Welcome to Day 6 of Part 2‘s Chapter 1 from Arise and Shine. Today, Anna is sharing a testimony of God’s redemption in her own life and heart and invites you to join her in prayer at the end. This is an edited version of a blog post she published here on shalomaleh.com at the end of May.
A few years ago, I sat lamenting my past and all the decisions that were made on my behalf as a child that I saw as pushing me down my Prodigal path. In effect, I was blaming my parents for the path my life had taken. But as I began to do so, God began to ask me to look for His thread of redemption weaving through every decision made on my behalf.
I blamed my Dad for choosing to send only me to a non-Christian school and taking me away from my “safe” environment. But God asked me to open my eyes to see what He had gifted me in those years. It’s then I saw the beautiful souls He had had me befriend from multiple nations and multiple faith backgrounds. Jesus taught me so much through these girls, who were so genuine with me and, unlike me, didn’t hide beneath a veneer of self-righteousness.
Through these girls, I now see Jesus showing me my own need for salvation. For, the sins I saw them fall into, I saw reflected in my own heart. The only difference was that no one but God saw that darkness hiding in me. Jesus was showing me that it’s not Christian environments that are our Savior, but Him alone.
I blamed my parents for the trauma of my childhood. I blamed them for making me feel like Jesus had abandoned me and my little adopted brother, as in their pain, frustration and exhaustion, they began to follow the letter of the law and abandoned the Spirit’s leading in their methods of discipline. But God asked me to open my eyes to see my story through the lens of truth and grace.
Now, I know my parents never forced me to worship them. My parents never forced me to put my trust in them above God. I chose to clothe myself in lies and turn to sin to numb my pain. I now know that Jesus has given me the gift of free will – the free will to choose Him, to be set apart unto Him.
I now know that He so longed for me as a little girl to rest in His love and acceptance. He longed for me to persevere through suffering, by abiding in Him and His Word to me, a Word that did not return void, but reaped the fruit for which it was sent, more than twenty years later.
I now know I have been given the honor and free will to rejoice in the hope of glory that will not put me to shame, as I choose to be set apart according to the purposes of God:
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. Romans 5: 1-5 (ESV)
I now know that to honor my mother and father was to honor Jesus in them. It was to allow Jesus to set me apart for His purposes. It was to discover that I have the free will to deny myself, take up my Cross and follow Jesus that He might bless each one of us.
Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.Matthew 10:34-37 (ESV)
Jesus showed me that when my parents dedicated me to Him as a baby and when I gave my heart to Him as a four year old, He bound Himself to me. I became His.
My parents and I invited Jesus to become the author and finisher of my faith, in response to our Heavenly Father’s invitation and Christ has shown Himself faithful and still is, daily. Now, I see how Jesus used my parents’, my little brother’s and my own weakness to perfect His power. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28, ESV).
God knew my prideful and adulterous heart needed this experience of being set apart, so the branches that were not bearing any fruit could be cut off and burned. Now, through His patient labor of love and mercy, I am embracing the discipline and pruning work God first began in me as a little girl. And I am seeing the fruit of His labor of redemption: His buying back of my life and heart from sin and death.
For, Jesus is turning my mourning into dancing. Through each new setting apart, He is opening my eyes to see by faith and not by sight. Through my experiences of His faithful and never-forsaking love, my heart is learning to trust and obey Jesus. Now, I know that “For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Hebrews 12:11, ESV).
Yes, forever He will be the Lamb upon the throne:
Dear Abba Father, thank You for the thread of redemption running through our families and the beauty You are bringing from the ashes of our past. Help us not to sit in the ashes of our old life, longing for someone to bring us to You and to make us acceptable in Your sight, when Christ has already made us acceptable in Your sight. Remind us that Christ has given us the power and authority to pick up our mats and walk into the new life You have ordained for us.
Father, forgive us for defining ourselves and others through the eyes of the world. Open our eyes to see Your redemption at work in our lives, to see all the ways You have already been transforming our hearts and minds to look more and more like You, through our setting apart. Open our eyes to the beauty of the unseen: the fruit of the Spirit You have been growing in us, as You have cut off and burned all the branches that were not bearing fruit in our lives.
Help us to embrace the Cross, to honor Your Son’s obedience, as He took upon Himself our sin and our suffering at the Cross, by now taking up our own Cross to follow Jesus. Help us to hear and obey the Holy Spirit’s promptings, to put to death the works of the flesh and to heed Your call to be set apart unto You alone. Teach us to trust You that we might pray without ceasing, even when it hurts. Help us to hear Your call and to continually pour our hearts out before You in the loss and pain. Help us to listen for Your Word to us, that we might be transformed by the renewing of our minds, that by testing we may discern what is Your will and what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Help us not to bow to our idols of pride, self and man, but to recognize the honor You are bestowing on us to fill up in our flesh what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of His Body, the church, as You set us apart that we might be holy, as You are holy. Teach us, moment by moment, to walk in the light of Your truth. Give us undivided hearts that we might fear Your Name above all else.
Open our eyes to the beauty of Your setting apart that You have purposed to destroy our idols and make us truly One in You, just as You, Your Son and the Holy Spirit are One. Thank You that it is You who works in us, both to will and to work for Your good pleasure. Continue to bow our knees in awe of Your majesty and power and glory. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.