Like many growing up in the Bible belt U.S.A., I was immersed in religion at a very young age. My mom and dad saw that I attended two to three church services a week including youth group and Sunday School. In high school, I was president of my church’s youth group and vice president of my school’s Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). Upon graduation, I attended a Baptist University and was active in Baptist Student Union (BSU) and FCA. Then, after completing my pre-pharmacy requisites, I continued my education at the University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy where I was involved with Campus Crusade and Christian Pharmacists Fellowship International (CPFI). Whew! I’m worn out just typing all that!
To say I’ve been churched is putting it mildly. I knew the christian lingo, the appropriate things to do, and the things I needed to avoid. Sure, it kept me out of trouble, but it was all organizations and rules. I was a country club christian attending all these functions to fellowship with my friends, not necessarily with Jesus. I did occasionally touch God (or rather in His grace and mercy He touched me), but instead of eating from the tree of life where there is true freedom found in Christ Jesus – the only source of Life – I was partaking from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Yes, this is the same tree Adam and Eve ate from in the beginning which was the very first sin (Genesis 3:3). Rooted in this tree is the source of Satan’s power. It kills us by distracting us with christian legalism, so we lose focus of Jesus.
For years, I ate the ‘good’ fruit and avoided the ‘evil’ fruit simply because it was the right thing to do. After all, I was a ‘good’ girl. Outwardly, I had the perfect life. I married a wonderful man who loves the Lord, had two beautifully healthy boys, and climbed the pharmacy career ladder until I obtained my dream job as a managed care clinical pharmacist. I lived in a gated community, had a housekeeper, and a closet full of the latest fashion. I went to church regularly and even ministered into people’s lives upon occasion. It was great! What else could a good christian girl want?
It seemed I had it all, but I seriously lacked fulfillment. I remember going through the day with a smile on my face and then lying in the bed at night exhausted from pretending to be perfect and frustrated that I wasn’t perfect. This was my life for years. I was tired of eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this way of living kept me under the Law which is of the old covenant. It kept me constantly focused on myself and I knew I could never measure up to who I thought God, and everyone else for that matter, wanted me to be. It was sucking the life right out of me. I even tried the evil fruit to see if it tasted better. It was as bitter as eating a dandelion, which may look pretty, but I knew it was a weed that would spread like wildfire if not uprooted.
When I was at the end of myself, in the pit created by my own doing, God showed up miraculously. At the point when I’d had enough, God spoke to me saying that if I would give my life completely to Him, I would have a life unimaginable in Him. A life of rest instead of striving; of abiding in Him instead of producing works for Him. A life walking in the supernatural, including gifts of prophecy and healing. A life led by the Holy Spirit and not the Law. Then He touched me and I witnessed two people healed by the hand of God in one night. It was no longer about me anymore. It was about God first, then my family, then others God placed in my path. That night, I finally gave up control of everything.
I wish I could say I walked on Cloud 9 from that night on, but when I relinquished control, my life fell apart and looked like a huge mess. I’ve always heard Satan builds us up so he can tear us down, but God tears us down so He can build us up. Well, this was the tearing down stage. Everything I had built had to come down – every idol I had built and exalted above the most high God.
Really, the best way I know how to explain it is by comparing it to cleaning out a closet. At first you have to pull everything out, then sort through all the clothes and shoes getting rid of things that no longer fit or things you never wear anymore before you can start putting things back in order. If you’ve ever cleaned out a closet then you can relate to the big mess I’m talking about. It just has to get messy before it gets better. Just like a closet, God cleans us from the inside out. Going through this process hurt terribly, but it was so good and refreshing at the same time.
I walked away from a six-figure career that I had worked so hard to obtain. I stepped down from a leadership role in my church. As a matter of fact, because church and ministry had become one of my many idols, I quit going to church altogether for a short while in order to seek God and His truths for myself. My friends and family thought I was crazy and I experienced some persecution from those who didn’t understand what God was doing in my life.
When God stripped down the facade, the great masquerade I hid behind, I discovered that the foundation of my faith was built upon the Law, which is always full of works, and not Jesus Christ who came to redeem us from the Law (Galatians 3:13). God began showing me a lot of mistruths in my beliefs too. I’d been spoon-fed religion for so long and had never really searched the word for myself. When I did, I only highlighted the ‘bless me, Lord’ scriptures and not the piercing truth that exposed the evil in my heart. I certainly didn’t want to deny my flesh and suffer through the refiner’s fire. Who wants that!?! I’ll tell you who! The one who worships God in Spirit and in Truth and now I can boldly say, “I do because I am a daughter of the Most High God!”
My life is still not perfect; however, my gaze is not on me anymore. But rather on the One who is perfect. I no longer need to prove my worthiness by good works. My trust is in Him for He alone is worthy. I find rest and peace and hope in Him. My righteousness comes from the atoning blood of the cross (1 Peter 2:24). It’s not about what I’ve accomplished, but rather what He has accomplished! He alone is the Life Giver! (Be sure to check out the video at the end of this post. It is an amazing testament of God’s redeeming love for us!)
But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained it, or have already become perfect, but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. –Philippians 3:7-14