Monday, September 26, 2011

Prodigal Son or Prodigal Pig… Both are “Coming Home”

As a child, I had always attended church but I had no personal relationship with God.  He was an abstract entity to me.  I felt He was out there, but a deeply personal relationship with Him was not something I was ever taught.  In high school I met a person who would bring about great change in my life.  His name was Dave Ringenberg, (who now flies for Mission Aviation Fellowship) and we were on the track and field team.  One day he asked me if I was religious and I remember saying yes, so he invited me to his youth group.  In one of those meetings the plan of salvation was laid out to me:
  1. God Loves you and offers a wonderful plan for your life. John 3:16
  2. Man is sinful and separated from God.  Therefore he cannot know and experience God’s love and plan for his life. (Romans 3:23) (Romans 6:23)
  3. Jesus Christ is God’s only provision for man’s sin.  Through Him you can know and experience God’s love and plan for your life. (Romans 5:8) (1 Corinthians 15:3-6) (John 14:6)
  4. We must individually receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord; then we can know and experience God’s love and plan for our lives. (John 1:12) (Ephesians 2:8,9) (Read John 3:1-8)  (Revelation 3:20)

I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior that day.  I dove into my new faith head first.  The only thing I can figure is that I placed too much of an emphasis on head knowledge of scripture.  This led to a lot of pride. In my early twenties, I walked away from God.
During that period I lost that connection with God and stopped serving Him. I turned inward and became very selfish. I gradually gave up more and more of the values that defined me and became quite dysfunctional.  I stopped reading the scriptures, stopped attending church and stopped praying in any way.  I developed some destructive habits that would bring my marriage to the brink of ruin.  The odd thing is that during this time, I knew I was a child of God and in my fallen state I knew I needed to recommit myself to Him.  He would continue to teach me things about Himself during that period and kept calling for me with His still, quiet voice.
Once our kids were old enough to start asking about God, we joined the nearest church.  I didn’t really like it and just went to go along.  Eventually, I recommitted myself to Him with reservations.  I didn’t want to give up my destructive habits.  As I drew closer to God, He made it clear that I needed to cut out these habits.  I would try, have some success and falter.  Over time, I began to plead with God to just take these habits away.  But that was not the way it was going to go down.  God had a bitter pill for me to swallow, because I was trying to hold on to my bad habits while doing a relationship with Him.
            I was humiliated and exposed in a very painful way.  I was bitter over how it all happened, but it allowed me to start working on the core reasons for those destructive habits.  In a startling way, God opened my eyes to my selfishness and the effect that has had on others.  Sin has consequences and mine certainly did.  As I allowed God to renew my heart, things began improving.  Things aren’t perfect, but they are improving.  I am slowly being released from the pull of those bad habits, in addition our marriage has moved from critical to stable condition.  I look forward in hopeful expectation for a strong marriage that glorifies Jesus our Savior.  There are times I get frustrated at myself because I can still see my sin nature, but I know God has been changing me.  There is a long way to go, but much of the anxiety that runs my life is melting away as I lean ever closer into God.  It is amazing that God gives second chances. 
So the question is: What was going on spiritually during my period of “backsliding?”  More tomorrow…