The Same, But Utterly Different

Image: Caleb Magnino

This evening I’ve giving a testimonial-talk. Ten years ago, I spoke just around the corner on the same theme. But I’m hoping that the content will have changed.  And I’m praying that the person speaking would be unrecognisable to her old self.

Ten years ago I was studying at Bible college and in the grip of an eating disorder that would almost kill me.  For a while I managed to hide my obsession. I threw myself into church activities, missions and teaching.    I gave talks about the gospel and wrote glittering essays. On the outside I looked pretty good – a  dynamo, burning out ‘for the Lord’.  I even believed it myself. But at the heart of my ‘ministry’ beat a commitment to proving – and saving – myself.

When I though about God, it was as a headmaster – slightly disapproving and far away.  Someone with rights over my soul – but not my body. Someone who wanted me to perform and keep His rules. Grace, I figured, was just for other people.  My problems were much too complex – and in any case, I didn’t need help. I knew the words of the gospel, but not its power.

I tried every avenue possible to prove my own worth. Academia, relationships, beauty, morality. None of these satisfied – instead, they left me emptier than before. In desperation, I cried out to God: ‘If you want me, you can have what’s left.  I’ve exhausted my own resources.  If you’re there, if this grace is possible – even for me – please, show me now’.

There was no blinding flash of light. No smoke or glitter.  Instead, I turned back to the Bible.  I started reading again about the God I thought I knew.  The Lord who comes, not to be served, but to serve – and to give his life, so that we don’t have to.

This is the God I follow.  Not a slave-driver or a despot.  Not a negligent father or a circus-master, cracking His whip.   A lord who wants in on all of us – body, mind and soul. Whose arms are always open and who is waiting for our return.

A God of second chances.



7 thoughts on “The Same, But Utterly Different

  1. That’s so true. I think it’s often not a blinding flash of light or ‘experience’, and thank God because they wouldn’t last.

    My own ‘second-hand’ shallow faith was fading away. I didn’t want to read the Bible. But becoming a mum had made me realise I really didn’t want to pass on half-hearted or hypocritical faith, so I did read the Bible. And God has transformed my faith, and my love for Him – he is altogether lovely. Read the words of God, about Jesus himself who loves us SO much.
    “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” -” to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God”

    The more I know him and know about him through the Bible, the more I love him. I found John’s gospel to be a great place to start, to read what Jesus said & did – what he’s really like. But I’ve loved looking up cross-references and seeing how the whole Bible – even the Old Testament (!) fits together & says the same thing.

  2. I hope this evening goes well, Emma. It sounds like you’ve got your gaze focused in the right place – that should help others to see and hear the mercy that has aided so much in your last decade. God, in Christ, is most certainly reconciling this impoverished race to Himself. Sola Deo Gloria!

  3. Praying for tonight. Somehow God can be so good, when we let him. And your story has already helped me so much. I didn’t know you 10 years ago, but I think I prefer the new you!

  4. Ruth that’s such an encouragement! Like you, I’ve been blown away by the Bible especially as it reveals a God who’s so much lovelier than I ever imagined – and who lavishes His love on us. Amazing.

  5. Thank you for this encouraging challenge to return to grace, by which we have been saved.

    Part of the armour of God which enables us to stand against the devil’s lies, is the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

    Praise God for the Spirit of truth who guides us into all truth.

    “What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us.” (1 Corinthians 2:12)

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