Again and again over the last several weeks, I’ve told my story to new friends. Each of us has a story, and each day a new chapter is penned. As I’ve shared my journey with those around me, the narrative unfolding before them is focused on my recent change of heart; literally, that a new heart has been placed in me–a heart that desires to follow.
David wrote in the 26th Psalm, “Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have walked in integrity…“ The integrity the psalmist writes of is not his sinlessness; rather, it is his sincerity of purpose and single-hearted devotion. My own heart has been transformed in this way; that the purpose of my life and the desire of my heart is simply to seek after God–to love Him, and to love others in the Way of the Master, Jesus. It wasn’t always this way–and it isn’t guaranteed to continue; instead, I must continually focus my heart and thoughts on him and be committed to follow, no matter what the cost.
As I tell my story, I find myself continually stressing the fact that my change of heart was not a result of me realizing my need for change in a moment of an emotional, spiritual, or intellectual epiphany; rather, it came out of a position of complete and utter desperation. I had no real other option than to deal with the fact that My Way was leading me to destruction. I had no income, no relationship, no future and no hope. I was lost, unfulfilled, ineffective and insecure. Even my strengths were dwarfed by the hopelessness of my situation and withered in the midst of my wickedness rendering me useless even in my own God-given abilities.
For quite some time I lived in denial of the fact that I was heading down that destructive road, ignoring the warning signs, flashing lights, and huge concrete barriers that God had raised across the highway of my life in an effort to minimize the damage I would cause myself and others.
Disregarding these, I barreled towards a head-on collision with disaster. It was only when I stopped and looked at my life and compared it to what I truly wanted versus where I was that I finally could come to my senses and begin the journey home. I had to weigh in my heart where I had come from, where I had been, where I was and where I was headed. For the first time the reality of the recklessness and selfishness of my life had my undivided attention; and I came to a decision to return to the arms of the Father.
But what got me to that point was the love of Christ; shown through a Follower of the Way.
This WayWard Follower, possessing all the knowledge of the depth of my depravity and dishonesty, showed me the unconditional and accepting love of Christ. And from that origin and foundation, along with God’s prompting working in perfect harmony with the desperate state of my affairs, I began to hear His voice. The once deafened whispers of conviction began to illuminate with sound the darkened corridors of my heart. The simplicity of an understanding, kind, generous and loving Follower of the Way opened a floodgate of confession and repentance in my soul, washing away the years of built up resistance to the grace, mercy and love of God. I was humbled by any individual showing me love in that state. Because of this Follower, I realized my need to begin the journey anew. I knew I’d have to make a consorted effort to rid myself of wickedness, pride and arrogance. I had strayed so far from him that the daunting task of returning to a life of following Christ seemed nearly insurmountable. Yet she gently and simply encouraged me to try. “Go, and sin no more.”
She was Jesus to me.
For years I would not let God love me. I had run so far and so hard from Him, desperately trying to stay out of His reach, my sin fending off any attempts to breach the barrier of my hardened heart. Yet continually and eventually the words and actions of this Follower of the Way drew me back into the arms of grace. I would often think to myself, “She’s acting like Christ.” And over time, in conjunction with my circumstances and the prompting of God in my heart, I gave up. I knew I could no longer do things My Way, and needed to follow The Way.
Which begs the question: in this new year, as we–you and I–strive to love God and others in the Way of Jesus, who has been placed within our circle of influence for just that reason? Are we acting as Christ to others? It just may save their life…it certainly did mine.