Monday, May 23, 2011

The Taming of the Chinese Chick: Part 3. . .Blog Day #26

The small little college group at Grace Valley Community Church in Modesto, CA was the first adult Christian group I had ever been exposed to.  It was also the first time I participated in a group that split the girls from boys, er, women from men. . .It was actually pretty scary for me, as most of my friends were male.

I didn't do a whole lot of talking, not because I was shy, but mostly because I didn't know if I believed everything they believed in.  It had been my experience that Christians were pretenders. . .They thought themselves perfect by following all of God's rules, and never seemed to have a hard time with anything.  They never did anything fun and I could never be "good" all the time anyway.  I thought it was impossible to be happy all the time, like the Christians claimed you would be after believing in Jesus. 

"Hogwash."  Except, back then I used a different term.

But there was something different coming from these girls.  From all of the group, really.  Those small break away sessions with the females only spurred great conversations and deep sharing.  There was a vulnerability I had never experienced.  They shared struggles, illnesses, praises, blessings.  I was taught, for the first time, that though you believed in Jesus, life would still be hard, but that He would be faithful through it all. 

What? They didn't subscribe to the Believe-in-Jesus-and-life-will-be-easy way of life.  That caught my attention.

I was already motivated by the weekly meetings to avoid circumstances where I would be making poor decisions.  I tried a few more times after that 4th of July party to dabble in the dual life, but couldn't put my heart into it.  I didn't love the feeling of shame and healthy conviction, which can't be drowned out by partying.

And I was spending a lot of time with my long time friend and his family.  His mother was warm and inviting, and his father respectful and knowledgeable.  They had laughter in their home and spent many hours together.  I was blessed to share in meals where they talked and shared devotions.  They had me participate in a Bible study on the book of John and even had me take part in the readings. 

While we weren't in the house, my friend showed me some of the pranks he learned in college (like taping an empty oil can on top of the car and driving around, which surprisingly freaks people out). It was fun.  Without alcohol, I might add. 

No doubt, they were praying for me.  No doubt, the group was praying for me.  I went to church, and the songs started to sound less cheesy and more meaningful.  I was starting to understand the sermons.  I was learning to find the verses on my own.

I was sitting in my friends' living room and participating in their family Bible study (although I now suspect it was more for my benefit than theirs).  I don't even know if I was able to find the book of John on my own, but I kept up.  I was, after all, a university student.  I read with them and answered the questions with them.  Without realizing, I had learned the entire purpose of Jesus.  He wasn't there to tell me what a bad person I was.  Well, not in those exact words, anyway. 

I learned that the Bible and all that is in it is Truth.  I learned that the world is full of sin, condemned to death because every person is tainted by desires of things not God.  I learned that God created the world but man fell and ruined the intimate relationship they had with God. I learned that God loved His people anyway and continued a plan to restore that relationship.  I learned that Jesus was God, come in human form to live as a human.  I learned that He came this way because the people were full of sin, undeserving of heaven and deserving of death because of sin. 

But He loved us soo much that He took our punishment and died a horrific and humiliating death so that a bridge would be built between man and God.  I learned that He did as no god ever had and rose from the dead, just as He promised in all the thousands of years of history recorded in the Bible. 

I learned that people who believed this were promised eternal life.  That people who believed this accepted God's love, which cannot be torn away from them.  I learned that life would be hard, but that if I believed in all of these things and loved and obeyed Him, I would have peace.  I learned that God knew me personally, loved me even before I was born, had always been with me even through my worst, and wanted my heart and soul to be His forever.

All this in just a few short weeks.  Remember, I was only home for the summer.  And, I have to admit, I rarely take things nice and easy.  So when this appeared on my sheet:

      If you are a child of God you have personally received Jesus into your heart as Lord and Savior.  You believe that Jesus died on the cross for your sins, was buried, and rose again from the grave, and is alive now and in your heart as King.  If you are sure of your salvation check here (  ).

I remember that my friend and both his parents were looking at me.  I don't know if I said anything. But I put a check there.  The next question:

     Are you now a child of God, having received Jesus?

I remember saying, timidly, "Yes."  Someone said, "Really?"

Before I knew it, they had hands on me and we were praying.  In Christian-ese, we call it, "The Prayer."  I admitted to my sinfulness, in believing that God was THE Creator, that He came down as man, died on the cross, was buried, rose again.  I acknowledged that by believing in this, I would love and obey Him with my life, and I would live in Heaven with Him someday. 

My soul sighed a breath of relief.  My mind said, "What? What just happened?"

The rest of that summer was possibly the best summer of my life.  I started seeing the members of the college group outside of meetings.  I looked forward to church, learned from the sermons, and felt the depth of the songs. 

But I still felt uncertain.  I was a Christian now?  It seemed a bit crazy.

But then again, everything I do has to be a little radical.  That's just the way I roll.

August came, and my friend was going back to his school within a few weeks.  I would be going back to my school soon after.  What was going to happen? I could no longer be the party girl.  In fact, all of my habits and lifestyle choices were going to be different. And I would have to make new friends and go to a new church. 

My mind was still trying to get on the same page as my soul. The tasks that lay ahead seemed so daunting.

Then, an announcement at church was made about a river baptism.  At the end of August.  Perfect.  I needed a visual representation that would become a reminder of what I committed to.  So, I think it was the Stanislaus River, I was baptized in front of my new spiritual family.  It was a sunny and glorious day to die to oneself and arise a new creation.  I count August 1997 as my spiritual birth month. I was 18 years old.

Shortly after the celebration, my friend left for college.  In fact, he left to spend the semester in Israel. 

I left for college soon after.  And returned to Davis.  And was greeted by, "So, I heard you found religion."

It was a long road.  A long intense road, as is fitting for someone who does things "all or nothing."

I had began a relationship with a God who wanted me.

And He provided, as promised.  Though most of my old friends abandoned me, I met new ones.  My roommate thought I was a hypocrite, but I moved in with Christian girls who loved me as I was and helped me on my spiritual journey.  Through a friend from the college group back home, I found a college group on-campus and the church that supported it. (Who knew there were so many Christians in Davis?)

Though I was going "full speed ahead," sometimes going way too fast over speed bumps and almost running red lights, I was no longer flailing through life.  I had found an unexplainable peace and joy.  It was infinitely better than the drug-induced, numbing and temporary fun I had clung onto before the summer began. 

Someone was, and is, caring for me.  I always thought He was way too big to ever care, and way too oppressive that He cramped my style.  But He was, and is, my shepherd:  knowing me by name, protecting me from wolves, and leading me to water and shelter. 

Now, if I am--
Wayward? I am found and brought back.
Stuck in the mud? I am rescued and brought back to safety.
Caught in a storm? I am carried to shelter.

I started my adult life broken into pieces, thinking I had to glue myself together.  I was taught that I was the maker of my own destiny.  I relinquished that control.  I gave up such an impossible task.

Now, as a wife and mother, with joy inexpressible, I can tell you that I am a product of obedience to God.  Though not perfect, God works through me as my heart seeks after Him.   I am who I am because I want what He wants.  I am not oppressed, chafing under rules and guidelines.  I am not a Bible-thumping, judgment yelling, high-collared-jumper-wearing, commune-living woman who pretends to be perfect.

I love because He first loved me.  I put my heart and words into action, hoping to be a good representation of Him who created the world.  I give my life to Him daily, worshiping Him and letting Him guide my ways.  I cling to His grace, which He gives freely, whenever I slip and wallow in selfishness. 

And if you ever feel loved by me, it's because of His Spirit that wants you too.

All this to say, this Asian chick has been tamed.  This Asian chick is a true Christian

Thank you God, for your loving-kindness towards me.

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