There are times when I wonder just what others really think about faith? How they define it. How they comprehend it. How they understand it. This is my personal testimony about how I have recently grown in my faith.
A little over seven years ago, my wife and I had first met. I was a thirty-something who had never been married. She was a mother of three with a past marriage. I was in a place in my life that had been a total train wreck just months prior. I was just learning how to stand up again after my own failed relationship of nearly ten years, a few short relationships with other women, a battle with major depression, substance abuse and a surgery which left me in bed for a month. I was also struggling to find hope in a world that was deteriorating all around me. I was grieving over my best friend dying, beating myself up over my poor decisions, and really hated the fact that I was so far in debt that I chose to move back in with my mother.
When I met my wife, all of those things seemed to take a backseat. There is something about falling in love that makes the world melt away.
I was working at my current job, and just a few months before meeting my wife I was introduced to a new-age method of reaching “enlightenment.” My supervisor was moving out of the Catholic religion, and into an emotion-driven, self-reliant belief system. She had watched me go through so many changes since starting my position. After being forced to resign from the former company after being injured, and after recovering from my surgery, I was hired at my current place of employment. I was just a happy-go-lucky guy on the surface, but underneath I was still dealing with so much distress. As time went on at my new job, my emotions started to take hold of the day-to-day. I was losing a lot of sleep, not showing up for work and the substance abuse was escalating.
My supervisor noticed my changes. She was very concerned, and she was very compassionate. She would talk to me about what she was noticing, and I would share limited information with her. I barely knew her, and I really did not want to talk about many of the things I was experiencing. She would always stop to check on me, and she was always giving me things to inspire, or encourage positive changes. One day she handed me a series of compact discs. On the discs was a program which consisted of a man who would talk about self-help methods of becoming a better person. Ways to build confidence. Even though the man would say that the ego had to be removed, and one could reach Christ-like consciousness through these methods, I later realized that the program was doing nothing but emphasizing ego and making individuals into their own god. The new-age practices were very helpful at the time. I embraced a great deal of happiness as I worked my way through the program. I took such an interest that I pursued even more of the mans’ teachings and acquired more of the programs. I read the books, practiced the methods and really experienced life in a way I had never known. It was a secure rung in the ladder that I was slowly climbing from out of the depths of my darkened hole.
So I had thought. I soon learned that the new-age belief system is built around “self;” the total opposite of “denying one’s self” as Jesus instructed.
I met my wife, and we hit it off from the beginning. We were spending so much time together. Our personalities were a match, we laughed constantly and we supported each others’ bad habits. Things were really starting to come together for both of us. We stepped away from the old lives in which we had lived, and began a new one together. We were soon married, and we were living in a cozy home. She was going through jobs while going to school, trying to find her permanent career. I was working full-time and doing well. We had so much going for us. The dark clouds seemed to be parting for both of us. We were making much better choices than we had in the years past. Her grandparents recommended that we attend their church, and we did. My wife had grown up in the church, while I had not. I only knew of God, and a very limited understanding of Jesus, the Bible, faith, and the teachings of the man on my discs. I wanted to know more about Christ-consciousness and why I had been baptized a few years before. After my buddy had died, I had said that I believed in what Jesus had done for me. My buddy’s uncle baptized me, but I don’t think I really understood any of it at the time. In my grief, I quickly ran to his uncle’s invitation to be saved in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
We attended for many months. I really couldn’t stand it after so long. The pastor was too much for me. His head barely fit through the doors of the church. I was very disturbed by his unbelievably huge ego. That little church that we attended had me very interested in a man named Jesus, and my misunderstanding of who He is. It also had me interested in beating people with Scripture. I started reading the Bible. I would beat myself up, as well as others, because of the teachings within the book. The constant whipping I would endure at the building by the pastor was showing me how to be, “perfect.” I was being taught how to be religious. I was being conditioned into a church member with a willingness to follow a man before Jesus.
We left the church, but we took Jesus by the hand when doing so. We skipped around to several other churches and witnessed the same abuse. The last abusive church was growing on me. I truly believe the devil was taking me into a realm that had the appearance of a Godly place, but was really a cult-stricken place of the devil’s craftiness. I became a religious freak under the guidance of the misguided. I was demanding that my family do things at home, like mandatory Bible reading, perfect church attendance, cleaning up of every little sin and demanding perfect perfection! God was being taught at that building in the same ways as the ones before, but this time I was giving into the abominations and distributing them throughout my home and social life. I became a religious jerk.
We had left the church after a final sermon which gave us the red flag of its heresies, and we never went back. Shortly after, my wife left me. She took herself and the kids to her mother’s, and there I sat. Broken. Ashamed. Crazed. Confused. She couldn’t take on the crazed husband she was living with. I was still beating people with the Bible, fighting with my parents at the same time, and verbally abusing everyone in sight. Very angry, and terribly distraught.
I sat for many months, and prayed. I read about church abuse, the true love of God through Jesus Christ, attended therapy to get my head on straight, went through a lot of changes and met back up with my wife and kids. During those months alone though, I learned many things directly from a deep relationship with the Lord. I had nothing but time to spend with Him every morning and night while my wife and kids were away. I truly learned about His love, His grace and His perfect timing. I learned about how new-age beliefs are the work of the devil. Pride; what the new-age belief is built around, is exactly what removed Satan from the presence of God. That pride is what drives us all in our quest to overlook His power. It is what places our faith within ourselves. It drives us to let our emotions run our lives. It weakens us against these millions of trials that we encounter in our lives. It takes our eyes off of Jesus. It dampens the faith that we have, and builds our self-reliance.
Through my trials, I am becoming so much more reliant on faith in Him. If I am strong in any situation, it is because of faith. If I am struggling, I look to Jesus. If He can calm a storm (Matt. 8:23-27), then in my storm I will always cry out to Him. The days have shown my just how much love He has for His children, and just how powerful He is, above ALL THINGS. He has truly, “overcome the world.” My faith is what has kept me awake to His signs, aware of the works of evil and calmed during the inevitable tribulations. Keeping the faith is what I pray for all of us this morning.