Wednesday, March 07, 2007

A Heart For God (a testimony) Part 3

This might be mistaken for the "NeverEnding Story" but this is it...the final one;)

There is something about drudging (is that a word?) up the past mistakes and failures in my life that just leaves me feeling drained and "blue" by the end of these posts. The Lord has, in the past few years, allowed me to get a glimpse- feel/see the weight of my sin and the grief I caused the Lord-the damage it has done. Yet at the same time, I know if I could grasp even a tiny fraction of the gravity of sin I would be crushed under the weight. When I think about the fact that Jesus bore the weight of this sin I allowed in my life on the cross ...He became this sin and shed His blood...bought and paid for my filth...there are no words. I only wish I could better portray what He has done in my life. My poor writing skills just don't "say" what my heart is pouring out. I am glad that some of you reading this know me...quirky me ;) and can hopefully hear my heart in all this. I genuinely want to honor Him for the changes He made and still makes in my life. Anyone who would have witnessed the changes would definitely know it was the LORD and by no means any work I could have mustered on any level myself. Most of you are probably disgusted by what I am sharing with you...rightfully so, we should be offended by sin that grieves our precious Lord. I am sorry for the shame I brought to the Christian faith...the stumbling blocks I placed. What a pathetic attempt at an apology for an evil so great. My heart was for myself...not for God.

I attended Penn State Berks Campus for a year and continued to flounder in my sin...I was sick of it, but at a loss as to what to do. Here is where I am tempted to criticize various avenues through which someone perhaps could have made a difference, but in truth, placing blame or using the excuse that I was not given proper tools will not stand when I have to answer to my Lord for my works. Were stumbling blocks placed? Yes, but even our Lord was tempted of Satan himself. Scripture backed up with belief in it- defeated the temptation. I have no excuse, but I can use what I learn in hindsight to be a help to others. God wants us to be restored that we might be better used of Him for His purpose. He is so loving to help me seek forgiveness for past sins... And on with the account...

After a year of the state school, I decided that maybe a Christian College would help me get on track. A change of location does nothing: it is the HEART that must be changed. Sure, I had some good changes in my life because of the school I was attending, but if I were given the oppurtunity, I would fall into a worldly way again because I was still making the calls in my life instead of allowing the Lord to have His way. I wanted to hold on to-my choice in dress, music, boyfriends (my, now husband, and I had broken up)-how I spent my time, my thoughts, lusts. Pleasing others, gaining recognition, desiring to be the center of attention was the motive behind most all of what I did. I thought at one point that maybe I was not truly saved..maybe that was the problem...I was actually hopeful -so that I might blame it on the fact that I did not have the Holy Spirit- I was truly saved, but had cut my spiritual heart off from the nourishment it needed. I had allowed "toxins" into my life- gossip, hate, discontentment, vengeance, a lust for physical attention, music, partying etc. I had put conditions on my walk and I was in a state of spiritual Heart Failure to the point that there was arguably no visible "walk" left.

During Christmas break, Brian and I decided to get back together and we were going to work for a semester and then both of us would attend Liberty University the next Fall. Brian during that time had an interview with a Marine Corps recruiter who persuaded me to join as well.

I won't go into the woes of military life- especially the woes of being a woman in the Marine Corps. Ok, the woes of being a woman in the Marine Corps stationed in 29 Palms with no car. ;) 29 Palms is in the Mojave Desert...we had to rake the sand that was our, uh yard. I don't think women should be Marines...'nuff said. I still struggle emotionally from some of the things that happened to me over the course of my 4 year contract. My Dad had begged me not to enlist- he warned me that I was not going to be "prepared" for the things I would have to deal with. He was right...and then some. Before I left home, he gave me a Silver Dollar that I was to keep in my pocket throughout bootcamp. He kept one in his pocket too. Every time I stuck my hand into my pocket and felt that Silver Dollar, I was to know he was praying for me, thinking of me. That silver dollar marked the beginning of some of the the most painful years of my life- spiritually,mentally and emotionally. The Marine Corps is a lifestyle different from any other service and you can't know what it is like unless you have experienced it. My tour was filled with success-by military standards, but there was not a moment of peace in my life not.one. moment. I was busy drowning out the Holy Spirit. No amount of success in this world could possibly compare to the peace that can be felt even on a bad day in the life of one who lives for the Lord. Life outside of God's will is empty and pain-filled ...and dangerous. At the time, I might have thought I was having a good time, but a good time meant that I was distracted from acknowledging the true condition of my heart. God's hand still protected me in various ways throughout my enlistment. Moving right along...

Brian proposed to me during that time, and we decided that we should wait until my service contract had ended before getting married. My 4 year obligation was finally nearing the end and I was going to go home to my parents house in Alabama vowing to never return to the desert- ...never say never.

My "shop" had a going away party for me before I left and at the going away a secretary, Marilyn, who had briefly worked with me in the middle of my enlistment walked up to me and said something to the effect of "Sgt Evans, I want you to have this"-with that she pressed something into my palm. Ok, back up just a little to the word "briefly" in the previous sentence...I was surprised she even cared to come to my going away at all, I barely knew the lady! The Lord sent her my way, I am sure of it. My heart flipped when I looked down to see what she had pressed into my hand. It was a silver dollar. No one knew about the silver dollar my dad had given me- it was tucked safely away in a valuables bag that I kept in my wall-locker. It marked the beginning and the end of my rebellion displayed by joining the military against my parent's will. It also (seeing in hindsight) appeared that it would mark an end to the Lord's allowance of my wayward walk- the Lord would make clear to me that I was harming the cause of Christ and it would have to end. I was a prodigal..I was asleep to the Lord's chastisement- I continued to stumble blindly in the wrong direction. Enough was Enough.

As I made the trip across country with a friend- I had again gone against my Father's wisdom of just flying home- "How fun...a road trip...", I thought. We made it to Las Cruces, New Mexico...I can clearly see the symbolism now. Las Cruces- the Cross.

I slowly woke up surrounded by wreckage - I had an indescribably glorious feeling despite the obvious wreckage I woke up in. I don't even want to begin to speculate about what type of near death I had experienced...nor do I want to focus on whatever it was that the Lord allowed during my abscence of concsiousness -at least. Whatever it was, I knew the Lord's wake up call had been received on my part. I praised Him over and over. I could make out some faces peering in the passenger window...my head was below the steering wheel, there was blood and glass everywhere and the car was crushed in on me. I didn't feel any pain, so I assumed I was dying..or something along those lines. My friend,the driver, had apparently been ejected. I still had my seatbelt on and one leg was out the window. My head felt "raw" and I thought that maybe my scalp was torn off, but those at the scene assured me my "hair was on". An EMT climbed into the wreckage to hold my hand while the firemen used the "jaws of life" to cut the frame that caged me. I drifted in and out of concsiousness, but was just so thankful to be alive..happy for what appeared to be a second chance. I had amnesia which caused the Paramedic to fear a serious head trauma- I had no idea of my name or anything for a couple of hours! The Drs were amazed that I managed to come away with no internal injuries or broken neck...though the vehicle had rolled 7 times down the highway. The driver had over corrected at 75+mph and the police were incredulous that we survived. I broke both of my wrists and one ankle and was bruised and cut up, but I did not even need any stitches. Miraculous. My friend who was ejected during the first roll- also a prodigal at the time, had shattered 5 vertebrae and was airlifted from the hospital in Las Cruces to a hospital in El Paso. We have an amazing God. My dad flew out to get me- lovingly came to rescue his prodigal. I recovered quickly physically and was eager to have my relationship with the Lord restored as well.

Brian and I married that May of 1998 and I was determined to seek the path the Lord planned for me. I suffered a heartbreaking miscarriage in the summer of 2000 and thought perhaps children were not going to be possible. Undeserving of anything, I did humbly ask the Lord for a child that I might train up to serve Him. The Lord answered that prayer and was answering my prayers in my seeking to have a heart for Him as well. The way He answered was very unexpected. Brian received orders to 29 Palms...the desert to which I had said I would never return. I cried upon hearing the news, but I trusted the Lord that there must be a reason. We discovered that reason when my husband found a tract for an Independant Fundamental Baptist church in Yucca Valley which was about 30 min from our base housing. The evil one did all he could to discourage us from attending. I was defensive about the less than modest way I dressed, and was not yet a submissive wife by any means- worse I was still plucking my house down with criticism. I was easily offended and tempted to find another church in the very beginning, but God in His grace impressed upon me that this was where I needed to be. He was going to use this church and the preaching of His word to reprove, correct, and instruct me in righteousness. Brian and I rededicated our hearts and lives to the Lord and determined to serve and worship Him in a way that was pleasing to Him. Through the Bible preaching of Pastor Watkins in that church and the encouragement and patience of the church family there- we experienced tremendous spiritual growth. I had my first baby while attending there and boy was God ever working in our hearts through straight full strength teaching. There is nothing like straight Gospel truth...Bible preaching that is not watered down, and what an additional blessing that this Pastor, in truth, can Preach like no other pastor I have heard! I love reading Spurgeon's sermons, and Pastor Watkins is right up there in revealing truth and preaching it. I could go on and on about that family...most Godly people I know.
Our church allowed us the priviledge to serve in various ministries which we loved and learned a great deal. My heavenly Father gave me a second chance to be used of Him! I now know a bit about that joy and peace that only the Lord can give- even in the midst of tempestuous storms. He has allowed me to share the Gospel with others...see souls saved. I am a filthy rag not fit to even mention His name and He allows me to sing...in HIS worship service! All praise and honor to HIM...I will never tire of singing praises to Him.
I had to get back to where I had originally lost sight...I had to kneel before Christ with His precious nail scarred feet and repent of my sin... I had to take all I had, which was not mine to begin with, and pour it out at His feet. I literally, in my bedroom one day while expecting Brianna- was overcome with grief over the past-my sinful life and laid on the floor begging forgiveness. Please don't mistake any of this for show... I don't know a better way to express how the Lord worked in my poor excuse of a life. I just want to share about the repentance the Lord graciously, lovingly led me through. I had been so numb that the renewed fire that the Holy Spirit stirred in my heart bringing about strong conviction, regret and repentance was welcome in my weary malnourished soul. His rod of correction I could see as His loving me. My spiritual heart started to pump stronger with some of the blockages of iniquity out of the way. Truth be known- I would rather feel the pain of chastisement and correction than the numbness of a heart that has hardened against any prods of conviction.
Christ took my repentant heart and lovingly welcomed me back into fellowship. Oh, I still struggle and fail many times...you know this from my silly little posts! Pride gets in there and does damage, bitterness comes to the surface at times and I have to give it to the Lord, I mistake people pleasing for conviction sometimes...the Lord leads me back. He is always there. My works are tried in the fire over and over and the Lord blesses that which is done with a pure heart in spite of me- because of Himself. When I stumble, when I am discouraged, when I feel afraid, when I don't have any answers- I cling to Him. When I cling to anything else..the Lord allows it to collapse under me that I might find Him. I don't ever want to leave His presence- to please Him is my heart's desire. A heart for God...oh if I could have but this one miraculous thing wrought by His hand in my life...I am overwhelmed by His infinite grace and mercy for a wretch like me. God is so good and His mercy is for all.
If you have not given your life to Him...trust Him today as your personal Savior- don't put it off. Even as you sit here reading this trust Him TODAY. If you are a prodigal- don't wait until it is too late to be a vessel which can be used of Him. My life should have been snuffed out in that car accident...we are called to be witnesses. He wants to restore you, bring you back into fellowship with Him. He is healing my hurts! He is remaking my marriage and helping me overcome the obstacles in my marriage due to sin. He is leading me, changing me little by little- I can't express the joy and peace even in trials that I have experienced. Every trial makes me more of a witness to His power and grace and mercy that is sufficient to sustain me. And my children *tears* even if He spared my life that I might have these 4 precious children to tell of HIS saving Grace that they might win souls for Him..there are no words to express His bountiful measure in the blessings He has given me. Praise Him- He is worthy of all praise.

10 comments:

Julie Fink said...

God brought you to the desert where He caused you to rest. This is exactly what He did for our family when He sent us there. Pastor & Mrs. Watkins and the Calvary Baptist Church are indeed precious saints of God.

Pamela said...

Praise God that all of our sins are under the blood. He remembers them no more; as far as the east is from the west. Our memory of them do keep us humble though, don't they!

Heather said...

Mrs Julie, yes He certainly did cause me to rest. Pastor and Mrs Watkins and Calvary Baptist certainly are a blessing.

Pam- Yes, God is so good. It does hurt to think about my past, but God has been so gracious to allow restoration.

Mishel said...

Heather, God is indeed using you and I am so very thankful for your testimony. I *know* it's exhausting, as you said, to write it all out. But may the Lord use your words to His glory. I know I have been greatly encouraged and challenged. Love you muchly! ((hugs))

Liz said...

Heather, Your testimony is an encouragement. It's so good to see what God can do with a willing heart. Love you lady!

Heather said...

Praise the Lord that He is the Great Physician and heals wayward hearts for His purpose. Thank you Ms Mishel for being such a Godly example-love you

Liz- you have such a tender heart and are an encouragement to me. The Lord has and will continue to use your compassionate hearts to point others to Christ. Love you lady!

Happymama said...

Heather, I have been so blessed by reading your sweet testimony. I too, have been spared by God. It is a humbling experience. And He does deserve much praise for what He does in the lives of His children. AMEN!

~Kristi

Grafted Branch said...

Speechless.

Yes, I would love to have coffee and share stories of God's amazing grace with you!

Maybe even someday this side of Heaven. :)

Heather said...

Kristi- It is humbling, yes, but in a way healing to share and hopefully encourage someone by it.

GB- That would be wonderful to talk- this side of heaven. He has done so much. Our God is so amazing.

Free In Christ said...

Your story is so touching. I can feel the "awe" that you have for Christ and his sacrifice in your writing. The first paragraph was almost too much (not really) because it is so absolutely true.

When you think of the weight that Christ endured on Calvary for our sin, there are really no words to describe what I feel right now.

Thanks for sharing. You are an encouragement.