As I glanced at an old photo of myself the other day, one thing stuck out in my mind about the time the picture was taken. I was just seventeen. In saying “just seventeen” I realized how different the woman I am today is in contrast to the mere girl in the old photo. At age seventeen I really, truly, honestly believed I had all the answers. I thought I had my life all figured out. I was spunky, opinionated and full of ideas about every single thing! I formed theories about life through the filter of inexperience. This blissful ignorance goaded me into believing it was permissible to remain self absorbed, careless and judgmental. Serving God was secondary to my own whims because I was so over confident in my own beliefs. Since He was quite low on my list of priorities I surmised I’d have plenty of time for Him once I was older. Until I reached middle age at least, I was all about living life my own way. After I’d finished partying my youth away, responding to my personal agenda, married the man of my dreams and have children then I’d consider serving the Lord.
As the years marched on something happened to me that threw a monkey wrench into my plan. I grew up finding that life and the circumstances it presents can be overwhelming to say the least. The control over my own destiny that I felt so confident I’d mastered paled in comparison against the backdrop of reality. My characteristic sarcasm I used to mask as confidence quickly became my downfall in real world situations. My opinionated attitude disguised my critical side and the spunk I nurtured was really arrogance. In living my life this way I learned I was persecuting Christ afresh (Acts 9:4)! It may not have been as graphic as nailing Him to a physical cross but the results were equally damning. I was guilty of minimizing the significance of His sacrifice for mankind. It vaguely reminded me of Saul before his conversion. Like Saul I decided to have God on my own terms. Saul persecuted Christians by killing them and I persecuted Christianity by brushing of its importance. God has a way of allowing us to reside in the valley of narcissism waiting for us to repent because He doesn’t need us. We need Him! After sending us messages that our lives need an overhaul He eventually shows up turning over our apple cart making it clear that we were never the captain of our life’s journey.
Many people are convinced like Saul that they are free to nurse their own convictions and keep accountability in a separate neat little pile. The problem we fail to see is that serving God is much more massive than any of us can ever imagine. In submitting to Him, we become students, comprehending the concept that nothing in relation to Christ is ever all about us as individuals. Our real lesson is in discovering we don’t have all the answers yet are globally connected one to another. Each life has a call to spread the love of Christ to their fellowman. We have the call of reconciliation. In 2 Corinthians 5:18 it is described as a ministry. We are together in this dispensation to minister to each other. Saul realized his vulnerabilities when he was confronted by Christ on the road to Damascus. It was then that he was called on the carpet for the way he viewed his self righteous rhetoric. He wasn’t about edifying anyone or defending the “church”. He was about building a reputation for himself that included control, fear and domination which gave him a sense of power. It made him a god in his own mind. The God of all glory didn’t get any praise from his actions. He perceived his thinking and actions as acceptable to God when in reality God never sanctioned such a directive. Saul was mortified to find out that God wasn’t on board with his man made mission.
Just like Saul had to lose his physical sight to see his own spiritual deficit we too must follow suit. In order to shake the pride and selfishness we embrace in our youthful folly we have to be willing to take a detour on the road in which we’ve traveled. Saul found (Acts 9:22) that peace, joy and truth were the answers he really longed to embrace. God illustrated to Saul as He does with us that we don’t need to devalue anyone else in order to feel validated in the kingdom of God. Saul’s self serving agenda coupled with preconceived notions about the Kingdom led him to miss this vital truth. He realized as we should that he was a religious pawn being used by the enemy. Who was the real enemy in this situation? The religious leaders that empowered Saul to kill Christians. He was tricked into believing works, tradition and coercion is what God seeks from man. How far he strayed from the truth! In order to find fulfillment, serenity and rejuvenation we have to cleave to the Lord. When we allow Him to elevate our thinking enough to receive His salvation, love, mercy and forgiveness we can recognize our end is dependent upon the choice we make today. Our possessions, money, prestige or ideology cannot replace a true relationship with Jesus. He knows our heart better than we ever will, counts the hairs on our head (Matt 10:30) and even loves us enough to save our tears (Psalms 56:9). Who wouldn’t cherish a God like that!
The seventeen year old girl in the photo has learned to live a successful life she needs to keep her priorities intact. She has recognized that the righteousness she walks in isn’t her own. It belongs to Christ Jesus who is worthy of all the honor. She now knows her passion to love her fellowman, share the word and worship with such fervor comes from a developed walk with the Lord.
Relinquish your heart to God today. He loves you with a ferocious, passionate and everlasting love. He weeps while waiting for you to commit to Him. He hurts when you don’t and is longing to know you. Forgive yourself of past transgressions that might hold you back, realizing they were committed when you had the heart of someone who was “just seventeen”
Be encouraged and blessed child of The Most High God~!
Dr. Denise Joyce Williams lives in Florida with her husband who is a career soldier. Her book, “The Healing Of A Broken Vessel” was released by Publish America in March 2009. She’s currently penning her next book entitled “The Chambers Of The Heart”