1 Timothy 1:16 (NLT) says: But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life.
I am a New Zealander living in the Bible-belt of the United States. Many people have asked me why I’m here. Don’t get me wrong — I love my country! Although Texas is not my first choice of places to live, I do know this is where God brought me more than three decades ago.
Long before I knew anything about God, He knew He’d have to bring me out of my birth country and into a totally different way of thinking for me to come into relationship with Him. A place where being a Christian is accepted and commonplace, almost even expected.
As a youngster, perhaps because I was so introverted, I loved to read. I would read the dictionary, encyclopedias (that dates me), and even the Bible (surprisingly, my Mum had one among the books in her room). That, and going to Sunday School with a neighbor friend a couple of times, was the only exposure I had to God growing up.
Because of my agnostic upbringing, none of those books had any more significance to me than any of the others, but I like to think reading the Bible as a pre-teen planted some seeds and helped kindle a curiosity in me, even though I may not have understood what I was reading. Looking back, I can see how God was drawing me to Him.
As a teenager, the partying, drinking, drugs, and sleeping around, all seemed so shallow, so superficial. All it did was help me feel accepted and give me a sense of belonging (since I was the girlfriend of a local gang leader), but life lacked meaning and purpose.
I remember feeling hopeless (depression was not something new for me, even at that age) and asking myself, “Is this all there is to life?”
Even though I had questions about the meaning and purpose of life, my own in particular, I still kept on doing the same things year after year, mainly because I didn’t know what else to do. I thought that was life, and that was all there was to it. Nothing really helped answer the questions I had, but then, I was looking in all the wrong places and nobody else seemed to have any answers either.
What got me out of my rut was my desire to travel and I thought a working holiday would be the best way to do it since I didn’t have a lot of money saved up. I found out from my much older half-sister that her ex-husband knew some people in California who had some friends in Texas who wanted a nanny. Could that get any more convoluted? If that wasn’t a God-thing, then I don’t know what is!
I contacted people I didn’t know (by snail mail, no less!) to ask them about their need for a nanny, and next thing I know, at 20 yrs old, I’m selling my meager possessions (car and bed) and heading over to Texas by myself. I even stopped in Hawaii and Los Angeles for a couple of days each and saw a few sights, by myself. The Lord protected me as I traveled alone.
I made it to Texas and was met at DFW airport by the strangers for whom I would be a nanny; a pharmacist, his wife, and their two boys aged 1 and 2. They soon introduced me to church and that gave me people my own age to run around with. I got emotionally caught up in the fervor of a revival in their Church of Christ and got baptized, even though I didn’t really believe everything I was told.
The nannying was a great experience and I got to do a lot of things I may never have got a chance to do otherwise. I drove a Mercedes convertible, went on a ski trip to Colorado with the church, and flew with the family in their 6-seater airplane, with the pharmacist as pilot, to Oklahoma to visit his extended family. However, after 5 months the wife became jealous when her boys preferred me over her and called me “mommy,” so she started making up stories about the way I treated the boys. Reluctantly, the husband let me go (with severance pay) to keep his wife happy.
Anyway, to make a long story shorter, I managed to resist the pull of the Lord for another twelve years, and instead pursued fun, relationships (including two marriages that dissolved), and other self-serving endeavors, until I finally messed my life up on a grand scale.
I hated myself, who I’d become, and all that I’d done.
I was more than 6,000 miles from any family support and had alienated a lot of my friends and co-workers through my own selfish actions. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I had a lot of shame and tended to keep people at a distance anyway to prevent them from finding out about the real me.
I was still suffering from depression and had already tried to commit suicide once, before my children were born. The thought of leaving them motherless was the only thing that stopped me from trying again.
Going through my second divorce, I was close to losing my two girls from that marriage in a custody battle. When my lawyer, a Christian, suggested I go to church because it would be “good for my case,” I obeyed, knowing I needed to do anything within my power to add points to my side.
I slipped in the back row of a large Baptist Church Sunday after Sunday, feeling like a hypocrite. I feared someone would find out who I was and what I’d done and shoo me out the door. Gradually, the Lord opened the eyes and ears of my heart to the point where I could hear Him beckoning me and my own softened heart answering His call. It finally dawned on me that I had no other choice but to seek God’s help.
He allowed me to get to the end of myself.
I knew I didn’t stand a chance of winning the custody battle without God’s help. My children were only three and one. I loved them dearly and couldn’t imagine losing them. They were important enough to me that, if I lost custody of them, I wasn’t sure how I’d survive. In fact, I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to survive.
I asked the Lord Jesus to forgive me and to take over and fix the mess I’d made.
My love for Him grew as I spent time in His Word and in prayer, and I got a glimpse of how unconditionally He loved me. Our relationship caused a dramatic and instant change in me. I was totally different — truly a new creation in Him — and it was very apparent to those around me.
I soon reached the point where I trusted Him completely and He gave me His supernatural peace about all I was going through. I knew God was in control, He was going to do what was best for my children’s future, and He would help me get through this ordeal, whatever the outcome.
I won the custody battle.
That was more than twenty-five years ago now and although it hasn’t always been easy, I’ve never regretted my decision to trust Him, even when my NZ family berate me for my “religious talk”.
We can be so blinded by everything going on when we’re in the middle of things, but looking back, we can see more clearly how God has been working in our lives all along. I know that’s true in my own life.
So the Lord must wait for you to come to him so he can show you his love and compassion. For the Lord is a faithful God. Blessed are those who wait for his help. (Isaiah 30:18, NLT)
No matter what you’ve done, He’s waiting for you with open arms! What are you waiting for?