Our pastor asked that question this morning. Just happens that he’s the guy that I’m married to. I’ve often thought that I didn’t have much of a testimony because I can never remember a time that I didn’t know God. I’ve never been away from God. Sure, I had my times of rebellion (which most people would laugh at because I was so not the rebellious type).
But I remember being in college and having a real encounter with Jesus. One that wrecked me and made me see how wretched I would be without Him.
You see, I was raised in a fairly legalistic church. I remember being taught the rules and told to follow them and not ask any questions. If you broke the rules, you didn’t love God. And I loved God, so I tried my hardest to follow the rules. And I thought less of those who didn’t. There was no grace. There was no mercy. In a few words, I was self-righteous and stuck up. The me of yesteryear would not like the present me. And honestly, the present me, doesn’t like the me of yesteryear.
But in college, I was on my own. I didn’t have anyone to tell me the rules anymore. So, I started to question them. I figured that if I was going to believe something and have it stick, I better figure out what I believe and why. I can remember having long, theological debates with a friend name Justin who would interrupt my thoughts as I sat in the chapel in the skyway at North Central. I can remember him challenging my rational on why I believed what I believed.
But it was in those quiet moments in that chapel – sometimes with friends, sometimes without – that I had a real encounter with Jesus. One that led me to realize that I was a slave to legalism when what Jesus came and died for was to give me freedom in Christ.
Now that we’ve got some years under our belt in ministry, we’ve had all kind of encounters with people in the church. We have regular contact with pastors all over the country (it’s amazing how small the world wide web makes the world). And the horror stories we could share based on what we’ve heard or even experienced (though ours really do pale in comparison to most) would make your head spin. There are people in the church who are so filled with hate and judgement and anger and well… SIN, that they can’t even see the Cross. They cause pain. They inflict disease. They are the bane of the pastor’s existence. They are often referred to in the circles that we travel in as pastor killers. Some churches are full of them. Some have few or possibly just one.
This morning, in the quiet of the sermon, my husband asked, “Where would you be without Jesus?”
And I had a moment.
I had an encounter.
Because I knew in my heart, that while I had never been far from church or God even really, had I not had a real, life-changing encounter with Jesus, I would be one of those self-righteous, know-it-all, busybody, thorn-in-the-side, pastor killers. And that stark realization dropped my heart into my stomach and made me so thankful that God redeemed me. That Jesus died for MY freedom. That Jesus set me free from the law and let’s me walk in grace.
What a wonderful and powerful gift.