I don’t think I have anything to write that can better capture how my perspective of myself, of life and of the world has evolved over time, than my personal testimony about knowing and walking with Christ. So bear with me, this is a bit long. I wish to have no part of my journey left concealed, for “No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light.” (Luke 11:33)
Here it goes:
I was very strong-willed and independent-minded as a child, trained to keep my troubles to myself. In my early teenage years, it gave me great pride that although I came from a broken home, had little parental supervision and did not have much, I was able to do very well in school, surviving on scholarships all the way to university. I worked hard constantly to be an achiever and to win the approval of people around me.
However this self-sufficiency and go-getting attitude easily wore me out. By the time I went to college, surges of determination to succeed alternated with surges of restlessness and the desire to rid myself of responsibilities. Once in a while I would find myself vaguely seeking God’s hand in my life, but these “quests” came and went, and eventually I just leaned more and more to pursuing a liberated, care-free life for myself.
I was 21 years old, only a few months out of university, when I found myself feeling desperate and empty and telling God that I no longer wanted the life of partying, drunken episodes and even sex with no strings attached that I had gotten myself into. I was then in the middle of a bout with hepatitis, which I got from a drinking spree with strangers at a rock concert, and I just made my most heartfelt call to God ever. In this prayer I asked God to give me, if I were to have another relationship, someone who would actually help bring me to Him.
Soon after I said that prayer, I met Wowell, and the Lord used him mightily and worked on my heart: On January 24th 1999, three days after Wowell and I became a couple, he invited me to Christ’s Commission Fellowship in Valle Verde, and there I learned the depth of God’s love for me. I realized that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23), and that “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), and to save me from my fate, Jesus suffered and died in the hands of men, and rose again. He served as the supreme sacrifice and payment for my own sins. Christ went through all that He went through, in order to save me, and He did it because it was the only way to save me! Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” If I could save myself by doing good, His suffering, death and resurrection would have been entirely unnecessary.
I learned that day that I only had to accept Christ’s gift, to trust in what He did and in what He can do to my life, for salvation to be mine. As He stated in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. So that’s just what I did; I accepted Christ that day as my Savior and Lord.
That, of course, was not the end of my story. Since saying yes to Jesus my spiritual growth had been slow, as I continued to cling to my self-sufficiency in most aspects of my life. I was in small groups with disciplers who were committed to me, but I did not return this commitment as I was simply too busy with my career and individual pursuits. Wowell and I also became physically intimate too soon. By the time we got married, I had not changed much from the time I first called myself a Christian; unknown to me, my husband also carried with him his un-surrendered baggage, having come from a broken home himself. It did not help our marriage that I traveled all the time for work. There was growth neither in our relationship as a couple nor in our individual walks with the Lord, and in August 2007, merely a year and a half after our wedding, Wowell asked for a separation.
What followed was the most excruciating, pain-filled 1 ½ years of my life: 1 ½ years of staring at a blank wall, not being able to imagine how there could possibly be a light at the end of the tunnel I was in, and committing one sinful mistake after another as I pretended to lift my situation up to the Lord while actually trying to solve my predicament myself. During that whole duration we still shared the house, like unrelated dorm-mates, and every morning I would tell myself, “I can do this, I can do this,” a dozen times before getting up. Eventually I learned that my husband was giving his heart to another, and soon after I also had my turn at infidelity. I rationalized that maybe my marriage was a mistake and there was actually someone else destined to be the love of my life. But the Lord is truly faithful even when we are not; the Holy Spirit quickly convicted me with His still soft voice telling me firmly and clearly to stop fooling myself and not to allow the enemy to deceive me. I repented, and the Lord continued His work in my heart.
Finally Christ lifted me out of the pit and humbled me to see the reality of my stubbornness and pride, which I realized I had never given up even years after accepting Him as my Lord and Savior. One particularly difficult night– it was the Friday of the Prayer and Fasting Week, January 2009 — after a day of struggling hard with feelings of pain and anger and desperation, I went to the prayer gathering at church. A song was playing as I entered, and the first words I heard were, “The battle is the Lord’s.” That was all it took; I cried my heart out to God, asking His forgiveness, declaring that indeed, my life’s battle is His, and admitting that there was absolutely nothing that I could do to help myself or to solve my situation. It was as if Christ was directly telling me, “My grace is sufficient for you; for my power is made perfect in your weakness.” (2 Cor 12:9) It was that night that the true meaning of surrender sank into my heart, and the Lord granted me supernatural, unexplainable peace. I also sought His guidance, so that loving and glorifying Him would be my motivation for all that I would do in regard to my marriage and my life.
It took another 15 months after that grace-filled night until God fully restored my marriage. Wowell and I both had to go through a lot of pruning before this restoration happened. God first dealt with us individually, moved us to repent and allowed us to be back on track in our respective walks with Him. Finally Wowell and I confessed our sins to the Lord and to each other and renewed our wedding vows in a couples retreat that we attended in April 2010. God healed our hearts, and our relationship as man and wife has only gone sweeter by the day since then.
I never grew as much in my spiritual life, never clung so much to the Lord, and never craved to know Him and to walk with Him so intimately, as when I went through this entire period of testing. I also learned to realign my priorities and to pursue the things that are of eternal significance: In 2009, even while waiting on the Lord for the restoration of my marriage, I said yes to His call for me to minister to other women by starting a discipleship group (Dgroup) in CCF, and since the renewal of our marriage vows Wowell and I have been heeding God’s call for us to minister to other couples. In February 2014, we finally started an official couples Dgroup. Also, for the last 5 years I have been part of Compassion International, a Christian ministry for children that I am able to serve while also being more available for my husband and being able to keep to my commitment of making disciples for Jesus.
In July 2013, Wowell and I entered another chapter in our adventures with the Lord, when his kidneys started failing as a complication of his diabetes and he began to undergo regular dialysis, at age 40. We are now a candidate for organ transplant; evenings are challenging because of insomnia, neuropathy and side effects of dialysis sessions, and day after day we have new reasons to cling to God’s goodness and to depend upon His grace, to praise and thank Him, to walk by faith and not by sight, and to look forward to what He has in store for us. Each day we live out our one-ness, and deepen our intimacy with the Lord and with each other. In the midst of the difficulties, every step of the way God shows us His faithfulness, and we can only testify again and again to His great love and to His sovereignty over our lives.
“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21)
Whew! That was a long story, indeed. But am glad to have shared it here 🙂