I invite you in to a part of my journey in learning to trust God and be honest with Him and why it was so hard for me for such a long time…maybe you can relate?
My earliest memory of learning about Jesus was probably in school. Gasp! Can you believe it? Who remembers the Rolling Chapel that would go from school to school and you would have the opportunity to go and hear about Jesus and how much He loved us? I remember how much I loved hearing the stories that were done using characters made of cloth on a felt board. I remember almost bursting at the seams when it came time to recite my very first memory verse. You know which one it was….
John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.
It was a proud moment! I felt like I was impressive to the other students, the teachers and most importantly…to God.
I don’t think I understood exactly what that verse meant for me or the world. I just know that people said that Jesus loved us a lot so I just accepted that. If you had asked me “Does Jesus love you Debbie?” I would have said “Yes He does!”
Until the day, a ridiculously scary 33 RPM record was played for me about Judgement Day. I have honestly forgiven the person who played this record for me. I’m sure they meant well and, sadly, I believe they may have understood God in this way. Regardless, the playing of the record that day traumatically marked the way I viewed God for YEARS.
As I listened to the audio, my imagination played the scene so vivid in my mind. The angel brought a young girl before the throne of Jesus to be judged. In my mind, it was me. She begged God to let her into heaven and God brought out his video recorder and replayed for her a scene that occurred in her bedroom when she was 14 years old. She was laying on her bed reading a Seventeen magazine (or Teen Beat) and her little toddler sister came in with a Jesus storybook and asked her sister to read it to her. The young girl said “not now, I want to read my magazine.”
At that, God ordered the angels to cast this young girl into the pit of hell because she chose the ways of the world (reading a secular magazine) over reading a Jesus story to her little sister. The angels dragged the young girl screaming and crying and begging for Jesus to give her another chance. He would hear nothing of it. The angels cast her into the pit of hell. You could hear her falling and screaming as well as others screaming and what was explained to me as sounds of gnashing of teeth. I could hear the fire burning ferociously.
I remember being so frightened as I sat there feeling sick. I started going over in my mind my life thus far and how I was basically doomed to the same fate as this girl. After all, I listened to the top 40 on the radio every week. I read Tiger Beat and even hung up some pictures of the really cute guys on my wall. I lived from that moment on calculating how doomed I was. How could I undo all this stuff and how could I be sure that any future move would not be enough to send me falling…falling and screaming in agony into hell forever and ever?
I supposed that, maybe the reason you would terrorize a child with something like that, is to keep them walking a straight line and to stay out of trouble. Unfortunately, it had the exact opposite effect on my life. I became a very scared, angry, self-destructive young woman. So much so, that when I left home at 18, I decided hell was my destiny and I would do whatever I wanted to do. I was tired of worrying all the time about making a wrong move. I was tired of failing every time I tried to do right. I had no concept of who God really is and how He really feels about me. I pictured God as a mean judge sitting on his throne with binoculars in one hand and a switch in the other. Just waiting for me to mess up. Always disappointed. Always angry with me.
John 3:16 became just a memorized meaningless verse that reminded me that it could not have been me he was thinking of when He sent His Son into the world.
How could I ever be honest with a God like that?
If I’m not careful, I can feel shame that a lot of that attitude did not break off of me until I came to the end of myself after doing yet another self-destructive feat. I can feel shame when I say I really didn’t understand who God really was until about FIVE YEARS AGO. Why shame? Because I had been saved for 12 years by then…teaching, leading, living the Christian life as much as I could imitate who I considered to be good Christians…blah blah blah.
But instead of shame, I’m choosing to share my story with you. Even if just one person can relate and God would use my words to speak to your heart so that you can see Him for who He really is…
Here I want to pray like Paul for you (and me)… that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you… (Ephesians 1:17-18).
I want to encourage you to read the Word of God for yourself. Please don’t get caught up in following people. People would include your pastor, your best friend, your favorite book author, conference leader, mega church evangelist, etc. I’m not saying those are bad but that is how I built my foundation for who God is for the first 12 years of my walk with God. Even in Paul’s day, the Bible says …they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so (From Acts 17…look it up!).
I was so afraid to use my own brain in reading the Scriptures for myself. I believed myself incapable of understanding the Scriptures like this person or being able to answer questions like that person. So I just tried to duplicate myself into whoever I was idolizing at the time.
First…that is flat out ridiculous exhausting!
Second…when I came to the point that I would search the Scriptures for myself…it was amazing to me that I actually have a brain and the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to understanding things I never did before. I am able to discern now in the Spirit what is true about God and what is not. The same is available to you!
Third…it feels so good to have my own personal relationship with God instead of eating the bruised and battered fruit off the ground that someone else dropped. Turns out some of that fruit was rotten. A personal relationship is available right now for YOU!
Fourth…I have not arrived. Just read my blogs…I’m a walking testimony of the goodness of God…Jesus died for me so that I wouldn’t have to (MERCY) and He has lavished His undeserved, unable to earn grace on me…I can’t wrap my mind around why He would be so good to me. I can be a mess at times but I run straight towards Jesus now and I don’t stay down for too long. He makes me beautiful.
Fifth: I can now be honest with God. It was quite a journey. I should be dead. (I can hardly wait to tell you a story about that!)
I wish so much that you would never tire of reading my writings so I could go on and on about how wonderful He truly is!
Like Paul, I pray for you…
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Now to him who is able( to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21)
I will close with a beautiful snapshot into the character of God…just one of the reasons I can be honest with Him…
All the way back to the beginning…God made man and then woman. He didn’t need us. He wanted us. He placed them in the Garden of Eden to live, rule and multiply. Everything He did was good. But He didn’t make us to be robots. He gave us free will and with that free will, He gave Adam and Eve one rule…just one. You can eat of any tree in the garden except for one…just one tree. The tree of knowledge of good and evil. And what did they do? They ate of it.
They hid…filled with shame and fear.
Yet, God pursued them…He wasn’t holding binoculars and a switch…
He asked “Where are you?”
To me, I now hear “Come to me. Do not be afraid.”
Yes, there were consequences. There are consequences for sin, some more than others.
But then God did something so beautiful. He covered their shame by making garments of skin for Adam and Eve and clothed them…
What a beautiful thing this Good Father did. I can picture Him hand-making those clothes for them…just like He handmade them (and you and me).
Even the banishment from the Garden was goodness and mercy and grace because He didn’t want them to eat of the Tree of Life and live forever in the sin state they were now in.
God knew. He already had a plan. The sacrifice of the first animal to make clothes to cover their shame was pointing to his Son, Jesus.
Remember John 3:16? For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.
This is no longer a meaningless memorized Scripture to me. Let’s add verse 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.
No binoculars and a switch.
Just love, mercy and grace. (I can hardly wait to talk more about these beautiful nuggets!)
You can be honest with God. He loves us so much.
There’s so much to tell! I feel as if I might burst! I promise to write again.
Cassie Weist says
Thank you for sharing, sweet sister-in-Christ!!
Debbie Utz says
Thank you for reading and encouraging me! Love you! Squeeze your momma for me! I miss her so much! ♥️
You are so welcome! Thank YOU! I will!☺️💜
Elsa Koppel says
I love this so much! Thank you for writing Mrs. Utz! <3
Debbie Utz says
You are a precious encouragement to me tonight. Thank you! Thank you for reading ♥️