Friday, March 9, 2012

366 Days of Gratefulness ~ Day 67

I was sitting in the fourth row from the from the front in the middle section of the sanctuary.  It was day two of VBS.  I was eight years old, and as I sat there at the end of the pew listening to the pastor telling us how to be saved, I clung to his every word.  At the end of his talk, he had us bow our heads and told us to raise our hands if wanted to be saved.  I shot my arm up over my head and waived my hand as fast as I could.  Within moments a sweet, young lady knelt down beside of me.  She swept back my hair behind my shoulder so she could see my face, but before she could say anything I was already crying.

"I want Jesus to live in my heart.  Do you think He will?"

"Of course He will.  All you have to do is ask Him.", she said with the sweetest smile on her face.

She prayed with me.  Told me to repeat after her.  The moment we were done I asked when I could be baptized.

"I want to have my sins washed away."

So she filled out a card.  She wrote down my name and phone number and told me she would turn the card in for me.  Within the next few days the pastor called my mom to talk to her about it, and that Sunday night I was baptized.

I remember saying to my mom as we were walking to the car when we were leaving the church that night, "I've never felt so clean."  It was totally unexpected that I would feel that way, and sadly, that feeling didn't last very long.

I was only eight years old.  All I understood about what had happened that week was I had asked Jesus to live in my heart, and I was baptized because that is what you do next.

I was well into my thirties before I really understood what it meant to the love Jesus.  I have been in church my whole life.  Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night we went to church.  I went to every revival and every VBS I could.  As I grew older I started signing up to volunteer for whatever I could.  I desperately wanted Him to love me, but I never felt "good enough".  I always thought I could prove to Him I could be good enough.  If I could just do enough good things and stay out of trouble He would love me.

But I always seemed to fail.

I've done some terrible things in my life.  Things I am so ashamed of and really wish I could take back.  I've hurt people I love deeply.  I have more regrets than I can count.

I would ask Him to forgive me, but I never "felt" forgiven.  My past transgressions followed me.  People who knew the things I had done often threw them in my face.  I constantly felt condemned.  I would work harder and harder at church and over and over again I begged the Lord to forgive me for the things I had done and would tell Him how sorry I was.

But as time went by and the older I got, I never felt forgiven.

I was twenty-six when I found out I was pregnant with Hannah.  It was a complete shock, and I had a very difficult pregnancy with her.  I was so sick the whole time and in and out of the hospital for dehydration.  We were told through the entire pregnancy they didn't know if she would be okay when she was born.  I had two failed amniocentesis, and ultrasounds couldn't detect some of the issues they were trying to rule out.

Someone said during that time, "Robin brought this on herself."

I started to believe I was being punished for the things I had done wrong and my child was going to suffer because of it.

So many people prayed for Hannah.  A lady in our church crocheted her a blanket, and when she gave it to me she said she prayed for her with every stitch she made.

By God's grace, Hannah was born healthy.

After her birth I told myself I was never going to be able to make Jesus love me.  I was a horrible person, and He was never going to forgive me for the things I had done wrong.  I eventually stopped going to church completely.  I became so angry with God because I just didn't understand how he could forgive others for things I thought were much worse than what I had done, but He wouldn't forgive me.

I was miserable.

Then one day the Lord lead us to the church we currently attend.  It's a long story how we ended up there.  A story covered in God's love, mercy and grace.  I fought going, but one Sunday morning I found myself sitting next to my friend Mary.

Until that day Mary and I had never met.  Her husband was our family doctor and when he discovered we weren't going to church he invited us to his.  I remember him saying to me one day, "I know if you would come, you and my wife would be the best of friends."

He was right.  Over the next few weeks Mary and I became close friends, and little by little I began to share with her how angry I was with God and how I was convinced He was never going to love me.

I had called her one night, and our conversation lead to me asking her, "What if He says no?"

"He won't.", she said.

"And how do you know?"

"Because I know Him.", she said.

I was eight years old when I asked the young lady who knelt down beside if she thought Jesus would live in my heart.  Her answer was simple, "Of course He will.  All you have to do is ask."

At the end of that week I felt cleaner than I had ever felt in my life, but it took me about twenty-five years to truly understand what it all meant.

He had always forgiven me.  It wasn't about me "feeling" forgiven.  I just had to trust Him and believe Him.  He had washed all of my sins away.  It wasn't by the water I was dunked in, but by the blood my sins were covered in.

Today I am grateful for the Lord's forgiveness.  Forgiveness for all of my sins ... even those that get thrown in my face by others.  I am grateful my forgiveness isn't based on a feeling.  It isn't based on any good thing I've ever done.  It's based on what He has done.

I get it now.  He loves me.  He forgives me.  He always has, and He always will.

"Blessed assurance Jesus is mine!"

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