Monday, April 12, 2010

Gracefully Free!

Here is a heart-warming story from a friend of ours here at ABD; this person goes by the name Gracefully Free. In an effort to reach out to those who are in need (believe me, we here at ABD understand what an emotional roller-coaster ride you are going through when you leave Armstrongism and our hearts go out to you), when we can we would like to share the stories of the people we have met who have stepped into the New Covenant. We've already shared our own stories, which you will find links to on the Categories page. Hopefully someone out there will be able to relate, and will find strength and peace in these stories.
And we just want to add - praise God you're free, Gracefully!


My story is not all that different than others. My mother died when I was young and my relationship with my father was never a close one and needless to say, his behavior made my ability to love and acknowledge love (by men in particular) less than optimum. But on the positive side, I grew up with siblings that have always been supportive and loving. I am very thankful for my brothers and sisters. I have decided long ago that I am not going to place blame on anyone other than myself for my mistakes and sins, and oh are there many! It would be very easy to say that I've done bad things because of how I was raised, because of my father's actions or because of the church I was raised in. But ultimately, it comes down to me being weak...full of pride...sinful, yes- just a woman in need of God's grace.

As far as having a relationship with God while growing up? It was nonexistent. Yes, I knew of God, but I did not have a real relationship with Him until literally just a few months ago, despite reading the bible and going to church all my life. The church I attended, along with my family, was by no means traditional. Most of the emphasis was placed on keeping the laws and holy days of the old testament while prohibiting any association with traditional holidays and observances, such as Christmas and Easter. Yes, the new testament was included in their teaching, but the belief was that the new testament and Jesus Christ came so that we can be forgiven when we mess up in regards to trying to observe the old testament laws, because as we all know, we're only human and we're most definitely going to mess up and sin. I grew up observing the 7th day Sabbath. But what's interesting is that even though we said we observed the Sabbath, it was not kept the way the Hebrews did in bible, it was kept the way Herbert W. Armstrong interpreted it to be kept and that goes along with all the teachings we were being taught. I've recently been learning that most of those beliefs were actually made up by Herbert W. Armstrong as his interpretation of scripture, as well as a combination of Seventh-day Adventism, Jehovah Witness and Mormon influences. The beliefs were not from or of God and certainly did not follow what the bible teaches. My belief system was pharisaical to say the least. I never really shared my beliefs with anyone, because of my fear of being made fun of when I was younger. Then, as I grew into an adult, I actually pitied people outside of the church because they didn't know the "biblical truths" that we knew, they weren't special like we were. We were led to believe we were a chosen people who were the only ones to know God's truth, we were His saints. I had no love for others, for myself, or for God and ultimately, I walked away from it all.

I ran as fast as I could in the opposite direction. I didn't want anything to do with God. To me, God represented nothing but rules, laws and fear. So, I thought by going in the opposite direction of ALL religion, I would be able to be free of the fear, I thought I would be free to live a good life without God in the way. I was going to finally have fun!

So after a few years of trying to run away and do my own thing, I knew something was missing. Many times, I thought of going back. It was what I knew and understood, but something held me back from actually stepping foot back in that church. I felt myself falling into a deep depression over the confusion I was going through. I had a hard time finding a reason to keep going. I knew my health was not good, I received a diagnosis of having an autoimmune disease (possibly lupus) and I just wanted to let go of everything. My physical body was run down and tired of the battle. I thought to myself, well "this is not the good life I anticipated." My family was not aware of my feelings for the most part, there were a few cries for help, but mostly, I tried to keep my weaknesses hidden. Even my husband was not aware of my inner distress. Looking back, I realize that my spiritual turmoil was causing my body to fall apart. I'm an RN and tend to view health with a more medical perspective, but I can say in my case, lack of God in my life was slowly killing me.

I knew something had to change or my life would end, both physically and spiritually. I began to read and study like my life depended on it (which it did). And I truly believe that my broken self cried out for a lifeline and God heard my silent prayers for help. In my darkness, my heart knew I needed God in my life. I had a God shaped hole in me. It came down to me believing that our great God has a great love for me. For me, a sinner! Who would have thought it was possible? For Him being as magnificent as He is.... to love little ol' me! What was so hard to believe before suddenly came into clear focus. God heard me and had compassion on me. I finally believed Him and gave my struggles over to Him. I am the adopted daughter of the most high King, it exhilarated me and filled me with wonder and the desire to seek Him in all aspects of my life. I decided I was no longer going to TRY to love Him out of fear. I love Him because He loved me first, after all, He died for me.

I read an analogy recently regarding someone trying to keep the old testament laws. Imagine Jesus Christ is sitting in a boat and we're in the water, picture the water as being the law. We're in the water trying to stay afloat, swimming, treading water, eventually tiring to the point where we're about to drown. Now imagine Christ pulling us into the boat with him, safe. Why would we want to jump back into the water? But that's what we're doing by trying to keep laws and observances that were established before Christ came to save us.

This last Sunday, at the awesome church I now attend, people got up with cardboard testimonies. It was very moving and inspiring to see how God has transformed people's lives. Some may say that God does not perform miracles today and I say they're wrong. There has been a miracle in my life, which is the change of my heart. It has not come from my doing, I give all credit to Him. I was lost, but am now found. I was initially shocked at the degree that I've found myself searching and reaching for Him. I'm completely thirsty for His ways. He is now and will forever be my compass. I find myself running towards Him in all that I do, the bible is my guidebook. I want nothing more than to live my life according to His desire. I know without a doubt that the Holy Spirit is working within me and helping me, guiding me. His love for us (me) is perfect and beautiful. I am sharing my story because I want others to know of Him and His great love as well. It's completely life changing. I want to shout from the rooftops how amazing it is.

I want to thank those who have been supportive of me throughout these last few years. First and foremost, My husband, who must have seen something good in me despite my inability to see it. I know he's been pulling for me through his own prayers for quite a while. He remained strong and convicted in his faith while I struggled with doubts and fears. I want to thank the pastors and staff at [the community church were I attend], without a doubt, they are being used by God to spread His gospel through teachings that are sound and biblical. I want to thank [a very close friend], I shared my story and tears with her a few weeks ago, I believe that telling her and others my past is helping me to heal. And I would also like to thank my brothers and sisters, not all of them will be able to see this note because I do not wish to offend them (since they're still attending the church I grew up in). Every single one of them have beautiful hearts and have taught me that family really does stick together. Someday, I hope we're all able to celebrate God's love together. I also need to mention a certain source in my thanks that has been a huge help through my journey of learning the truth about my past beliefs. The website/blog is called "AS BEREANS DID" The writers on this site are insightful and are a huge support for those leaving this particular religion- (any of the Church of God organizations/splinters). Tons of information, I have visited the site almost daily for the past month.

Happy Easter everyone!

One of my favorite songs these days is by Francesca Battistelli, called Beautiful, Beautiful. The words depict my thoughts and feelings almost exactly.

Don’t know how it is You looked at me
And saw the person that I could be
Awakening my heart
Breaking through the dark
Suddenly Your grace

(Chorus)
Like sunlight burning at midnight
Making my life something so
Beautiful, beautiful
Mercy reaching to save me
All that I need
You are so
Beautiful, beautiful

Now there’s a joy inside I can’t contain
But even perfect days can end in rain
And though it’s pouring down
I see You through the clouds
Shining on my face

(Chorus)

I have come undone
But I have just begun
Changing by Your grace

2 comments:

gracefully said...

And as to my future...
It looks bright and I know that no matter what, as long as I keep my faith and trust in Christ, my salvation is safe (and freely given!). God has been so good to me. My greatest desire in sharing my story, other than it being very healing to get it out, is that someone may relate and understand that they're not alone. Thank you, writers/contributors of ABD, this is a good thing that you're doing here in being a support to those exiting COG organizations.

Seeker Of Truth said...

Gracefully,

You're welcome!
We'd like to thank you for sharing your story and letting us know that we have been useful!
Thank you, so much...

Such an awesome journey of discovery, understanding and revelation you have ahead of you! You will continue to be amazed by what God reveals to you!