I grew up in south Florida, and like so many homes in Miami mine was no different - we did not have any air conditioning. That was so long ago I am wondering - was it even invented then? So, during the summer to feel the breeze if there was any - I used to take my pillow and put it in the windowsill. I believe I was around 6-8 years old at the time. When I did that I would lay there with my head in the window and look up at the stars and talk to God. I can remember saying to him, “God what ever you want me to do I will do it. I will be a missionary if you want me to.” I remember telling God often how much I loved him. In retrospect I believe back then I knew God had something special for my life. I can look back now and see how Satan tried desperately to stop that! There has been wasted time in my life and a lot of it was due to my wrong choices.
During my young years (6-8) there was a few times I went to my grandparent’s house to spend the night – while I was there, I had the opportunity to observe many things. One of the most precious memories to me were the times I would hear my grandmother in the kitchen washing dishes or cooking and she would be talking to God. My grandmother was only 4’9’’, and we called her “Little Mama”. When I overheard her talking to God I would quietly walk into the kitchen and sit behind her and listen and observe. She would pour her heart out to God and she would ask Him a question or make a comment to Him and then she would get quiet. There would be a long pause and then she would speak again and answer God! There was no doubt at my young age she was talking to God as if she were on phone with Him! I knew that I knew she was carrying on a conversation with God! My grandmother had a hard life – but never once did I ever hear her complain. My mother said the following to me, “Mama was a real overcomer.” Little did I know back then as a child that a “seed” had been planted into my heart from God that would have a marvelous impact in my life. I know now that this was the beginning of God wooing me to Him in a special way. However, as I grew older what I saw and heard in my grandmother’s kitchen temporally faded from my mind – at least for a time!
So, as you can begin to tell from the beginning – as I was growing up for the most part, I was around people who went to church every week and professed their belief in Jesus. I grew up attending church and I accepted Christ and was baptized at six years old. As I grew up in the church, I was attending church pretty much every time the doors opened as they say.
Reader, please understand up front – in order to tell you my story I am in no way attempting to run down nor attack the church or anyone in my life. This is simply my story of how situations and circumstances in my life affected me personally.
Over my years as a counselor and a workshop leader you have no idea how many people have come to me not knowing my story and upon hearing theirs it was just about the same as mine in many ways!
As I grew up, I was around church people – church people who professed their belief in Jesus. Yet so many of them were extremely defeated. Even as a child I knew there had to be more to God than what I saw in front of me, this could not be all there was, and I wanted to understand. I wanted to know if having Jesus in your life was the answer why didn’t the people, I came in contact with find any answers to their problems and their sadness? Why did they just suffer and endure? Make no mistake I believed in Jesus and I knew He was real, and I believed that He had the answers but how did you get them?
I went to Sunday school and church every Sunday and in the middle of the week at times. I heard all the stories from the Bible repeatedly. Do not get me wrong – the stories from the written Word are wonderful and they are true, they are precious, and they are someone’s testimony. However, they were just that – someone else’s testimony! I wanted my own! So here we were each week – same Bible stories, different perspectives. I was told to pray and memorize scriptures and come back next week! I was taught that God would not put any more on me than I could stand! Plus, there were people in my life who told me that my problems in my life were my cross to bear! But here was the thing – I was taught at church and in the Bible that Jesus had paid the price once and for all on the cross for all the problems of mankind. I found this very confusing because of what I saw in front of me each day! There had to be more to this! Did He pay the price once and for all – YES!
All around me most every day as I grew up there were problems and people who were sad, unhappy, and defeated – how come? We sang a song in church that went like this, “victory in Jesus, My Savior for ever” so where was the victory? What was wrong? Where was the victory in the lives of the people I saw daily? If God was real, why were the people like this? Did we have nothing to look forward to on this earth – except for just being taken to Heaven? That was the other thing! I had heard all my life - about the rapture of the church to the point it really scared me! No! Sometimes it terrified me! One of my parents frequently said, “Jesus is coming back any day now. So, you do not want Jesus to come back and find you doing something you are not supposed to be doing – and leave you here” Scary thought, huh? Most individuals I was around were constantly talking and remarking about Jesus coming back for us. Now, He is going to do just that! But we cannot just be walking around hoping He will do that like - right now! Why? Because that is defeat! Talking about and waiting for the rapture is not what we are supposed to be focusing on! Should we know in our hearts He will be returning –YES! Should we hold onto that hope? Yes! However, it should NOT be our total focus! You see God gets disappointed with Christians who always put pressure on him to send his Son back - especially when they are not following His purpose for their lives on this earth. It is like they want Him to send his Son back, but they are not willing to conform to His will in order to get the work done on earth that needs to be accomplished so He can do just that! Everything must be in place for the Second Coming and if we are not doing what “we” are supposed to be doing the stage is not being set!
Why all this to tell you who God is to me? I want you to understand what I saw from childhood through most of my adulthood defeat, defeat, defeat! Therefore, I felt defeated! No one taught me how to “KNOW” God! The sermons I heard were all about making a profession of faith and being saved and that is what needs to be done – but! What about the moments in time - between making a profession of faith and going to Heaven? What about all the issues and circumstances in between? What about the decisions which we are faced with each day? What about the times you are hurt by people for what seems to be no reason? What about those times we have hurt others and we do not know why we did it? What about those things in one’s life you do not seem to have any control over? What about those things you believe you had control over? What about those times when someone “blasted” you for what seemed to be no reason? What about those feelings inside that hurt so badly because you have been rejected by someone in your life? What about all those times you are misunderstood by people and they think you mean something else and that isn’t what you meant at all? What about those insecurities that sometimes seems to cripple you? What about when you feel down, so down you do not want to go on? What about those times you just know people are talking about you and passing judgement on you? I could keep going on and on but I think you get the point. So, what about those times? Do we just push on and wait for Jesus to return and take us to Heaven? Do we just endure? Is that all God has for us on this earth? God is a God of love, so what is up with that? What about in between the moment we decide to follow Christ and the return of Jesus?
Once again, please do not misunderstand me – there must be an invitation for people to make a decision for Christ – and we are supposed to look at people lives and testimonies in the written Word – but what about the everyday issues and circumstances? What about finding the answers to the sadness, and the pain, and the hurt that this world has in it? Jesus told us in the written Word that He was here to set the example in how to live in this world – in fact He said, “Be ye perfect as I AM perfect!” So how do we do that? I do not know about you – but no one ever taught me that!
The written Word says in Revelations 3:19-22, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest, and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me. To him who overcomes, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” How do I overcome? How do I do that? What is the process? What is the key to becoming an overcomer?
I do not know about you – but I was taught that God doesn’t talk to His people now like He did in the Old Testament and in the New Testament– I was taught that the Holy Spirit can nudge us and that when we made a profession of faith that the Holy Spirit came to live in us and that we would just know what was right. Ok, that is wonderful – but if it is truth how come so many, many, many people in this world and in the church are making so many mistakes and their lives are torn apart by divorce, adultery, and many other things I could mention.
The other scripture that kept coming into my mind was this one in Matthew 7:13 – 14 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. I wanted to know for sure, would I be one of the few who went through the narrow gate? I wanted to know these things and many, many more!
Oh, a few more things: if being a believer brings us “joy unspeakable” how come there was so much pain and sadness in the lives and in the faces of the people I was around all the time?
And, what about “walking in your Salvation”? What about picking up your cross and following Jesus daily? How do you do that? Was that my cross to bear? The Salvation I now know is a moment by moment walk that saves me from problems each day! By listening to the VOICE of God all day long I am walking in my Salvation each day. And in so doing it saves me from having grief hang on in my life - it saves me from excess pain, sorrow, rejection, defeat, and hurtful circumstances and issues! However, the way it was taught to me and the way I heard it was this, “get right or get left!”
As I grew older nothing changed – I still wanted to know how to know God and I still wanted the answers to my questions. Now I am sure that there were victorious Christians around, but I just never saw them. Please make no mistake - I am just telling my story.
I got married when I was seventeen and my first child was born twelve months later. By the time I was twenty-one years old I had three babies in diapers two years old and under! I was still looking for what I felt I was missing in my relationship with God and my husband and I were teaching Sunday school. In my late twenties I started teaching kindergarten and years later I was the manager of a church office and I was the pastor’s personal secretary. That was a very eye-opening experience!
Years later, I went to school at night and continued my education – during my time in the mental health field I came to see very quickly that God would like to be invited in there so He could take control and help people the way He wants too! But! You see God must be invited in and then - let in!
Let us look at this from a different perspective – this is a hurry up lifestyle and there is instant this and instant that. We live in a society that just “hits the high spots”! The following is the philosophy of today’s lifestyle: No big deal . . . it is okay to ignore depth in your life so long as you project an image that says, “I’ve got it all together.”
People who lead people have got to get it together in God’s eyes, because they are teaching others and they are held responsible by God and it is dangerous to ignore that. (James 3:1)
I began to notice even more - when people are under the gun, they prefer a tangible way out instead of God telling them the way out. Instead of them trusting God and waiting on Him they choose to step in and manipulate a fast painless escape, and in so doing they reverse God’s process in their life!
Before I go any further, I have to say something – I’ve done just that over the course of my lifetime. I have made wrong choices that reversed God’s process in my life. Yes, I made those choices, and I could never ever blame that on anyone else. They were my choices and yes there were extenuating circumstances - but I made the choice! The choices I made not only effected my life but the worse part is they effected the lives of my children. At the time of these choices, I thought it was the way out of many situations - it was not. I want to say something here that people do not seem to quite get! I have heard this so many times in my office when I was counseling - people can’t seem to get it though their heads that when we make a choice in life – it does not just affect us personally. People, our choices effect those around us in many different ways and to many different degrees! It even effects our relationship with God and if the choice is a wrong one it can affect God’s ability to work in our lives! The ramifications from our choices are massive!
So here we are – as time went on God was able to use all of what I’m telling you about to cause me to become more determined to know Him. There was something missing in my life! I knew what it was, but I didn’t know how to go about getting it!
I knew God was there because there were times when I was in a bad situation God would bail me out in some way in the nick of time. I wanted depth and what I was seeing around me was superficial and I even saw faking it. I watched people to see if I could find out what I was missing and I continued to see people putting on fronts while attempting to lead people. I saw hurting insecure people trying to help hurting insecure people. There is a scripture in Jeremiah 6:13-14 that says, “From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit. They dress the wounds of my people as though it were not serious. Peace, peace, they say when there is no peace.”
I wanted God to be able to use me in the manner I was created to be. I wanted my life to be the testimony for God He wanted it to be. I cared about and still care about people too much not to be able to do for them what God wants done. I have taught people in the church, in my office and in my home and always I would be asking God, and myself “Am I teaching them correctly?” I could not live with myself if I did not do the right thing. Because, to teach is such an awesome responsibility. I wanted God to be able to do things completely His way through me and it was not that He was not using me - He was! But I knew there was more! I just knew it! I wanted to be able to see people go to the top of the mountain! I wanted to see them go to the top of the mountain and stay there! I had had mountain top experiences myself, but I wanted to know if it was possible to stay on the mountaintop. People had told me that mountain top experiences were just that – experiences. I was told that you would have a few in your lifetime. Know what? That is not true – because everyday with Jesus is sweeter than the day before even on the roughest of days! You can live on the top of the mountain - and do not misunderstand me you will have problems and you will still have situations – but guess who will be walking with you and talking with you through them IF you know His voice? Take note of this – the closer you get to God the fewer the problems! Why? Because you will be making the appropriate choices – it is as simple as that!
There came a point in my life where God had healed many things in my life – He was working in my life, but He wanted more of my life and I wanted Him to have it all. You can only teach people what you know, and I knew there was more. So, here I was! I knew there was more to the calling on my life and I wanted God to be able to be everything that He wanted to be to me and through me! Here I was wanting God in such a way that I could not take it anymore!
I want you to know something – during this journey I did get certain pieces of information about God that prodded me along my journey – but much more often I was just told the same things! Make sure you have your quiet time, read the Word, pray, and go to church and memorize scriptures and keep pressing on. The few people I told that I felt something was missing told me – “Sue, have you thought you may have some sin in your life? Maybe that is what is keeping you from God.” DUH! Gee, no I never thought of that! What did these people think I was? Stupid? I thought about that every day! Satan made sure of it! I wanted to scream at them, “I’m reading my Bible, I’m praying, I am, I am, I am! And Lord knows I am pressing on because if I was absolutely positive, I would go to Heaven if I were to blow my brains out – I would do that because Satan is trying to get me to do it!” You see I had my quiet time in the mornings, I did my devotional, and I got into the written Word in the morning and sometimes more than in the morning. I knew about God because I was going to church and I was going to Bible studies – and I had been doing this since I was a child! I knew a great deal about God! I knew about the testimonies of Abraham, Moses, Isaac, Jonah, David and all the rest! I knew most everything in this precious book called the Bible! That was just it – I knew about Jesus and God and the Holy Spirit! I wanted to KNOW God! I wanted to say to these people, “Hello people! There is a difference between knowing ABOUT someone than knowing them! I want to know God – is no body listening?”
Now everyone desires inner peace, but our world often creates within us a troubled heart full of anxiety and depression. There can be inner churning, insecurity, instability, often doubt, unrest and uncertainty. That is not what God had for me! I had been taught that the fruit of the spirit would be evidenced in the lives of believers. Was it evident in my life? I knew I loved God – where was I off course? Was I really off course or just missing something? Did people see in me what I saw in them? Defeat? Oh, please God no! I had been taught to fear God and boy was I afraid of Him. I thought that He was just waiting to get me when I did something wrong.
I wanted God! I wanted to KNOW Him. I had this burning desire to allow Him to tell me what toothpaste to use! I wanted the fruits of the spirit to be evident in my life. I wanted God! There were areas that I knew within me which needed to be worked on – and I wanted them taken care of by God. We must be TRANSFORMED by the renewing of our mind! We must offer ourselves to God fully and totally – holy and pleasing – this is our spiritual worship! (Romans 12:1-2) We must change!
I wanted the God working in my life that was tucked into the pages of the written Word! The one who was written about in such ways as loving, kind, and compassionate. The one you can run to and talk to – the one who I call Adonai! I wanted to experience the love He had for me one on one! I had heard it said that He was a personal God, I wanted to sit at his feet not doing a devotional and just reading my Bible! I wanted to hear Him talk to ME! I did not just want to feel His Holy Spirit nudging me, I wanted to hear the Holy Spirit tell me to do this, do this and do not do this! I wanted God to walk out of the pages of the written Word into my living room and into my life! I wanted Him to take over completely! I wanted to hear Him tell me Himself, “Sue, I love you!” I did not want to read it in a book; I wanted to hear Him say it to me!
Little did I know the seed had been planted so long ago when I would listen to my grandmother talk to God in her kitchen! But there was another seed that had been planted. One of my children came home from college and they shared with me these short statements. There was a girl at college that was different than any one there. She was so close to God that she asked him what clothes to wear each morning! Bingo! That sunk into my spirit and settled right in. Mission accomplished - another seed was planted! That desire kept getting stronger and stronger.
Time past and God started placing a person’s name in my mind that I used to know. I had not spoken to them in an exceptionally long time and I didn’t know how to get in touch with them – so I got in touch with someone who did know. I called this person and after talking and sharing with them – I was given the name of someone they knew who could answer my questions and guide me into hearing God’s voice! This person did not live in Ft. Lauderdale and my phone bill was about to go sky high – but it did not matter because God’s perfect plan for me was about to come together! Thank you, God!
I have shared only a portion of my journey to knowing God with you. It has been a long journey and it has NOT been INSTANT BREAKFAST! Nor has it been a QUICK FIX! God does not work that way!
You see I am still learning – and God is not done with me yet! I am not perfect! I have not I arrived! I have much more to learn and much more to do for God! This is not an easy life, but I would never want to “go back”! There have been struggles. However, I have found what I have been looking for and no one can take it away from me! If someone took my Bible from me, it would not matter. Would I like that OF COURSE NOT! BUT you see I hear God’s VOICE and He can tell me anything He wants to, and - He does!
Reader, it is our Divine Right to hear God speak to us! We have two Divine rights one is to hear God speak to us and the other is to make our own choices! It is up to us to decide – which path we are going to take. There are two paths: God’s way or the way of Satan – it is one or the other! Choose wisely!
If you were to ask me if it were worth it – I would scream YES! All the details are not here, but my search has ended in the sense of how to get to KNOW God.
This is it in a nutshell: You must want God for the right reasons! You cannot fake God out, do not even try! You must give Him time in your day you have to get quiet before Him. Doesn’t He deserve that? You must listen and then obey! He is the Master!
As the song goes, “This is my story, this is my song praising my Savior all the day long.”
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