If anyone has read my memoir, you will already know why I became a Christian. The emptiness I’d felt my whole life, and the crushing grief that came in early adulthood, were too great to face on my own strength. The gaping hole inside that had me identifying with “The Scream” by Munch – a horror over the injustice and darkness that seem to reign on earth – this hole was not physical and could not be filled with earthly things.
It could not be filled with food or alcohol (I tried). It could not be filled with travel and adventure (I tried). It could not be filled with a sexual relationship (I tried). It could not be filled with plenty of pocket money and nice jewellery (I tried – and it all got stolen recently when our house was raided). Or intelligence (I read all the books). It could not be filled by pick-myself-up-by-the-bootstrap-and-suck-it-up-strength. I tried. And I was not strong enough. So that’s pretty much how it happened that I became a Christian. I was missing Divine Love – the only thing that could fill the hole – and I went searching for it.
(Or, perhaps, to state the case more accurately, God went searching for me).
I didn’t want to be a religious person. The idea gave me hives. Come on, I’m chasing intellect and sophistication! There’s no room in all that for religion. Religion is too constraining and closed-minded; and (forgive me) Jesus-freaks are dorks.
But when the Christian counsellor in Taiwan – the only one who spoke English, and who was helping me pick up the shattered pieces of my life after my brother’s suicide – handed me a Bible, all the arguments flew away in the force of God’s promises.
- Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
- He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he drew me out of deep waters.
- ‘Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.
- Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
- What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
- Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.’
(references: Mt 11; Ps 18; Lk 12; Ph 4; Ro 8; Dt 31)
I needed those promises. I was thirsty for them. I needed to know, that in a world that looks upon my fate with utter indifference, there was a Being who did not. And this Being not only cared what became of me, He had the power to give me safe-haven.
It didn’t come all at once. The faith and realisation came gradually. But eventually, the desire to have what the Bible promised was more valuable to me than my dying relationship. It had more value than being politically-correct, worldly-wise, and “enlightened”, although turning my back on those things was probably the greatest cost I had to count. The desire to have instant access to God – of knowing that there was nothing in my life that would prevent him from reaching down and saving me – now, and on the day I die, was worth more to me than anything else I possessed. I will not be embarrassed before him when I have to give account for everything I’ve said or done. (Heb 4:13).
The desire to be forgiven and made holy shifted my priorities. It became worth my while to travel further to meet with my church family instead of going to an indifferent church in a beautiful building next door. It made it worth my while to give up sexual immorality and live a pure life as I waited for a husband. It made it worth my while to tithe (give 10%) – or, in the tighter moments, give as generously as I could to church and humanitarian efforts. This sometimes means having frayed couches.
It made it worth my while to talk about Jesus to someone I don’t know all that well because it felt like the Spirit was prompting me to say something. It made it worth my while not to cut corners on business expenses or taxes, take business supplies from work, or (still working on this) drive too fast because everyone else is. Even today, it makes it worth my while to give up free time to study the Bible with people, host discussions in our home, serve people in need.
That’s what it took to make Jesus Lord. A desire to go to heaven and not be afraid anymore – a desire to fill the emptiness with an intimate, daily relationship with God.
How Does My Life Look Now?
On December 12, it will be 21 years since I radically changed my life, shed the parts of it that were not obedient to the scriptures, had enough faith to believe that what I was doing was a logical (and not emotional) decision and get baptized.
On Sunday we had house church, and we looked at the passage with the wise man who built his house on the rock (as opposed to the fool who built his house on the sand). My husband commented that the storms come to both. Whether you live your life for your own purposes (no matter how noble), your own faith (or lack thereof), your own pleasures, or whether you live for Jesus, the storms will come to you. But what Jesus says is this:
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.’ (Matthew 7:24-27)
Both the ones who follow Jesus and the ones who don’t will have storms. We certainly do, here in the Goutet household. Some I can talk about publicly, some I can’t. The difference between now and before is that I’m not terrified all the time, and when I am, I know where to go for comfort.
What my life looks like now is a house built on a rock. I’m not comparing myself to those who aren’t Christians and saying my life is better. I’m comparing my life to what it was before.
I’m not afraid of death (in general, although I ask God to let me stick around to raise my kids and see my grandkids – Give me time to love people here, God!) 🙂 I have ups and downs, as you see from some of my more vulnerable posts, but the overall baseline is generally positive. We serve a lot, and sometimes I get tired of serving, but it’s never anywhere close to making me want to stop. We’ve spent the last year in construction that is stalled at quite an inconvenient stage and my home is a mess. But my overall sense of being is one of contentment.
We have a happy marriage and do our best to raise our kids; we hope with all our imperfect parenting, they’ll still grow up to love God. That they will see in our lives something worth imitating.
What my life looks like now is a daily relationship with my Creator. Okay I know that sometimes prayers are not answered immediately, or the answer we get is ‘no’. I know there are days when our life is so humdrum it doesn’t look like anything special – nothing to distinguish a person who has a relationship with the Almighty from one who is not interested in having one. But there are also a lot of days where I recognise God’s hand at work. I might not have noticed it before, but I do now.
Some examples: Two weeks ago, I prayed that God would give me money to translate my memoir into French, and he (almost instantly) provided enough to begin the first quarter. On Saturday, I wanted to buy flowers for myself at the store, but they were too expensive and we’re watching our budget. I prayed that someone would give me flowers, and the next day at house church, one of my friends brought me some. (And they didn’t cost her anything either!).
Even yesterday, I was super anxious about something, and I prayed for peace. I also prayed for God to show me his love and presence. He did in a couple small ways, including one friend who promised to bring me a gluten-free dessert today. I cook for people all the time, and I felt “remembered” that someone would do that for me. I feel like God heard me.
My post today isn’t to tell you why you should become a Christian. Not everyone has faith and that is just a fact. God won’t force you into it, and neither will I. (Although – fair warning – I do know some people who became Christians who were really, really not looking for it and it usually happened because a miracle banged them upside the head so hard they couldn’t ignore it).
If you wanted a better-written apologetics-type summary on the matter, you could read C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity or Douglas Jacoby’s, True and Reasonable. I’m just trying to put into words why I made a decision over two decades ago that seems illogical in the eyes of the world. Even now, I don’t think I explained it well. It’s just … my life was empty without God.
(Here’s 25-year-old-me doing something I never could have imagined doing: getting baptised)!
Woohoooo for the Jesus Freaks! 😉
I became a Christian because I wanted a relationship with God that would be with me here on earth and carry me over to eternal life with Him. I needed Christ. I needed his forgiveness, gentleness, acceptance, power, compassion, love, strength. I needed his access to a powerful Father who cannot be reached through even our best sacrifices or efforts at righteousness.
Faith is being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see, I hope for eternal life. I’m certain that I will see God there. And that’s why I became a Christian.