My Testimony in
When God’s mercy saved me from hell and His “severe mercy” saved me from myself.
God sovereignly planted a tree in my front yard. He speaks through His creation and this particular tree would say volumes.
Its appearance was not, shall I say very tree like. Its branches are misshaped, not in the symmetry of nature’s arboreal tributaries. The entire tree leans in one direction as though wincing, recoiling with a kind of desperation to escape something, toiling and twisting as each branch strains for a draught of the sun’s life giving rays.
But there is a reason, though unseen – that explains what is seen.
A few years ago, and just a few inches away from my peculiar little tree, there grew a massive and very oppressive old oak whose domination choked out its sunlight and took most of the moisture from its struggling roots. The little tree struggled for years in the sunless shadows of that old tree that loomed over it. That is until I had it cut down.
It took about a year for the stunted and stunned tree to flourish as if its newfound freedom was too good to be true. Its roots dove into the now plenteous source of water below. Its leaves fairly burst into life after being held back for so long and birds began to make their home in its now burgeoning branches. In the spring and summer, it provides luxuriant shade, a shelter from the hot Texas sun. And it would now yield sweet pecans, whose fruition had been staved for years. But every winter when the leaves fall, it is reminded of the life it once lived as the bare and twisted branches reveal from whence came its deliverance. Were I to assign any human attribute to this now happy and hearty tree, it would be that of gratitude.
Saved From Hell
I was sovereignly “planted” in a home which was lacking in nurturing warmth, not because my parents weren’t loving and wonderful, but because they worked very hard and were rarely present. My childhood was overshadowed with the very real sense of being mostly invisible. The middle child of three, my soul was a cavernous empty place, which longed for affection, probably more than my parents were able to give. I could not have known at six years old that Satan was setting me up for destruction when his woeful work began in the form of a neighbor who would feign such affection only for his own sexual exploitation. Children don’t reason objectively (something is wrong with this person), they think subjectively (something is wrong with me). From an early age, any normality in my life was twisted. And so was I.
By the time I got to college, my own desperation for light and love found me going after every counterfeit to fulfillment imaginable – drugs, drinking and the darkness of immorality, first with men then with women. I didn’t give personhood to people. I only saw them as receptacles of something I needed. I had no love for anyone I couldn’t use, leaving behind in my self-serving disregard – deeply wounded people.
That is until God cut down the Oppressor’s malevolent monarchy over me by opening my eyes to the need of a Savior Who not only forgives sin but also indwells with His power over what had been an unrivaled reign. I was saved. Sin’s dominion was broken but remnant sin that had twisted me so inwardly – remained. I was still not free from the shadows of my past whose guilt and shame turned my eyes back on my self and away from Christ. I fell morally, again. I know I was saved but I needed to be saved from the worst of tyrants, myself.
Saved From Myself
The desperation to change, to be delivered from the strongholds of my past was palpable. I went to counseling, I read every book I could find on the victorious Christian life (which I wasn’t experiencing), I never missed a bible study or church attendance and while all of those things are good and even essential to sanctification, I was still in the vice grip of same sex attraction and was no more able to free myself than a helpless sparrow from the fowler. That is until God in His severe mercy, cut me down.
He showed me that the more I tried to fix myself, the more I focused on myself which is utter futility. Instead, I needed to die to myself, I needed to take my eyes off of the past or the people who hurt me and off of the expectation that others could satisfy my heart. Instead of a pointing finger of accusation and guilt and shame, He pointed me to the cross, the Wondrous Cross where it is discovered that we cannot change ourselves. We cannot take a shattered childhood and put the pieces back together. We cannot free ourselves from the bondage of fear. We cannot rid ourselves of the anger within or the distresses without. We cannot raise ourselves from the pit of despair and depression or lower ourselves from the heights of anxiety. We cannot. But Jesus can with the “more than conquering” power of the resurrection; the power of the cross.
The apostle Paul wrote, “I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection.” (Philippians 3:10) and he prayed that “you will begin to understand how incredibly great His power is to help those who believe Him.” (Ephesians 1:19)
We can spend our entire lives trying to fix ourselves or we can go to the cross and discover its transforming power. This is what I teach and all by God’s lavish grace, have lived for the past 30 years.
I well agree with C.S. Lewis from Mere Christianity on how real change takes place in the believer’s life, in my life.
“The more we get what we call “ourselves” out of the way and let Him take over, the more truly ourselves we become. In that sense, our real selves are all waiting for us in Him. (Colossians 3:1-4) The more I resist Him and try to live on my own, the more I become dominated by my own heredity and upbringing and natural desires.
But there must be a real “giving up of self”. You must throw it away “blindly” so to speak. The very first step is to forget about yourself altogether. “Lose your life and you will save it.” (Matthew 10:39) Submit to death; death of your ambitions and favorite wishes every day and death of your body in the end. Submit with every fiber of your being. Keep nothing back. Nothing in you that hasn’t died will ever be raised from the dead.”
Then will we become “like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.” Psalm 1:3