My personal relationship with Jesus Christ is the foundation of all else that I do in life. As a believer, I affirm that God has called me out of darkness and into His marvelous light not just to save me from Hell, but so that I will live my life for His glory. My father is a pastor, as was my maternal grandfather, and I was raised in a Southern Baptist church. Knowledge of the Bible was easy to come by in my life, and I knew early in life what the “right things” were that I was supposed to do. When I was six years old, I knew all the right answers about what it meant to believe in Jesus and I made a profession of faith and was baptized. I continued doing all the right things and knowing all the right answers, but I did not grow in a relationship with Christ and my life showed no impact of the work of the Holy Spirit.
When I was 14, a youth worker at church was teaching out of James, and he read about the differences between faith and works. He read chapter 2, verse 19 and told us that there is an eternal difference between believing in God and actually believing God. At that moment I realized that while I knew all about Jesus and had a great amount of head knowledge about the Bible, I had never trusted in the Word and believed in my heart that I was a sinner and that Jesus had died to save me from those sins. I gave my life to him in May, 1994. At that time I had a desire to know the Word like I never had before. I wanted to grow and learn about Christ. I looked for ways to serve Him and began participating in youth leadership and mission trips. In January 1997, I publically answered a call to ministry. At that time I was sure that God had called me and that I was ready to head straight out from there to serve Him. But I was very wrong. There was much refining to be done in my life before I was a vessel worthy of service.
During my senior year in high school, I questioned my call and second guessed my decision to serve the Lord full time. I thought serving God meant giving up all that I wanted for my life and going to serve God in a hut in Africa. That did not appeal to me at all, so I decided to just do things my way. I went to a state university, pledged a sorority and quit going to church.
After three years of running from God, I found that doing things my way left me empty and miserable. I began to miss church, miss the Bible, miss the fellowship I thought I would find in the world. I knew that I was running from God and that I would never be at peace while I was running. I rededicated to finding out what He had for me in life. I transferred to a Baptist college and majored in religion and history, intent on doing the right things to be able to serve Him. I found myself on an incredible religious and emotional high, but God’s testing and sifting of my life had only just begun. Once at this Christian college, I failed to test the words of my professors against the Word of God. In fact, I trusted them over and above the Word of God. When my shallow beliefs were challenged in the crucible of liberal theology, my faith quickly dried up.
The liberal, egalitarian theology I was taught appealed to the liberally academic, feminist education I had received in high school. I accepted teachings that chipped away at the sufficiency and inerrancy of Scripture, and I ultimately accepted feminist and homosexual theologies. I learned how to pick apart the Bible to meet my own needs and to support the choices I was making. Rather than answer God’s call on my life, I answered the feminist call for women to teach and preach God’s Word, not for the sake of the Gospel, but to show that women were just as capable as men.
My time in college left me emotionally exhausted and further from the Lord than ever before. I had done everything that people had told me would bring happiness and fulfillment in my walk with Him, but I had become someone that I did not recognize. I began to feel that the work I had done and the choices I had made had caused me to become damaged goods, rendering me impotent in the service of the Kingdom. Following graduation, I moved back to Chattanooga and took a job teaching at a local middle school. I was convinced that I had ruined any chances of God being able to use me. I threw myself into teaching and coaching volleyball and I began working with the youth at my church. I decided that if I couldn’t serve Him vocationally, I could at least serve as a faithful layperson. But the longer I tried to convince myself that this life was all there was for me now, the more dissatisfied I became.
I was desperate to discover God’s plan for my life, and He was faithful to reveal Himself when I earnestly sought after Him. Through the witness of a new Christian, the Holy Spirit convicted me of my prideful self-reliance. I had become angry and frustrated that my life was not working out like I thought it should. I had done all of the things that I thought I was supposed to do, but it had all ended in failure. I had relied on my efforts, my wisdom, and my intelligence, and I had not found the answers I was looking for. As I poured out these frustrations to this new sister in Christ, her child-like reliance on and trust in God challenged me. She would repeatedly ask me, “What does God say about that in the Bible?” She was asking me to dig into the Word for myself and allow the Lord to work in my life through it.
This was the beginning of a whirlwind movement of the Lord in my life. It was a time of discipleship and growth in which I learned to trust His Word instead of questioning it. I followed the instructions of James and became a doer of the Word instead of just a hearer of the Word. The more I trusted Him, the more trustworthy He proved Himself to be. I threw myself at His feet and threw away my plans and desires. I began to learn about God instead of trying to figure out myself. It was during this time that the Lord reminded me that He had called me out to do a work for Him. He had a plan to prosper me, and His plan was immeasurably more than what I could imagine. He showed me that my mistakes and sins did not disqualify me from serving Him. He had instead used them to shape me into a vessel that He intended to use.
The last 15 years have been a time of struggle and growth as I have grappled with the ideas of submission and ministry in my life. But as much as I have struggled and fought with the Lord, He has patiently and lovingly proved Himself to be so faithful. He takes not only my greatest moments of faith but also my lowest points of sin and failure and uses them to redeem others and glorify Himself. It is my commitment to serve Him where ever he takes me.