I originally wrote this post back in November 2009 – 3 1/2 years ago. This time in my life will always stand out as one of the most pivotal moments in shifting me toward my destiny, but most of all toward a true, intimate relationship with Papa God.
What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that.Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily. ~ Galatians 2:19-21(TM)
This is what I’m talking about! This sums up my life right now. It absolutely says everything that I need you to hear. So long, so long, so long I lived by those darn rules. And man could I keep them! And man could I tell you if someone else wasn’t keeping them.
My Christian walk turned into a contest. Literally. Who could be the most spiritual, the most important, the most needed, the best? Well, if I could help it, it was going to be me. Being that I have a perfectionist tendency to begin with, it wasn’t too hard to have the drive to want to get there.
In my first marriage, I lived the “climb the ladder” dream in our denomination. We travelled the USA preaching and singing in churches – 21 nights a month. We rubbed elbows with all the international dignitaries of our church and were readily recognized in church circles in most every state. My dream of singing and traveling and being a preacher’s wife had come to fruition. I thought I had arrived.
Looking back now I cringe at it. It embarrasses me. Why? Because I was doing it all for the wrong reasons. I wanted to be noticed. I wanted to shine. I wanted to be important – feel like there was no one better than me. That attitude spilled over into my every day life – I wanted to be the irreplaceable friend, employee, church member, etc. It ate me up.
Secretly I was a mess. Every night I would lie down and mentally process if I had committed any sins that day and ask God to forgive me. Then I would proceed to ask Him to save me and fill me with His spirit all over again. I had been taught that if we sin, we have to repent and be saved again. It terrified me to think that I may be in the midst of committing a sin and die and where would I go? What would happen to me?
I would worry that everyone else seemed to have it all together – reading and praying every single day at 5:00 am (because the earlier you got up to pray, the more pleased God was with you). I would struggle to meet these criteria in my mind and when I failed miserably at them (and yes, I failed all.the.time), I would mentally beat myself up. Folks, the devil didn’t even have to bother me most times. I did a better job of tormenting myself than he did.
Once my divorce was final and my life was looking very differently (let’s just say I had done a 180 and was living LARGE), I can honestly say that is when God really started messing with me. And I’m so thankful He did. One particular moment in time stands as the most pivotal for me. I was filling in on keys at a church and had told them that I was strictly there to play, that my life did NOT reflect that of a child of God, so don’t ask me to sing, or act like I’m holy or anything. I was just.going.to.play. Matter of fact, the night before I had been partying and pretty much still had the lovely hangover for church the next morning.
But of course, they didn’t listen. I was asked to sing an old song that I hadn’t sang in years. And here’s the kicker: I knew I wasn’t living for God the way I should be. I knew we weren’t close or in an intimate relationship. So, after giving my friends a nice, long, “you’re going to die after church” look, I started singing. Can I tell you that in a split moment I felt the Holy Spirit settle down on me, physically, and it took me by such surprise that I almost stopped singing. This is what was going through my mind as I was singing out loud: “What are You doing God?!?! You can’t put Your anointing on me!! I’m living like hell and I don’t care! Why are You doing this?! How is this possible that I can feel Your spirit and I.am.not.living.for.You?!?!?!!?”
And I knew in that moment that when I did decide to go all-in for Him again, I would never be the same. I wouldn’t be able to live the way I did before. No. Not in a million years.
I love this phrase in this passage: “It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. “ That’s me these days. Yep. I don’t really care if anyone feels that I’m not righteous enough or if everyone doesn’t have a good opinion of me. And no longer am I trying to impress God to win His favor and affections. I’m free from that bondage forever!
Look at what else Paul says in this passage. Really read it. He’s pretty plain, isn’t he? He says, “Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.”
Wow. If rule-keeping and people-pleasing were what being a Christian had always been about, then Jesus wouldn’t have had to come and die for us! But it’s not! It’s all about our relationship with Him and pleasing Him.
Thank God. Because trying to please all of you would just simply be exhausting.
Mary is an active member of New Day Community Church – where she serves on staff as a Pastoral Assistant and Director of Events & Communication. When she’s not working, Mary enjoys reading, blogging and spending time with her husband and two children. And coffee. She really loves coffee. You can also read more from her on her personal site: http://maryhess.com