what he meant back then, but I do now.
Surrender isn’t easy; it’s not comfortable, but it’s important to recognize that without God, I’m nothing. I mean, if you know me, you know that I haven’t always made perfect choices. I’ve made mistakes; I’ve been too dependent on things for satisfaction. I’ve been wrong a lot.
In January of last year I had an opportunity to surrender my feelings to God, and I said, “no way.” I was prepared to fight Him for something that I didn’t really want instead of asking what He wanted from me. I did things my way once again because it was too scary to let go, and as a result I went through a lot of unecessary pain.
For months I refused to ask God to intervene in that circumstance. I gave other things up (things that I liked that I knew didn’t please Him,) which made me feel as though I had given up enough. (Uh, note to self: God’s way is so much better.) I did not yet understand that I’ll never surrender something to Him that He doesn’t replace with something better.
In July of last year I had an even bigger crisis of faith. I wasn’t prepared to give God what was already His in financial circumstances (tithing,) and after the realization that God doesn’t need my money, I started tithing because I wanted to put Him first in every part of my life (even money.) That wasn’t exactly easy to do because I like to be in control. I’ve always taken pride in being autonomous, and I still am. I just choose to say, “Hey God, I trust you to be My Provider,” and He has been so faithful. (God is awesome like that.)
Life didn’t suddenly become perfect because I love Jesus. I still struggle with food and other things. I know that my desire to eat more than I should is something I have to surrender. (Again, I’ve proven that I can’t do it on my own.) I’ve also been open about how hard it is to turn away from it.) I just know that life without God sucks, but knowing Him gives me so much hope.
In looking back I see that I’ve grown in my relationship with God. I’m not as self-centered as I was, and I love sharing His love with everyone I meet. I want others to feel the peace, joy, and contentment that I feel because of His mercy and unconditional love. I get passionate about it because it has radically altered my entire life.
I couldn’t have imagined all of the amazing changes that I would experience the first time I went to NOLA Church. I am so thankful for God’s love and for the community of people there who have walked with me on this incredible journey so far.
I’m humbled and amazed by God’s willingness to use me as His vessel, and I’m already looking forward to seeing where that leads in the next year. As long as Jesus stays at the center, I know it will be better than I can imagine.
You didn’t think, did you, that just by pointing your finger at others you would distract God from seeing all your misdoings and from coming down on you hard? Or did you think that because he’s such a nice God, he’d let you off the hook? Better think this one through from the beginning. God is kind, but he’s not soft. In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change.
Romans 2:3-4 (The Message)