Today I would like to tell you arguably the most important story of my life.
Does it have a beginning? There's a simple answer and a complicated, but true answer.
Simple: July 3, 1984.
Complicated, but true: The foundations of the earth.
If you've been reading this blog, you'll know by now I have a thing for the divine sovereignty of God.
In fact, this story is about God. It is the story of how I have come to love and trust in God.
Most Christian testimonies begin with one of these two sentences. Either, "I grew up in a Christian home" or, "I did not grow up in a Christian home."
My story begins with the first. I did grow up in a Christian home, in a family where we attended a faithful, Bible believing church. I was weekly taught directly from the Scriptures that people, though originally created to be in sweet communion with God, have transgressed against him and have been separated from him through sin. Sin which ultimately leads to death.
I was taught the gospel. That though this separation exists, God, who loves his creation, sent his own Son into the world to save the very world that had wronged him. He sent his own Son, Jesus Christ, to live on earth as a man and to fulfill God's perfect standard.
Yet, even though Christ was able to accomplish this and lived a sinless life, he ended up paying the penalty for sin anyway. Remember, as I said earlier, sin leads to death. Though Christ did not sin, he experienced death. He died as a penalty for things he did not himself commit. In doing so, he took on the guilt of man's sin. He died as a substitute for the sins of those who believe in him.
Did you catch that? He didn't die for every single person in the whole world. He died for the sins of those who believe in him.
He died for his people.
Why? Because he loves them, and he desires for the sweet communion that God intended between man and himself to be restored. This is called redemption.
Redemption is amazing.
So, there you have the gospel. The basic tenets of Christian belief. God created man. Man sinned against God. Sin separates man from God, because God is perfect. God sends his Son. Son pays the penalty for man's sin. Man believes in Son and is restored before God.
Obviously there is more to it, but for this blog post, that should suffice.
When I was 7, my dad explained all this to me. He also explained the fate of those who do not believe in Christ. Remember I said that Christ died for the sins of those who believe. The people who believe in Christ are restored, put into a right relationship with God. But what about the people who don't believe?
Let's just say, in my own way, at age 7, I understood that I did not want the fate of the non-believer, and so I chose belief in Christ.
Though my life did not reflect my new identity as a child of God for many, many years, I truly believe that the Lord was working in my heart after this moment. I do believe that I was one of his own.
There's a phrase in Christian circles we use. We say that Christians are "justified by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone."
Allow me to explain the terminology:
Justified: made right. Originally, something was wrong. There was a not right relationship between man and God. This has been made right and declared good!
"It is by grace you have been saved, through faith, and this not of yourselves. It is a gift of God."
By grace alone: Saying a person is saved "by grace" is saying that the person is receiving something, namely the gift of salvation, for no other reason than that God has decided to give it. That's it. The initiative, the deciding to grant this sweet gift, is entirely up to God himself. There is nothing that a person can do to warrant such a gift.
Through faith alone: Though it is by grace, God's initiative, that the gift is given, a person must respond in belief. It's essentially, "God, I believe that what you say about yourself is true. I believe it for myself."
Faith is often posited against works. There is no action and no amount of good deeds that can make a person worthy before God. God's standard, as I mentioned before, is perfection. Apart from God's grace, perfection is impossible!
Thus, there is a recognition that salvation can only come through belief in Jesus Christ, not through one's own good works.
In Christ alone: This is to say, that it is not belief or faith in anything. But, it is specifically belief in Jesus Christ, as the Son of God. It is not possible to believe in the other billion things that people put their faith and hope in. It is only in Christ's name that a person can be saved.
That brief systematic lesson was necessary, because you see, as a Christian, after the faith and saving occurs, there is another command. That command is obedience. There are expectations that God has for the way his people (those whom he has loved, called and saved) should live. These can be found in the Bible. This is the reason the Bible is such a big deal to Christians! It's our guide for 1. how to know God, and 2. how to best love and serve God.
I was all about the free grace through faith. "Heck yea, I want to go to heaven to live in sweet harmony with the creator of the universe. You're telling me I can't do this on my own? Duh. I know I'm not perfect. Christ did it for me. Sign me up!"
"Oh wait, now I have to change my desires and life plans and goals and intentions to line up with your (holy and perfect) desires, plans, goals, and intentions. So you're saying, I'm no longer a slave to sin and death, but a slave to you?"
"That's right Katherine." He replied, " But as you noted in your parathesis, I'm holy and perfect. Let me also add, good, just, loving, merciful, patient, kind."
Have you ever heard 1 Corinthians 13 read at a wedding? It's the passage describing love. If you haven't heard it at a wedding, you've at least heard it in Wedding Crashers. It says:
"Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy. It does not boast. It is not proud. It is not rude. It is not self-seeking. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects. Always trusts. Always hopes. Always perseveres. Love never fails."
This is describing God.
So this person, who is the embodiment of love itself, was asking me to trust in him ... and to obey him.
One day my senior year of high school, I said fine. I was in. This was too good to pass up, and all the other less important, selfish desires were going to have to submit to this more perfect way.
Well, isn't it just the way that when I had finally made this decision, life up and turned on me. In the course of a few months, all of my strongholds ... friendships, family, health, mental stability, joy ... came crashing down on me.
Obviously, I am not going into specifics here, but let's just say ... it. was. a. mess.
And the question naturally arose, where is God now? Is he so trustworthy, kind, protecting now?
My personality changed. I had always been a totally fun-loving kind of person. "Hyper" was the word used at the time, but now, I'd say energetic, full of life, excitable. I could be happier than the happiest.
Unfortunately, this type of emotional overload has its negative side. When things get bad, I felt them with equal intensity. I did not like feeling the bad so much. And so, I became numb. In order to not feel the hurt and the pain, I let go of the ability to feel the good.
That summer, my dad, brother, and I took a rafting trip down the Grand Canyon to celebrate my graduation. There I was, smack dab in the middle of one of the seven wonders of the world, sleeping under the brightest stars possible, swimming in ice cold water, and taking in views more beautiful than screensavers could ever depict ...
and I did not feel a thing.
One night, as I lay there in my open-air cot, I began praying. I was sick of it all. I was sick of feeling nothing, of experiencing nothing, of caring about nothing. I was ready to take on the bad if it meant I got to feel the good again.
I distinctly remember praying that night, "Lord ... if you are real ... scare the s#*! out of me tomorrow." (I still swore in those days.)
It just so happened that the next day, our raft took on one of the highest levels of rapids that exists. My brother could give you the numbers and names, but all I remember is that on one ride, our entire 30 foot boat got stood up at a 90 degree angle.
I'd say that it was as I sat there (but as I was merely holding onto ropes to stay attached to the raft, it's more correct to say, that as I was flying there), getting nailed by crushing, freezing cold water on all sides, barely able to breath, and screaming at the top of my lungs that God responded saying ...
As in, "Bring it, Katherine. Do you know who you are praying to?"
"I AM THE GOD OF THE UNIVERSE! I CREATED THIS, I CREATED YOU, AND I LOVE YOU! TRUST IN ME!"
I sat there humbled (again) and said, ok.
Friends the story does not end there. It involves many more years of doubting, sinning, asking for forgiveness, healing, learning, praying, growing. But, here's the sweetness of the whole thing. Though I waver, and sin, and continue to lack faith or hope or love ... God does not change at all.
He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. As Jesus says in John, "I AM who I AM." God just is who He is, all the time.
This is why it is so wonderful that my salvation rests in him, and not in me. As you can tell, I am a mess on my own. But He ... is exactly what He has always been ... good, loving, kind, patient, merciful, just.
Why did I take the time to write an uber-long blog post concerning this?
I wrote it because ... the Lord and his glory and his word are the absolute essentials of who I am as a person.
I have reached my 100th post on this little blog, and it's a good time to evaluate (again) whether or not this blog lines up with my life. Why am I writing? What do I want to convey? What are my ultimate intentions and goals?
I wrote it to remind myself, that ultimately I am writing this blog for the same reason I do everything else in my life ... because I know and love Jesus, and I want other people to know and love him too. The hope in the end is to bring Him glory.
On a secondary note: I am hoping that in writing my most central story, I will be able to open up the free flowing writing of all the other stories I hope to tell. Because that's the nature of the Lord. He is before all, after all, and in all.
And He is good.
Lesson Learned: Starting at the source of all things is always the best place to start.