INTRODUCTION

Since I was a young child, I had a deep love for Jesus, and a desire to know Him.  As much as I appreciate the fact that I learned about God in the Catholic religion, I was never really taught about what Jesus’ death accomplished for us, when He willingly laid His life down.  (John 10:18)  Instead, I was taught about the frightening consequences for my sins; I was told that when we die, we would go to a place called ‘Purgatory,’ where we would burn in fire until we were punished enough for our sins, and then we would be allowed to go to heaven.  Telling that to a child of only seven years old, can be a very frightening thing to hear!  Because of the terrifying images this produced in my mind night after night, I had an extremely difficult time falling asleep, and became terrified at the thought of death.

I remember so clearly, the day I made my ‘First Holy Communion,” as it is referred to.  My heart was filled with joy at thoughts of ‘receiving Jesus into my heart’ went through my mind, as I walked down the aisle with the other children.

Frequently I would have my hands folded in prayer and a smile on my face in the pictures of me as a child.  My mom or dad would take pictures of me and my sisters and brothers, on a Sunday morning after church, and my desire to know and please Him, showed through a  heart  that was filled with love.  I also dealt with a lot of fear as a child, but these kept my thoughts focused on God, and I would talk to Him in my mind to get me through the things I faced.

My desire had always been to try and please God. I remember when my sisters would play a song on the radio, one of them would turn up the songs with a message I heard  as wrong.  She loved to annoy me and enjoyed watching me cover my ears and hearing me  yell to try and drown out the words, as I would run away.

I remember every year when Easter was approaching, it was then I tried my very best to please God in every way.  Unknown to me at the time that being good in our own strength is impossible, I couldn’t figure out why whenever I tried the hardest to be good, it was then I became the worst!  After many years  passed, I  remembered those moments when I read Romans 7:15-25:

“I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.  And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.  As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.  I know that nothing  good lives in me, that is in my sinful nature.  For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing.  Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.  So I find this law at work: When I want to do good, evil is right there with me.  For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.  What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body of death!”

That’s where I was spiritually for much of my young life.  Even though I had a desire to please God, it was humanly impossible to do so.

As I approached my teens, my desire for acceptance and approval by others became more important to me than trying to please God.  I realized that telling ‘dirty jokes’ and causing disturbances in class would make kids laugh, and I would then receive a lot of attention.   I remember deep down inside, I knew I was doing wrong, and I would even find myself saying at times:

“God, I’m sorry.  But everyone likes me when I’m like this.”

As time passed, I searched for love and acceptance in relationships.  I was tired of all the guys whom I would meet who seemed to only have one thing on their minds, and was determined to find one who would love me for who I was, and treat me with respect.

I met someone when I was at the very young age of 16 going on 17.  His life had been very hard, and I cared about him very much.  Time passed, and we become engaged on the day of my Senior prom.   The date was set for us to be married on the day after I turned just 19.  I really thought he  loved me, but his actions towards me later proved otherwise.  A month before we married, something happened that caused me to seriously consider calling off the wedding.  He seemed to be sorry, for what he had chosen to do, and expressed his devastation at the thought of not having me in his life if I were to call it off, so I made the choice to forgive him.

I remember on the day of the wedding, as the photographer took a certain picture of me,  I said a prayer to God, telling Him that I was determined to do everything I could to  make this man whom I was soon to marry, happy and assured of my love for him.

Without going into detail, his behavior showed me he did not love me.  No matter what I did or what I said, his desires were for his friends and his other activities which did not include me.  I was left with the thought that if my own husband didn’t love me, then I must not be worthy of being loved.  I had tried everything I could to make him happy, and make him desire me and want to spend time with me, but continually ended up just feeling like a crumpled piece of paper tossed into a corner; rejected and no longer wanted anymore.

I went into a deep depression, and cried out to God.  I went to ‘confession,’  trying to find my way back to feeling somewhat deeply connected with God.  Ironically, it was my husband who was to bring me something that would begin an amazing healing and transformation to my mind and my life.  He brought me home a Catholic New Testament Bible.  As I began to read it,  I became confused with what I had learned as a young child about ‘Purgatory,’ and with the wonderful things I was now reading in God’s Word.  I read:

“For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”  (Hebrews 8:12) 

As I read this, I remember hope rising in my heart, and I silently cried out to God for an answer, and said:

“God, if Your Word says you will not only forgive our sins but also forget them, then why do I have to burn in Purgatory for sins You say You will not only forgive but also forget?” 

I didn’t hear an audible voice, and I really wasn’t even expecting an answer, but in my mind, I clearly heard these words:

“Are you going to believe the Word of God…or the word of man?” 

It was at this point that my heart was filled with an indescribable joy that permeated my whole being!  I realized at that precise moment, that Jesus had paid the complete pricefor the guilt of my sins, and took the punishment I deserved for my sins upon Himself, when He died in my place — and yours — as He hung on the cross!

I realized that I was forgiven and free of not only sin and guilt, but also the fear of death, and found this verse one day:

“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death–that is the devil–and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.”  (Hebrews2:15)  

From that point on, as I daily spent time in His Word, I chose only to believe what God’s Word said, and I let go of the things that I had learned growing up as a child, if it did not agree with what God’s Word said.  One day doubt and confusion  tried to enter my mind, about the assurance of heaven I now held in my heart, and I also wondered if God really heard my prayers as I cried out to Him.   God showed me these verses that silenced and removed those types of thoughts:

“God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.  I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.  This is the assurance we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears usAnd if we know that He hears uswhatever we askwe know that we have what we asked of Him.”  (1 John 5:11-15)

God began a deep healing in my mind and heart, and I started to realize that my worth as a person did not come from what my husband or others had said about me, or how anyone treated me, but rather it comes from what God says about me in His Word.

Shortly after I became a Christian, my husband chose to leave me.  I waited and prayed for many years, believing he would repent and return home, but he chose to divorce me.  Even though I never really felt loved in my marriage, I learned what it means to truly forgive, and to love in spite of not being loved in return.   In the midst of the painful circumstances, God chose to reveal His love and truth to me in amazing ways through His Word.   I received the love and acceptance of Someone who promised He would ‘never leave or forsake me,’  (Hebrews 13:5) and I came to understand and see His amazing grace, strength, and mercy in my life, as well as His faithfulness to me.

I pray many will be able to relate to my search for truth and love, and that if you do not know Jesus as Savior from your sins, and Lord of your life, you will consider reading the Bible, and searching for the truth yourself.  If you will seek Him with all your heart, even though life, at times,  will still be filled with hurt and sorrow, you will find a love that will never disappoint you, and the truth that will set you free.

“You will seek Me and find me when you seek  Me with all your heart.”  (Jeremiah 29:13)

All Scriptures taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version®  Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of  Zondervan.  All rights reserved. 

UPDATED POST 5-31-16 — Enlarged type size for easier reading.

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FORGIVEN AND FREE

 

Hands folded in prayer as I walked down the aisle

Feeling closer to Jesus, caused me to smile

Hair lovingly formed into curls by my mom’s gentle hands

Secured with pins to neatly hold any loose strands

Dressed in white ruffles, and a crown on my head

I was told today I’d receive Jesus in this round piece of bread

As time passed and temptations grew

I was filled with confusion that caused me to wonder

Because of a clearer realization of my sinfulness

This thought I began to ponder…

If Jesus was now in me, how could it be

That I was seeing so much more evil coming from inside of me

Years of sleepless nights, tormented by the story

Of spending an undetermined amount of time after death, burning in the fires

of ‘Purgatory’

Years pass, fears subside

Will someone choose me for his bride

He is handsome, calm, and very charming

Didn’t sense anything alarming

He was caring and thoughtful, this I thought I did see

Two years dating, now in less than a month,  his bride I would be

With tears in his eyes, and sorrow in his voice

He stood before me one night, and confessed a sinful choice

I chose to forgive him, but there would be regrets and revelations tomorrow

For even though he appeared to be sincere

His actions would show, his heart held no true sorrow

Heart calling out in prayer as I walked down the aisle

Commitment blended with hurt, mistrust and doubt, prevented a heart-felt smile

Dressed in white organza and a crown on my head

I was told he’d love me forever on the day we did wed

Crying out for love when no love could be found

My heart shattered to pieces without making a sound

When all attempts to reach him failed, I shut down inside

Depression, in its darkness, without hope I did hide

Looking for peace where no peace can be found

My heart continued to cry for truth without uttering a sound

God heard my desperate, silent cry, and a Bible I was given

His love expressed to me through His death on the cross

Gave me peace, and the assurance of my eternity in heaven

I came to realize Jesus died for my sins in my place

So God’s judgment and wrath I would not have to face

In His Word I found the truth, the truth that set me free

His promise of forgiveness, joy, real peace, hope, and love, for today

and throughout eternity

 

Written in August 2009 by Mary K. Dalke/LivingForHisGlory/Living4HisGlory

Copyright © 2009 Mary K. Dalke /LivingForHisGlory/Living4HisGlory All Rights Reserved.

Photo: Eastercrosswallpaper Obtained From Photobucket

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