Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:
The old has gone, the new is here!
– 2 Corinthians 5:17
My time in Sri Lanka opened up a part of my heart that I hadn’t known before. There was something holy and healing about being a part of a group of people from different backgrounds united by a desire to love God and love others well. I liked getting up early and studying the Bible, and I liked worshiping Jesus and working alongside my brothers and sisters every day. I enjoyed learning and serving out of a strength that wasn’t my own. I was able to live out what God intended when He created family, and I thrived.
I would spend the following three summers working at a Christian youth camp and absolutely loving every second of it. I had never felt more alive, or more free, than I did when I was running around beneath the tall pine trees and chasing after a deeper relationship with Jesus. These experiences continue to fill me with an inexpressible joy when I think about them because they were a direct blessing from the Lord. My Father called me outside of my comfort zone so that I could begin to understand what it meant to be made new, to be held accountable, and what it felt like to be free in Christ. I would unknowingly meet my future husband at this summer camp, but God knew I would need time to grow in faith and maturity before He would have our paths cross again eight years later.
When the summers ended, I would struggle with living this real faith out in my every day life. My heart would cry out to God and my closeness with Him through the Holy Spirit never left me, but I would so often choose my own way instead of His; I would choose captivity over freedom, and the approval of man over the fullness of life in Christ. I imagine my Father heartbroken as His beloved daughter would continue to turn her back on Him and chase after what He knew would never satisfy her. He is patient, He is kind. God has been faithful to me even when I have repeatedly refused His love and provision. I see so clearly now that it should be me on that cross instead of my perfect Lord. But no matter what I did, He just kept loving me. That’s the thing about unconditional love: it doesn’t make any sense. The love God has for us is not of this world, and my finite mind cannot begin to fathom how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Jesus Christ.
My finite mind cannot begin to fathom how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Jesus Christ.
I am eternally grateful that the Lord knows our hearts better than we do, and knows exactly what we need – and who we need – to encourage us toward the abundant life and freedom that is only found in Christ. Exactly ten years after standing in the room my dad built on that campus in east Texas and singing songs of praise to my Father, my mom and sister were walking me down the aisle toward the man who would become my husband. My uncle had flown in from Oregon to perform our ceremony, and the beauty of that day still leaves me breathless.
After years of wondering if I ever wanted to be married, and never even letting my mind imagine what my wedding day might look like, it was happening. My husband and I said our vows and my uncle prayed and pronounced us husband and wife, and then we danced the night away with our families and best friends. We jumped into our getaway car at the end of the evening and waved goodbye to our loved ones as we embarked upon our new life together. We made it to the nearby hotel we would stay at until leaving for our Honeymoon early the next morning, and in our first moments alone together as a married couple my husband wrapped me in his arms and prayed to our glorious God, dedicating our relationship to Him once more. The Lord has blessed me with the gift of a man after my Father’s heart, and I am thankful for this every day.
Our wedding night was my last night in Texas. My husband had been living in California throughout our engagement, and we had agreed that it made the most sense for me to relocate to sunny Orange County after we got married. Even though I had consistently attended various churches and even been involved in different Bible studies over the last few years, I still had never been a member or belonged to one church. The idea of membership was still scary to me because of what I had seen my parents go through in the name of religion. A tension was growing within my heart because I knew I was being called to intentionally fellowship with other believers and to commit to really investing at one church. My wonderful husband already had a church home in California, and it was strangely easy for me to join the man I loved at the place he worshiped God. He signed us up for a couple’s small group a few months later, and being in that group was the first time I truly believed the summertime freedom in Christ I had once known was possible every day, year-round.
Since I had never been committed to one church, I had also never been baptized. By this time I had been a Christian for over a decade and was a little bit embarrassed to admit that it was something I hadn’t done. Our small group was scheduled to meet through November at which time the church invited all of the small groups together for one big celebration. My Father never ceases to amaze me. My precious mom had planned to come visit my husband and me around Thanksgiving long before we knew that I would be baptized a few hours after her plane landed. I stood in the water with my husband, our new friends that had quickly become like family, and with my mom ready and waiting with a towel on the edge of the pool. I professed my faith in Jesus Christ and held tightly to my husband’s arms as he dipped my head beneath the water.
I professed my faith in Jesus Christ and held tightly to my husband’s arms as he dipped my head beneath the water.
Being made new in Christ is a lifelong process, one which I will always be in the midst of. As I continue to pray for growth and wisdom, there are two truths I am learning to cling to: The first is that God is who He says He is, and the second is that I am who God says I am. I was always afraid of sharing my story because I didn’t want to be seen as a victim, or as someone that was damaged and broken. I was afraid to share my story because my story was still about me, and the unfortunate truth is that – on my own – I am broken. Without Christ, my heart would not be healed and I would not be whole. I depend on the Lord daily to be my strength and to fill me with joy as I seek Him.
The reason why the Gospel is inconceivably stunning is because it acknowledges our imperfections and our weaknesses, but it never leaves us there: we have an answer in Christ! I am broken, but God heals. I am weak, but God is strong. I am fatherless, but I am a child of God. Nothing in this world will ever fulfill me, but God satisfies my soul. It has finally become clear to me that my story, my life, is not really mine at all: this is a story about a good and faithful God.
God is who He says He is, and I am who God says I am.