I have loved you with an everlasting love;
I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.
My testimony is a story of a God who pursued me relentlessly; even when I doubted and rebelled, He never stopped loving me. My Christian faith was changed throughout the years, going through several stages of maturation as God steadily drew me to Himself. Beginning as trustingly naive, my faith gradually turned into a feeling that I knew enough of the right answers to get by without God, resulting in my relationship with Him staying stagnant and untouched. Finally, by God’s grace and unending love, my faith has grown into one that is continually learning to submit to His will.
I became a Christian at a young age and, because of the diligence of my parents, cannot remember a time when I didn’t know the basics of Christianity. By God’s grace, I grew up in a Bible-teaching church and was surrounded by a loving church family. Adults would have seen me as a good Christian girl who obeyed her parents, memorized Bible verses, and answered a lot of questions in Sunday school. I reveled in their admiration. But what the adults hadn’t seen, was how I conceitedly enjoyed their praise and that my faith was so hollow that it never occurred to me I should be living my life to please God. I thought the only reason I needed Jesus was so He could save me from eternal damnation. Thus, feeling secure that Jesus had already saved me from Hell, I saw no need to pursue a stronger relationship with Him.
As I grew older, I became bored with God and the Bible. I arrogantly believed that I had been taught everything of significant use to me. If questioned about my faith, I was sure I could recall enough of what I had learned to satisfy the inquirer. God was pushed to the back of my mind only to be called forward when I was feeling guilty, lonely, or scared. Because I did nothing to deepen my relationship with God, my stagnant faith remained undeveloped. It was as small as ever and I saw no reason for it to mature.
The turning point came when I spent a week at a Christian summer camp. This time away from my routine and the distractions of life helped to focus me on God and my relationship with Him. I came to realize how prideful I had been. I believed that I could get through my life just fine without God’s further intervention. I had been idolizing myself by living for whatever pleased me the most. God was still pursuing my heart, determined to capture its attention. Throughout the next few years, God gradually humbled me and I came to know Him better. When trusted friends let me down, leaving my heart hurting, God showed me His faithful love and how much I needed it. When my selfishness injured others, God convicted me and showed me how healing and trust could be gained through humble repentance. I would have learned none of these things had God allowed my faith to remain in its ignorant pride. My faith had been grounded in the belief that Jesus had only saved me from eternal punishment for my sins, but I was slowly comprehending that He was also setting me free from the bondage of sin in the here and now. I no longer needed to try to gain the admiration and praise of others as I had as a child, because I had found fulfillment in God’s pleasure. This is not to say that I am no longer visited by these childish desires but rather I am not enslaved to them. This is one way in which my faith has matured.
God used the varying stages of my faith to build it. Looking back on my own faith’s development, my initial thoughts were of regret as I only saw how much farther it could have come if only I hadn’t been wasting time on myself. But, as I pondered, I came to see that the time spent memorizing verses and learning Bible stories didn’t go to waste. Even though I wasn’t learning them for the right reason, God redeemed the time for me. Sunday school, sermons, AWANA, and vacation Bible schools were key tools God used to build my repertoire of teachings and Bible verses. These have been an immeasurable blessing to me as God brings them to mind when I need them. Even while my faith was inert, God used that time of my life to teach me that there is no true peace or satisfaction to be found in a life lived for myself and that all my attempts of finding fulfillment apart from Him are futile. Having learned all these things, I clearly see how God is capable of redeeming the time even when I am rebelling against His plan. I now understand that because of His relentless love for me, my times of young, then stagnant, faith were not worthless; instead, He was equipping me for the furtherance of my faith.
As a Christian, God has promised me that, while living in the world, He will continually mold, develop and renew my faith in Him. Philippians 1:6 assures me that, “[God] who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ”. This is proven true because He has “loved [me] with an everlasting love” and “drawn [me] with UNFAILING kindness” (Jeremiah 31:3). My journey of faith is proof of these scriptures.
I have been loved relentlessly.