Not too long ago, while cooking and cleaning in the kitchen, my daughter, Emily, told me that her pastor was encouraging his church members to write out their faith story.
Emily felt God nudging her through him and wrote out some of the lessons that God had been teaching her, little by little, over a 30 year period, starting at the age of 12. She closes her reflections with this scripture: “Let the Redeemed of the Lord tell their story…” (Psalm 107:2)
When it comes to sharing the gospel with others, all too often many of us are falsely convinced that we can’t share because we don’t know what to share. Let me encourage you! You can share! I was encouraged to see that it was my sharing that many, many years ago turned my daughter’s heart to Jesus. And all I did at that time was reflect with her on the ways God had been at work in my life.
It is my prayer that my daughter’s story, below—her own reflections of how God has been at work in her life–will encourage you to reflect on your own. Maybe you’ll even want to write yours down! Emily’s story may be a bit longer than what you might be used to here, but quite frankly, reading it in its entirety isn’t even the most important thing. I just want you to know this: You are the Redeemed and you have your story to share.
And the sharing may be precisely what someone else needs to come to a saving knowledge of the Lord.
Friend of Q Place
Here are highlights from some of the lessons God has been teaching me little by little over the years:
I grew up in a Christian home and in middle school was coming to a better understanding of my sin and that Christ died for me, but was holding back because part of me wondered if this was real or just something people made up. Around this time my mom shared with me how God had been working in her life and that was exactly the missing sign/evidence that I needed. Just a short time later, at the age of twelve, I received Christ at a summer camp for middle and high school.
Trust and Prayer
Although I read my Bible, prayed, and made good choices through the rest of high school, the rubber really met the road in college. I had several acute and emotionally difficult trials there with some major discord in my relationship with my roommate. I was not well prepared to handle conflict on my own, and my parents were not there to bail me out or coach me through it. All I had was God on a daily basis when I was hurting and needing it most. He taught me through His Word, other Christians, and Bible studies, how to pray and look and expect an answer. On many occasions God even went out of His way to clearly answer me.
Recognizing the Voice of the Holy Spirit
As a young adult I was married three weeks after college and started my first job and was thrilled to be out on my own. One morning at church I had the idea to ask Diane, a recently divorced acquaintance from Bible study, to come over to decorate Christmas cookies after church. I didn’t know Diane that well and felt awkward about calling her out of the blue. I argued with God (or just myself in my head) for four hours about this, Finally when I could not get any peace, I called Diane up on the phone and she came over to decorate cookies. Nothing miraculous happened, just plain decorating cookies with a friend. Not even any deep conversation. Well, so much for that!
Then 4-5 months later at the end of Bible study Diane pulled me aside. She said, “You know a few months back when I was going through a hard time and you had me over for cookies? I was calling out to God that day telling him how mad I was that I was alone and I needed Him to be there for me and send me someone NOW.” She said that very minute, when she was shaking her fist at God the phone rang and I had her over for cookies. I felt so humbled. First off, now I knew that that was God’s voice speaking when this type of thing happened. Second, God was able to minister to Diane even though I had a bad attitude about it. Third, He knew in advance that I would argue for four HOURS but use me in the exact right moment. Fourth, God can ask me to do something, and just because I don’t see the outcome at that exact time, doesn’t mean that He is not at work using my obedience. God is sovereign!
A few years later I was in a small group working through the popular study “The 40-days of Purpose.” One of the lessons was that God’s purpose for our lives is not our own dreams coming true. At the time, this was a shock and a revelation to me. I had very focused dreams about how I wanted to “be happy” and have my life to turn out—have kids, be a stay home mom, live in one location, be settled…etc. But what if my dreams didn’t happen? What if we couldn’t have kids or I couldn’t stay at home? What if my life didn’t turn out as I had planned? (It didn’t.)
People Pleasing – My Job Is Not My Identity
I was a people pleaser and both my parents before me were people pleasers. I came from a long line of people pleasers. It was emotionally very uncomfortable for me to be around any confrontation or even anyone unhappy. To have someone disappointed with me felt like the end of the world. But after ten years of a successful career and everyone being very happy with my work, my husband and I moved to California and I started a new, very prestigious job at a leading biotech company in San Francisco. There, no matter what I did, my boss treated me poorly and micromanaged and criticized everything that I did—for six months. Others also treated me poorly because they disliked my manager. The false idea—that if I always do the right thing (for God) that my life would turn out how I wanted—was shattered. I finally learned to seek God’s approval, and slowly learned that only His approval was enough. Unfortunately—or maybe not? —to really learn this lesson, all other crutch approval sources (accomplishments, work, a good reputation) had to be removed. This was one of the most painful and hardest lessons for me to learn because people pleasing was such a large weakness in my life.
“You Shall Have No Other Gods Before Me” – Not Even Your Children
I wanted to have children, desperately. My husband and I were married young and at the time we both wanted children, but after seven years of graduate school and earning his PhD my husband had changed his mind. We had a 4-5 year period of disagreement with no resolution in sight and my biological clock was ticking away. I remember thinking that I would not have married if we did not agree on this key issue up front. But I decided to give this issue to God and keep the promise that I made to my husband before God even if it meant I did not ever have children. God in His great mercy did eventually allow us to come to resolution and we have two sons, and my husband is a wonderful father.
“Fear Not” – The Outcome Belongs to God
Although my husband had an advanced degree, he had a lingering dream to be a medical doctor. I told him to go ahead (naively) so he invested in a prep course and took the MCATs just a few days after our son’s first birthday. While applying to med schools, he was able to get a solid job following his position at a start-up company. We were really enjoying the feeling of being settled, both with good jobs at the same large company. But just a few short months after landing “the big job,” we got a call from the medical school wait list that Larry was accepted! We had two days to make a yes/no decision and were totally unprepared to make it on such short notice. We declined. But with the loss of this dream, it was like a person had died in my husband’s life. I thought it would blow over, especially after we shared joy in the birth of our second child, but the lingering sorrow remained.
Shortly after this, there was a period when every part of my life was uncomfortable. I had been reorganized into a new department and found my new job responsibilities unclear and overwhelming. My husband still mourned the loss of medical school. I had an infant keeping me up at night and I was just exhausted. Anxiety rose in my life and I was having physical symptoms. I was so beyond my ability in every area—work, marriage, kids—I was nearly overcome with fear of failure. I remember praying to God, asking Him “How can I keep myself from failing at work?” He answered, “You can’t.”
At first I found this answer very discouraging, but with time this revelation started a change in my thinking that opened a new time of freedom in my life: God gently showed me that the outcomes in every situation were up to Him and I had to simply ask for help and show up every day and do my very best. This applied to work, my marriage, being a mom and being a friend. Having freedom from the illusion of control changed my thinking from “I don’t want to fail, I don’t to fail” to “I am going to make my best contribution and leave the outcomes to God.”
This new mindset lifted the unimaginable weight off my shoulders. It took a large amount of courage, especially at first, to say I am going to do my best, and leave the possibility open that I could fail, or leave something undone, or have someone unhappy with me (or not be perfect in general), that in my mind I called this walking on water. Not spending all my emotion and physical energy being afraid made my life more enjoyable, and I was able to be more creative and innovative. I am so thankful! I could not have stopped being afraid from the fear of failure and fear of man in my own power, but God liberated me and it radically changed my life.
Medical School and “The Disciple Jesus Loves”
Over time, I realized that although I didn’t understand the depth of his sorrow, my husband was not going to get over giving up medical school. I encouraged him to reapply while his MCAT scores were still good. He got into school a second time and I knew this time there was no turning back. But at the same time I was thrilled for my husband’s dream opportunity, I was sad for myself. We were going to have to live separately the first two years and my boys were one and five years old. I was going to have to work full time, do the cooking and cleaning as I had been and also do most of my husband’s at home responsibilities. (Single parents have become my biggest heroes!)
Once I got through the shock and mourned the loss of my husband’s presence and time, I just kept taking the next step and doing my best as I had done before. God gave me a special gift during this time—a very intense, deep knowledge of His love for me and a strong feeling of peace like I had never known before. I even thought of myself—like the Apostle John—as “the disciple Jesus loved”! I saw God’s work and provision in my life everywhere, even in the smallest things, because I had such great need. This was Part Two of my walk-on-water training. I knew I was in way over my head, I was exhausted, but I kept doing my best and leaving the outcomes to God. I find it interesting that some of my biggest spiritual breakthroughs and blessings came at times when I was isolated by design.
Trafficking – Passion for the Broken
Up until just a short time ago, I was not even aware of human trafficking at all. But I do love to read and just “so happened” to read a book titled “Princess, Behind the Veil in Saudi Arabia.” There were some side stories in this book when men would go on a “sex vacation” to various countries where it was easy to buy women or children. Just the thought that this was happening in other countries across the globe was sickening to me. It made me uncomfortable, and I just wanted to forget.
A few short months later, several houses on our street sold. And when one of my neighbors called, telling me she had been checking the registered sex offender list and that a new one popped up on our street concerning someone who had been convicted of aggravated child pornography, the news shook my world. What about my kids? What about all the others on our block? Fear crept back into my life.
Then, just a month or two after this, a group came and talked at our church to raise awareness of trafficking. At this seminar, I learned Michigan is ranked the worst for human trafficking, second only to Nevada (Las Vegas). This shook my world again.
Wasn’t human trafficking only a problem in 3rd world countries? Certainly not in the U.S.! Certainly not our state!
Then there was this: God had asked me to find a Compassion International child in India near where I go for work every year. (Half my research group is in India and I work closely with them on a routine basis, visiting once a year.) And just as God was constantly showing me more and more about human trafficking, I get a letter out of the blue from the care center for my sponsored child telling me that he lives in a red light district and that his parents are professional sex workers.
Are you kidding me?! God was bombarding me and clearly wants me to listen. This one is a work in progress.
Let People See You So the Light Can Get Out
In the last two years or so, God has been leading me to become more transparent to others.
He has always asked me to build deep relationships with those in my circle of influence: at work, in my neighborhood, at my church, and in my extended family, but recently He has been asking me more and more to put myself out there and allow people to see me. I am a quiet person and this does not come naturally to me. I don’t like to draw attention to myself. Yet I have noticed that whether sharing a triumph or deep pain I am struggling with, sharing has really deepened the quality of my relationships with others and has allowed God more room to work.
If I was having any doubts at all about writing this, I was reading the Bible yesterday and came across Psalm 107:2 “Let the Redeemed of the Lord tell their story.” These are highlights of mine.