I’m passionate about finishing this series on True Christianity that I started, and I’d like to share with you the real-life story of my encounter with a woman who showed her faith by her actions. I haven’t seen her for years, and only spoke with her on the phone a couple years ago. Since then, I haven’t been able to contact her, but this is what I wish she could know about the way she deeply affected my life.
I will never forget her friendship! I was very alone at the time of my life when I first met her. After much convincing, I had finally accepted an invitation to go to a women’s Bible study at this local Spanish-speaking Pentecostal church. At first, I hadn’t wanted to go. I was too ashamed of what my life was like, too embarrassed for any church-going people to know my story. What would they think about me, when they found out? Also, was I prepared to confront the truth about my life? Was I prepared to face the guilt? Prepared to look God in the face and admit what I had done? What if not even God wanted me, much less these people?
Going to the Bible study was just a first step. Then came an invitation to attend an actual worship service. I didn’t want to go alone! Would my partner (before we got married) go with me? Amazingly, he said yes. The service was unlike (almost) anything I’d ever experienced. There was loud, rhythmic praise music; loud shouts of “Amen!” accompanied by loud clapping; and loud singing. I didn’t know if I wanted to stay, or turn around and leave. Oh, but they’d already seen me! Someone came and helped us find seats, not really for sitting in, because nobody was sitting down, but just to mark our place, I suppose. I felt hot. Was it because I was nervous, or was it the atmosphere? I’d never heard these Spanish songs before, but they were beautiful and lively sounding. Many people smiled at us. As I looked around me, I realized that all the women were wearing dresses or skirts; I was so glad that I had worn a long, pretty dress. Our two small children just looked around them in amazement; they had never been to anything like this, either.
At one point, an altar call was announced. We were asked if we wanted to go forward. No, thank you, we answered. No, really, they responded, you should go. So we went, just to make them happy. People were up front crying and lifting their hands; everybody was praying out loud, but I couldn’t make out any particular one, because it was as noisy as a waterfall! I wasn’t going to do that! I stood near the back of the throng, and lifted up a simple prayer in my heart. As I looked around me, I noticed a group of men approaching my future husband. I could hear them ask him to lift his arms up to God, too. Give glory to God, they said, praise Him and honor Him. Incredibly, he did it. He carefully lifted both his arms up over his head, and raised his eyes uncertainly toward heaven. I saw the prayer in his eyes at the same time I heard it from his lips. “I give you glory, God. I thank you, God.”
I don’t think it was the words he spoke which made the difference; it was the spiritual stance. In that moment, as he lifted his arms to God, he was admitting that God was His maker, and he was reaching for the One Who had made Him and knew him. As He said, “I give you glory, God,” he was recognizing that God is the only One deserving of praise and honor, and was basically confessing Him as Lord. As he raised his gaze to heaven, he was choosing to pull his focus away from worldly things, and focus upward toward a vertical relationship with the Savior.
As I saw this amazing change happen in this man whom I loved deeply, tears began to stream down my face. And I hadn’t wanted to cry! Seeing his complete surrender to Jesus Christ, gave me the courage to give myself completely back to Him, too! On this day, God reached down and began a process of transformation in both of us that has been ongoing up until the very present! I mark this day, even though I’m not sure of the exact date, as the day my future husband accepted Christ as His Savior; and I mark this day as the day that I rededicated myself to the One I had believed in many years ago.
Shortly after, we received a personal home visit from the pastor. Uh, oh. What did he want to talk about? Sure enough, there were questions about our relationship. What exactly was the nature of our relationship? What were our plans for the future–were we going to do the right thing by getting married, or what? He was very gentle and kind, yet got straight to the point. His wife also accompanied him. Our answer was just as straightforward. Yes, we know we’ve gotten ourselves into a mess. But we love each other very much, and we love our children very much. Our past is very ugly, and we’re sorry for the damage. But we want to make this right. We DO plan on getting married.
The pastor was satisfied, and looked relieved to know our answer. He assured us that he would support us in our plans for marriage, and that he looked forward to continue seeing us at the church. My future husband heartily agreed that he wanted to continue attending. I was happy, and surprised. This was new for him to want to go to church! He had never shown an interest before!
I believe that this brave pastor actually did us a huge favor by confronting our situation. Some people are afraid to talk to other people about these things, out of fear that they’ll get offended and not come back to church; after all, they reason, we have to meet them where they’re at, and get them saved first, right? I don’t agree. I am so grateful that this pastor called sin, “sin.” He wasn’t afraid to tell us the truth.
It seems to me that the first step toward making any progress in our relationship with God, is recognizing our sin, confessing it, and repenting of it.
When folks try to bypass the sin part, they actually steal from those in sin the opportunity to see their sin for what it is, and repent. They take from them the chance to experience what it’s like to approach God having confessed that sin, and having renewed a right relationship with Him. They hold back from them the chance to clean the dirty grime away, and live in peace and purity before God. I thank God for that truth-telling pastor! I didn’t feel he condemned us at all; rather, I knew that he was doing his duty before God by being responsible as a pastor. He truly wanted to help us, but he couldn’t, until the truth was out in the open. And we were very amenable to fixing the mess!
Sure enough, every Sunday, we were there. At one point, we were invited to a marriage seminar. Should we go? We weren’t married yet, though we were making plans. The pastor encouraged us to attend the all-weekend convention because he saw it as something that would help educate us on how to have a good marriage. He was confident that we would move forward in our plans, so he saw it as the appropriate next step.
Well, we went. It WAS wonderful, and oh, so helpful! We learned things about the way God designed for the husband/wife relationship to function that we either hadn’t known before, or simply hadn’t applied to our relationship.
The seminar began on Friday evening, and would continue through Sunday evening. Everything went extremely well up until about late Saturday morning. Then, something happened that just about crushed me. Everybody was gathered in the meeting hall. The pastor invited all the married couples to grasp hands, and come forward. All the married couples? As I watched everyone else happily stride toward the altar to renew their vows, my partner and I were the only ones left. I knew the pastor hadn’t done this to pick on us. This was probably a typical part of the marriage seminar, and he was following the program that had most likely been established for the convention long before he knew us. I bit my lip to keep it from trembling. Finally, I couldn’t stand the feelings of shame and dejectedness that I felt, and rushed off to the bathroom. The lady’s bathroom was occupied, so the only place I could go for privacy was the men’s. It wasn’t nearly as clean. I tried not to touch anything as I knelt down on the floor, and wept bitterly. I considered leaving immediately. My partner would come looking for me, and I would tell him that I simply didn’t want to attend the conference any longer. We would quietly leave, without saying anything. I would probably never come back, I thought to myself. In fact, I might not ever attend any church, ever again!
A knock came at the door. I tried to ignore it. Then the knock came harder. I heard a woman’s voice. “Jessica?” Now I HAD to answer. Just great. “I’ll be out in a minute,” I said, trying to control the tone of my voice. “Are you okay?” came back her muffled reply. “I’m just fine,” I lied. “Let me in, and we’ll talk.” Oh, no. I didn’t want to talk. But then, it would be so rude to just refuse, so I gently opened the door. Not seeming to care at all that it was the men’s bathroom, she came right in, and seeing my tear-stained face, looked into my eyes with concern. “I saw you rush out, and when you didn’t come back, I thought that something had happened.” I didn’t answer. “I heard what the pastor said, and I can imagine how hurt you must feel.” She smiled kindly. “I’m sure he didn’t mean to pick on you; it’s just part of the way the conference is organized. I know your situation, and I know you’re working on things.” All I could do was nod. She hugged me then. Not one of those light, non-committal side pats, but a warm, firm embrace. I knew she truly cared! She then suggested we return together to the main room. I was hesitant–how could I go back and face all those people? But she was so firm about it, that I felt I HAD to.
I learned some special lessons that day. The first lesson was that yes, it does hurt when forced to face the ugliness and shame of our sin. Yes, we sometimes want to run away. BUT, if we are courageous enough to persevere in amending our errors, and in seeking God, it will pay off hugely in the end! Another thing that I learned, is that yes, there ARE people out there who really care! I hadn’t expected for this friend to show up, but she did! God used this young woman in an extraordinary way, through her simple act of kindness.
Well, let me skip forward a bit, to after my husband and I had been officially married, and our third child had just been born. Another wonderful act of kindness was showered on me by this sweet lady. You know that recuperating period just after the baby is born, when you’re so sleep-deprived and weak from labor all you want to do is absolutely nothing? This birth was my first home birth, and also my first water birth. It was so amazing! What a difference it made to give birth at home, and in warm, soothing water! However, I was very tired afterward. Several people came during the next few days to see the baby and congratulate me. They left cards and gifts, and were very kind and sweet. But, none of them offered to make us any meals, or help with any housework. I would never have dreamed of asking them, either! When this lady asked if it was a good time to come over and see the baby, I expected that she would just stay for about thirty minutes, hold the baby, ooh and aah over him, chat for awhile, and be gone. No. She hadn’t come just to visit. She had come to work. “You go lay down over there with the baby, and get some rest. I’m going to help you clean.” “No, that’s okay, you don’t have to do that!” I said. “No, really, I insist,” she said. “That’s the main reason why I came. “Well, okay then…”
I laid down on my couch with my sleeping son while she washed my dishes, swept and mopped my floor, and folded clothes. I wasn’t bothered at all, just amazed that anyone would do something so nice for me! Nobody, and I mean NOBODY had ever done anything like this for me, not even those of my own family! Remembering it brings tears to my eyes. She was a true servant, and I know God will reward her for it!
I want to thank God that He gave me such a good friend at a time in my life when I was desperate for someone to be my friend! I admire her greatly not only for her kindness and her servant’s attitude, but also for her talent for organization. I always loved visiting her tidy house, decorated prettily, and with beautiful house plants, one of which she gave to me, and which I still have! Her children were well-behaved, and she was dedicated to their godly upbringing. She loved her husband, and though she had a university education, and he didn’t, she was passionate about holding him in the highest esteem as her husband. She loved other women, and cared deeply for their souls. She helped them with their needs, and looked for ways to tell them about the love of Jesus. She hosted a Bible study in her home, complete with a full meal! She spoke eloquently in front of a group, always having put much preparation into her speeches (though she told me at one time, that she used to get so nervous when speaking in public that she used to get a rash–but she had gradually overcome her fears, with God’s help). She also headed the lady’s dance group for the Sunday service. This was a group of women and girls who wore long, flowing dresses, and accompanied the worship music with tambourines and graceful, flowing dance moves.
I heard a video just yesterday that reminded me of her, because this song was one that her tambourine group used to dance to. If you have the time, please listen to it. You know how King David danced with all his might before the Lord when the ark was being brought to Jerusalem? That’s what this song is about: having PASSION for God, and REJOICING in the mighty acts that His hand has accomplished! Especially the way He has rescued us personally from captivity–from captivity not just from our enemies, but from our sins!
Asi como David danzaba / Me gozare
This is a portion of the song (translated from Spanish):
I will rejoice, I will rejoice, I will rejoice, I will rejoice in Jehovah!
He has taken away all my pain and made me free!
When God has made us return from captivity,
We will be like those who dream.
My mouth will be full of laughter,
My lips of worship.
Then the nations will say: How great is the Lord!
Just like David sung, just like David danced, just like David flowed in His presence,
I will rejoice, I will rejoice, I will rejoice, I will rejoice in Jehovah!
Later, after she had left to go back to live in Mexico, I spoke with her on the phone. In this conversation, she told me how God had led her and her husband to a wonderful little church near their home town that taught the Bible in a doctrinally correct manner (the pentecostal church we had previously gone to together had taught some doctrines that were not biblical). I was so pleased to know that God had answered my many prayers that He would guide them to see the truth, and join a truth-believing congregation! I believe that this woman is a True Christian, as evidenced by not only her LIFESTYLE, but also by her willingness to adhere to TRUE DOCTRINE, the PURE DOCTRINE OF JESUS CHRIST. This is the next point in this series I would like to address: True Christians Accept the Teachings of Jesus Christ! Coming up next!