|The motto of my church James River Church. No copyright|
infringement intended. I simply just love this!
No, the miracle I witnessed was my husband accepting Jesus as his Lord and Savior.
Now, you may not see this as much of a miracle. After all, taking the broken body of someone and making it work again sounds much more astonishing than working on the heart of a man. However, when the heart of that man was hardened and also hindered by social anxiety, it took God’s hand to move him.
Let me give you a point of reference.
I grew up in the church. At the ripe old age of five-years-old I gave my heart to God during a Vacation Bible School week. My parents went to church. My grandparents went to church. My aunts and uncles went to church. We were a church going family.
As I grew older, I did backslide in my faith and leave the path that I knew I should be on. That’s the thing, I KNEW where I should be and that pulling of God at my heart had me coming toward Him.
Then I met my, now, husband. He was not raised in church. His family didn’t not go to church. They actually had a cynical view of the church. He was a good man. He did good deeds. He helped people. But he didn’t not believe in Salvation. But I loved him. I loved him so much that I wanted to marry him in spite of the fact that we had different views on Christianity.
Over the years, for holidays mostly, we would attend church. My husband was never hateful or angry about going. If I said “I feel we need to go to church this Sunday,” he would say “Okay, we can go.” Like I said, he has always been a good man and he wanted to make me happy.
After ten years of marriage, loads of ups and downs, and feeling like I was at the end of my rope, I decided to attend James River’s “Sizzling Summer Series” sermon during July.
It was Saturday night and I felt empty. I felt like my life was running short and my spirit was beaten. I spoke to my sister on the phone and told her I needed to get back to church but it was so hard because there was so much to do and my husband’s weekends were the only days to do them. Finally, I hung up the phone saying that I would ‘probably’ go to church the next morning.
Before bed, snuggled up next to my husband, I murmured. “Let’s go to church tomorrow. I really need to feel God’s hands on my life again.” He responded simply. “Okay.”
The next morning, I frantically struggled to get our three kids dressed, while dressing myself, and taking care of our small farm of cats, dogs and ducks (yes, that’s right, counting animals we are a family of fourteen). The kids were fighting, the ducks got out of the pen, and I was running around with half my makeup on in a dress trying to wrangle children and water fowl.
The phone rang.
“Hello?” I asked desperately.
“Hey, it’s April,” my sister said. “Are you still going to church?”
“You bet,” I chirped. “We’ll be there.”
“Okay, I just wanted to make sure,” she said.
“Okay,” I said. “Meeting you by the kid’s check-in?”
“Yep,” she said. “Love you.”
Then I commenced slapping on mascara while straightening my son’s collar and putting my youngest daughter’s hair up.
Finally, after saying “Hurry it up. We have to go!” for what felt like the millionth time, we piled into the car.
My heart was racing. I felt like I was suffering from the mother of all hot flashes. The kids were angry. My husband was snapping at them to stop fighting. And I was seriously thinking what a horrible idea going to church was.
We pulled into the church parking lot and the enemy began his bombardment.
“You don’t belong here.” “You’re fake.” “You’re only a pretender.” “These people know you’re not a good person.” “What’s the point?”
These words had assaulted me for years as I tried to enter any church in a vain attempt to get myself on the right path with God.
But I clutched my two youngest kids’ hands and walked through the doors of James River with my head held high.
Like a wave washing over me, the voices stopped. I was greeted by the most overwhelming sense of peace I had ever felt. I literally felt the church tell me “You’re home.” The words of the enemy couldn’t even penetrate the walls of the church. I was safe. I was home.
My husband held my hand through the service and I made a decision to rededicate my life to God; taking the path He had in store for me. We picked our children up from their classes, smiles spread across their faces.
“Momma,” my son asked. “Can we go to church every Sunday?”
“Yea,” my eldest sang. “I love this church!”
“Absolutely,” I confirmed.
That first day was the beginning for me. There was no question Saturday night whether we were going to church the next morning. We were going. Period.
My husband attended with us every Sunday he was able. He was off most weekends, but once a month was forced to work a Sunday. On those days, I still had my sister and brother-in-law beside me for support.
Each Sunday, at the end of service when the alter call was given, I would lean into my husband and ask “Would you like to go up?” He would kindly shake his head, or simply say “No.” He wasn’t mean, or rude, or upset. He just didn’t feel the need to.
Though some days it was hard, I did not let his refusal discourage me. Instead, I would thank God for the seeds he was planting in my husband’s heart and ask that he continue to work in him.
At one time, I would have never imagined my husband as a Godly man. A good man, absolutely, but Godly? No. I couldn’t see him raising his hands in praise or sitting down to pray with me. But the closer I got to God, the more I could imagine it because I knew all things were possible through Him.
Then, last Sunday, my husband was unexpectedly asked to work. So I went to church with my children and sat with my sister and brother-in-law. Pastor John spoke on “Close to Jesus, far from Heaven.”
In this message, he explained that our good deeds are nothing compared to the sacrifice that Jesus made for us. That, good deeds alone cannot get us into Heaven. If you would like to listen to the message (which I highly recommend) be sure to check it out here.
After the service, I happened to see the pastor in the hall (which never happens because the church is so big I only ever see him on stage during service). I felt a pull… not a pull, a push. God told me “Go to him. Speak to him about Rowdy.” (Rowdy is my husband by the way)
Nervously, I went up to Pastor John and spoke to him of my husband. How I wished he could have been there for the message because it was so true and powerful, and that my husband was not born-again but I continued to pray for him. The Pastor asked to pray for us, right there in the hall. The moment he laid his hand on my shoulder, I felt a wave of the Holy Spirit fall over me and the tears fell (I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt, God has his hands on my Pastor).
Pastor John encouraged me to continue to pray and told me to ask my husband to listen to the recording of the message during the week. He also took down our information and said he would have the pastoral team pray for us that week.
As the week went on, I was given many struggles. After church I ended up having a case of hives that covered me from head to toe for three solid days. I then encountered two days’ worth of nausea and vomiting. Needless to say, asking me husband to do anything other than “Hand me to the puke bucket” wasn’t high on my list.
But Saturday night came and I felt the gentle nudge of God tell me “He needs to hear John’s sermon before tomorrow.” I was nervous. I wasn’t sure if he would do it. I think I was even more scared that he would but wouldn’t feel the same effect that he had on me.
But I took my tablet to him, had the podcast loaded and asked, “Honey, it’s really important to me that you listen to this.” I asked him to turn off the television and put in his headphones so he wouldn’t be disturbed. To my surprise, he did it.
That leads us up to yesterday morning. We got up like every Sunday and headed to church. We were running late (the ducks have started laying eggs now, so our morning farming takes a bit longer), but made it into service with two minutes to spare.
The Spirit of God was there. I held my husband’s hand while I raised my other to God. I could feel He was alive and working in my life.
At the end of service, while every eye was closed and every head bowed, they asked for anyone who wanted a relationship with God to raise their hand. The pastor asked again. And then again as more hands were apparently raised (I had my eyes closed, remember).
Then one final time. “You know God is pulling on your heart. Don’t miss this chance. If you know you don’t have a relationship with God, now is your time.”
I felt Rowdy shift in his seat. Instinctively, I shifted with him and my eyes fluttered open for just a moment. I saw his hand come down.
‘He raised his hand!’ I thought. ‘What do I do?!’
So, remember that part where I told you every Sunday for the past three months I had asked “Do you want to go up?” Yea, well, I panicked.
Here I was, in church, the alter call going on and he had actually raised his hand; yet I was suddenly terrified to ask him to go up. I’m not sure what I was scared of. Maybe that, after all that, he would still say no. I’m not sure.
But then the pastor asked that, those who rose their hands, if they would take a step of faith and come forward, the pastoral team would like to pray with them.
I leaned in. “Do you want to go up?” I clutched his hand, nervous and excited.
“Yea, I guess I would.”
My heart soared. Here stood a man that had not been raised in the church. Had no foundation other than that he did believe in God but that good deeds and being generally a good person was what got you to Heaven. He was telling me that he wanted to accept Christ as his Savior.
I poked my sister in the ribs to signal that we were headed to the front. She burst into tears of joy (yea, she and my brother-in-law had been praying hard for my husband).
We were the last to walk down to the front as the congregation erupted into applause. But it wasn’t me leading my husband to the front of the church, he was leading me. He was leading us.
And there, at the mouth of the isle, stood Pastor John. He saw us coming; the smile on his face mirroring the one on my own. There, in front of him, stood the answer to the prayer he had prayed with me in the halls of the church just one week prior.
He hugged Rowdy, praising God for the miracle of Rowdy’s Salvation.
They ushered us into a small, quiet room, and spoke with my husband further about what Salvation was and what is symbolized. And there, in that little room, surrounded by men and women of God, my husband gave his life to the Lord.
So I’m sure you’re asking, what makes this such a miracle? Well, for one, my husband suffers from social anxiety disorder. Painfully. The idea that he would ever step in front of the thousands of people in our congregation, the lights eliminating his every step, was something I could never see.
Even as he walked us to the front of the church, his body was flushed and it radiated heat. He was terrified. But God is stronger than that. Even as the enemy tried to use his condition against him, God gave Rowdy the strength to come forward.
God took a man, who had never watched his family or friends give their hearts to the Lord, and lit a fire in his own heart. That, my dear ones, is the power of God.
I’m aware that there are many who do not believe in God, or at the least believe as my husband did; that good deeds and being a good person will grant you access into Heaven. I tell you this… Not one on this planet is without sin. It is only through Christ’s sacrifice and death that our sins are washed clean.
My grandmother (a very Godly woman and a true believer in Christ) sums it up pretty well. “If I spend my whole life worshiping God, and accepting Christ as my Lord and Savior, just to find out in the end that he doesn’t exist – well, I won’t have lost a thing. But if I lived my life without him, only the find in the end that he does exist; I will have lost everything.”
So if you are reading this and you have never had a relationship with God – or maybe you have but you have strayed from the path – remember that you need only ask God to work on your heart and give you the strength to step into the light.