Greetings Greg and all the staff at CVM!
I just want to say a huge THANK YOU!! I cannot express in words how your books and your sermons have impacted myself and my husband. I wanted to write because my world has been turned upside down in the last six months. I will say from the beginning that I am sorry if this is long but I didn’t know how to narrow it down anymore.
I grew up with parents who were strict Calvanists to the core, and when I was in high school, we joined a church that was very charismatic but were also very Calvinist but they used elements of it to be very controlling. I honestly grew up very confused. One minute I thought God loved me but then the next minute I felt that the wrath of God was going to fall on me. I went through Bible College, sat in the theology classes and came out even more confused than before. There were so many things that things just didn’t add up but I couldn’t put my finger on it, so I would literally walk out of the class saying, “All I know is that Jesus loves me, He died for me, I’m not going to worry about the rest of this theological mumbojumbo.” Several years later, my husband and I found ourselves in this same church that had started out with good intentions but had turned into a very controlling environment. We had built very close relationships with people there and literally thought we would be together the rest of our lives and see our kids grow up together. But the truth was that there were real issues of control, and we were trying to please a man and not God. Many of the young couples left and now we are spread all over the country. Some serving God, others turning their back on God all together. My husband pulled us out of the church but it was very hard for me because by this point I lived under condemnation constantly, didn’t feel like I could hear God or that God was mad at me because I hadn’t crossed a t or dotted an i somewhere along the way, and that I probably couldn’t function without this church blessing us. Somebody gave my husband some of your books about then. As I watched him read them, I saw him change but I didn’t want anything to do with it. I’m not huge into reading theology so I just chucked it up to “that’s just for Mike not me.” About the same time, my Mom, whom I dearly, love was diagnosed with an extreme form of breast cancer and only had a short time to live. I took care of my Mom during that time, and I kept asking God, “Why does a woman who loves you so much who has laid her life down for her family, takes strangers into her home and loves them unconditionally, and is the most awesome Grandma have to die?” Of course, everybody around us was saying that it was God’s will and that God was in it. It made me so sick. I had another close friend and pastor prophecy that she was going to die and that it was a judgment. I wanted to not believe any of it but I did. I didn’t know any other way to think. I watched my Mom die a very agonizing death. She held my newborn son for the first time two days before she passed away, and it made me so angry that God would will that this happen and that my son and future children would never know this awesome Grandma. The next couple of years became a blur of not wanting to go to church, not wanting to read my Bible and not wanting to build relationships just to see them torn away.
In the midst of all this, Mike kept reading your books and last summer made me sit down with him one afternoon to listen to one of your sermons on-line. As I listened to the sermon and I don’t even remember what it was about exactly, I had extreme peace that you were someone safe to listen to. Up to this point I hadn’t wanted to listen to anybody. So I became a faithful on-line member of your church. I began to see the Bible in a new light and didn’t see the condemnation there that I had before. But this past Christmas everything came to a head. I was hurting for my Mom, I was hurting for relationships that I didn’t have anymore and the anger could not be contained anymore.
After Christmas, my husband sat me down and told me to read your book “God of the Possible.” I reluctantly started to read it, and I hadn’t gotten through the first chapter when the lies that I had been living under became so real. Those things that I could never understand before began to click. For the first time I wanted to ready theology. I realized that my problems were strongly rooted in my theology that I had grown up with since I was a little girl. I had always worried whether how you would really know you were one of the chosen ones. That lie went out the window real fast along with a lot more. Then after I was done with that book, Mike got me “Is God to Blame” and that book helped put me at peace with my Mom’s death and what we went through at that church. It seemed like I had lost everything except my husband and son, and that I was just waiting for doom’s day to drop on me. The agony and the loneliness was so great and God just came and revealed Himself as a Father to me. And then I read “Seeing is Believing” and a whole new world opened up to me. Imaginative prayer is truly healing me from the inside out. I see Jesus and touch Him, and He loves me for who I am. I don’t have to be somebody else or jump through a whole bunch of hoops to look just right as a Christian. I have been able to bring the wounds from our church experience and lay them at His feet and get free. I’m not saying I’m completely there but I’m getting there. And on those days when I miss my Mom, He holds me and cries with me.
I can’t wait for what is ahead. I’m not scarred anymore of my future, and I’m confident now that I can live in Him. One of the first big steps for me is that I am going back to school to get my teaching degree. Now, I know everybody does this but for me, two years ago I didn’t have the confidence in myself that I could do anything, much less accomplish going to school. But life is exciting now and enjoyable and not full of rules and regulations, and Jesus is really, exciting!!!
So I know this was long but this is why my heart is so thankful for you Greg and the people that serve with you. Thanks for loving Jesus and showing us Him! My heart was really touched when you shared in your blog about your small group. You can tell you guys really love each other and share your lives with one another. It gives me hope that Mike and I will find that someday. THANK YOU and GOD BLESS YOU ALL! You are in our thoughts and prayers. We are really looking forward to visiting St. Paul and Woodland Hills for our family vacation at the end of July.
Love to all,