I welcome this opportunity to share my testimony to the God who saved me; who moved me from deception into his truth and from darkness into his glorious light. Rather than focus on my past and the foolishness in which I was called – which I’m certain you would find quite humorous, but I would find quite embarrassing – I’d rather focus on those things which drove my foolishness; my worldviews, paradigms, or presuppositions.
A wise man once said – if you want to make incremental changes in your life, change your behavior. But if you want to make significant change, work on your paradigms, the way in which you see and interpret the world. (Stephen R Covey)
These paradigm shifts are the focus of my testimony to our Lord and Savior, in what he has done, is doing, and will continue to do for me – leading me into the mind of Christ, and to know the One True God.
Before I begin, let me give some context for my life. I was born the middle child in a family of nine children, isolated between older and younger sisters with groups of three brothers on each side of them. Born to Christian parents, I grew up in the Catholic church and even started my education in Catholic school. It turned out, however, I was too much for the nuns – and spent the bulk of my grade school years in public education. I didn’t grow up with glorious dreams that I was driven to pursue. My expectations were much simpler. I grew up knowing that I wanted to be a husband, a father, and eventually a priest to God. The first two have been my focus since I was first married at 18. The third didn’t begin until I committed my life to the Lord and was baptized. My life continued to change from that point forward.
This in-grained desire to be a husband and a father has been a key instrument which God has used to work his transformation in me even before I was called into a relationship with him. The first transformational shift that God led me through involved moving me from a place of independence – it’s all about me, to one of interdependence – involving relationship with others. I saw a similar development over time, from dependence to interdependence, in my relationship with God as well.
A second transformational shift came as I left pursuing what I wanted for my life and instead embraced and pursued what God wanted for my life and the lives of others around me. This choice, though, came with a higher cost: walking away from a career I excelled at, and the loss of a wife and two daughters. I willingly walked away from the career, but I was reluctant to walk away from my family. My first wife gave me no choice. She rejected the new man Christ was making in me, and asked me to choose. I chose God and his Christ.
Through that process, my trust in God grew as I leaned more on him and relied less on myself. Also in that period of loss, God extended much love and grace in a variety of ways – leading me to healing and wholeness. My mistake was to think that’s where he meant for me to stay. Instead, God had another shift in store for my thinking. His grace and love are given to us so that we can be a vessel, or conduit, of grace poured out for the healing and wholeness of others. These often come in the form of, and find their expression through, the fruits of the Holy Spirit; love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These fruits are intended for the benefit of others as well as for ourselves. Once I realized that, my healing and wholeness progressed more rapidly.
In turn, this led to the next transformation – changing the mindset of “us and them.” He removed the judgmental spirit of the “righteous” toward the “wicked, deceived, and ungodly,” by showing the reality of Christ – who came to extend God’s love and die for those wicked, deceived, and ungodly. The very sort with whom I once walked and still walk with today – but now seeing them through different eyes.
So did such a transformation come through some great spiritual insight? No. It came through suffering and pain; the pain of others that found its expression in abuses. However, God’s grace and mercy did not leave me in the state of a victim. Again, he led me further, into the state of the victor.
- To seek peace rather than justice
- To pursue reconciliation over blame
- To extend to others the same grace, mercy, and love which I had received from him
- And most amazingly, to choose to suffer willingly and share the pain of those who knew only how to abuse
Though I didn’t fully understand it then, the example I was following was that set by our Lord when he said – forgive them Father, for they know not what they do. This he prayed as he willingly took the sin and abuses of the world upon himself.
From the perspective of the world, the path of the victim is a bleak one; leaving them devoid of peace and oftentimes in a much worse state.
|The abused, beaten down, and oppressed||Are readily identified as victims||The world’s idea of judgment and morality empower them to accuse, condemn, and punish||In the end, the victim is left without peace, and often becomes the worst abuser – oppressing and beating down others|
But thank God we have an intercessor skilled at rebuilding the bruised reed and the flickering flame, those souls hanging on with the last breath of life, so that Yeshua the Christ can bring justice to victory in righteousness. His path to victory is profoundly different.
|The abused, beaten down, and oppressed|
(they suffer unwillingly)
|Recognized as a victim|
(they’re not at fault)
|Forgive as you’ve been forgiven|
(they extend grace, mercy, and love)
|Become the victor|
(they can now suffer willingly)
- The abused, beaten down, or oppressed often associate the fault for their condition to their own unworthiness. Yet through Christ, they are shown the healing power of grace, mercy and love.
- The path to healing begins with the awareness that they are victims – often times at one end of a long cycle of victims – each victim expressing their inward pain to those around them.
- How can that cycle be broken and the victim liberated? Only through forgiveness. Most times that forgiveness must come before the repentance of the offender, otherwise we’re held captive by the chains of the blind and the unrepentant.
This is the path we’re called to walk in Christ – to forgive as we’ve been forgiven. Has God not extended abundant grace, mercy, and love to each of us through his only-begotten son?
- The process that leads one into healing and wholeness is only the beginning. Being the victim who can forgive is a far cry better than being an abused, oppressed, or unforgiving victim. Yet it is still a far cry further from our Lord, who is the victor in life.
If any would say that Christ was a victim, then they are either not his or misunderstand the Lord they serve. The motive of the victor is incomprehensible to the oppressed or the abused, because they view their condition from two opposing perspectives;
- The victimized suffer unwillingly, submitting to their powerlessness
- Whereas the victor, in the fullness of power and will, surrenders to the suffering. This is his greatest strength.
It is that perspective which sets the goal of the victor as high above the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (what we call morality) as the spiritual realm is above the physical realm.
If we let it, the Spirit will lead us from the comfortable and known into the uncomfortable and unknown – through faith and trust in God. That has become my goal, I hope it becomes yours also.