I’m over 50 years old. (That’s me, there, with the silly grin and curly hair 2nd from the left.) If I continue to live in good health, I could honestly live another 50 years. I’m not wondering what that will look like anymore. But when I look back and see the twists and turns and knots of my life in God’s story I see a connecting thread.
The Call to Missions
Several years ago, I realized I had almost forgotten God’s first call upon my life. Honestly, I only remember the words of the pastor as he said, “If you feel a call into missions, stand up!” I didn’t realize I stood up in the middle of a group of 500 or more church members. I don’t remember hearing the voice of a missionary that night or if the pastor preached about serving in a foreign land. Honestly, it doesn’t matter. What’s important is, at 16 years old, I felt the touch of the Holy Spirit who raised me to my feet.
I remember the words, the touch, the call, and looking at the pastor thinking, “Wow, what next?”
One thing that didn’t happen…no encouragement came to move me toward missions. I didn’t begin training to become a missionary either. The two who stood with me – far across the vast sanctuary – were young men my age.
At 16 the mission field seemed confusing and terrifying. It was such an awkward age for me, and I didn’t follow the faith as closely as had been taught to me. In fact, I was double-minded with one foot in church and the other in the world…following more of the world than the Spirit.
Dread but Drawn
Leaving home felt like the right thing to do. I joined the Navy and hoped for a career. I spent most of my time at the clubs, not the church. After only a few years, circumstances and a major health issue brought me back home.
I found myself on the fence again, but this time my condition seemed unredeemable. Single’s group at church and the worship team became an important side of my life. Me and two older guys were singing worship songs and leading a big group of single Christians on Friday nights. But, come Saturday I hit the clubs singing a different tune, dancing and drinking until passed out. The next day found me in the church hungover assuming no one knew the other side of the fence I rode.
I laugh a little when I envision myself sitting on a real fence. Legs spread, one foot resting on fresh, green grass full of life and the other foot resting in a field of weeds and thistles thinking, “This is a good life!” I dreaded the presence of God, but He drew me to Him.
The Call to Counsel
I wanted so much of God, but I didn’t know how to let go of the world. Hurt from my childhood and broken relationships I didn’t know how to turn away from the many nights of abusing drugs and alcohol. I sought God on my terms when He wanted my whole heart. I couldn’t give him the broken pieces. I thought, “My broken heart could never serve Him on the mission field.”
Thankfully, I listened to the pastor’s messages and the single pastor’s lessons. I learned how to find the will of God! And when I sought it, He revealed it to me! The Gospels tell us when we search intently, we will find (Luke 11:9-10).
When I turned 24, God revealed His call for my life as a Christian counselor, but I had no idea how to accomplish it. My sin; my shame; my doubt; my despicable life, never changed His mind. Even though I kept at the drugs and alcohol, the foul mouth, wrong relationships full of sex. Even though I felt unworthy to accept God’s call, it never went away. In my absentmindedness, I completely forgot about becoming a missionary…but God remembered. I learned later His plans “cannot be shaken” (Psalm 33:15).
To College and Beyond
I finally made it to college by age 28, but not to work on a counseling degree. I decided to get my social work degree. With that degree, I could do just about anything including counseling. It took eight years to get a 4-year degree. Why? Because of the fence – one foot in the world and one foot with the Spirit, remember? Why God didn’t just spit my luke-warm self out of His mouth and finish with me completely mystified me. But He pursued me as a loving Father. God revealed His glorious presence to me whether I deserved it or not. I felt unworthy. However, at 42-years-old, God finally got my attention. I rode the roller-coaster of drug use, broken relationships, marriages, affairs, children, and mental illness far too long…time to get off.
The Healing Journey
Estranged from my family for more than a decade, I finally traveled across the country to visit them. My parents looked so old, and my heart broke as I realized how much I had truly missed them during all that time. It didn’t take long for God to get through to my hard heart and begin to soften it toward reconciliation. A year later, after selling everything, I moved back to my family hoping for reconciliation. My healing journey truly began the day I arrived at my new home and hugged and kissed my mother and father for the first time in 13 years.
But the story doesn’t end there. God stirred my attention, and I obeyed. But I still struggled with the world. My foot never seemed able to completely shake off the weeds of sin on the wrong side of the fence. Although I had stopped doing drugs and drinking alcohol, my thoughts still focused on them. I desired an authentic relationship with God. However, my relationships up until then only proved it would never happen – not between God, nor man.
I continued to hear the Word of God being spoken boldly in the new church I attended. Like a sponge, I soaked up every word as if Jesus himself whispered each thought into my damaged heart. Every sermon focused on my problems; every word cut through my heart. God pulled into a place where the Holy Spirit could teach me, correct me, heal me, and love me.
Not long after, I realized I somehow missed a crucial part of my spiritual journey. All the years in the church lacked the knowledge I needed to be completely free of weed-infested-wrong-side-of-the-fence sin. I heard the word sanctification for the very first time.
Intrigued by sanctification and what it meant I researched every verse. I wanted to know what I was getting myself into! However, my research exposed what I was getting “out of.” Out of having to do things by myself. Out of the grip of sin. Out of the grip of addiction. Out of the fear of failure. Out of trying to live up to everyone else’s expectations. Out of making decisions on my own. Out of the very blackness of hell itself and into the pure majestic light of God! Why wouldn’t I want that?
I did want that! And I did cry out to God for the sanctifying salvation of the Holy Spirit! Why did this seem like new information? I was 45 years old and learning about the Holy Spirit as my guide. No more taking tours on my own without him. No more trying to figure out how to solve my problems. No more turning away from God because I couldn’t “follow the rules!” No more rules!
Surrender – all the different parts of my life – for God’s plans and I found freedom from the sin and shame I which I carried around for 45 years. I fully surrendered my life to the One who loves me more than anything. God never gave up on me. He put me in places where His Spirit showed me how to get off the fence.
The Call to Evangelize
After initial sanctification, I matured spiritually. God quickly revealed His third call on my life – to become an evangelist. The process of creating a Holy life initiated as I drew closer to the Holy One. A sanctified life is not about what I do or don’t do. It’s about daily coming into the presence of God. His holiness shines upon me, and I am holy (Colossians 1:22). Because of Jesus, I am righteous (I John 3:7). Because of the Holy Spirit, I am sanctified, set apart for God’s glory (Romans 15:16). For more on sanctification, please check out my blog “The Only Permanent Way to Relieve Stress.” Also, check out my Resource page with a vast array of links to verses about sanctification.
In late 2010 God led Joe and me to serve him as the directors of Celebrate Recovery. We thought the challenge too overwhelming. However, because we fully relied on God, we grew through Him in the three years we ministered at Celebrate Recovery.
God then planted us in another location, South Korea. Becoming the directors of CR was an obedient small step toward something even bigger. That’s how our God works. That’s where we serve today.
Am I perfect now because of sanctification through Jesus? By no means! However, God put together the perfect plan for my life. God set me apart to serve in three specific areas, and now He is fulfilling all in one fell swoop.
The purple thread of the royal one, Jesus Christ, runs through the calls of missionary, counselor, and evangelist. Together they form the person God created in me. If you want to know about my core values, click here or send me a quick message. I love talking about the God I serve.