A couple weeks ago we had a sermon at church about Motives. It was a great sermon that got my head and heart back to where it needed to be, especially with the upcoming two year anniversary of my father’s suicide. The question posed was: “Which will you pursue, greatness according to the world or greatness according to the word?” World greatness is a wanting to be known as great, to receive praise or prestige from others, and to be better (or greater) than others. Word greatness is not a needing to be first but a willingness to be last; to be a servant of God’s will. The sermon ended with the statement “The only opinion of you that will ever matter is Jesus’.”
My head and heart have done some fighting the past couple years regarding the opinion of others. Some days my head would become so concerned with opinions that my heart couldn’t carry out God’s will for me. The reason I was so concerned about these opinions is because they were based on lies. The lies stemmed from someone that should be able to be trusted by others to be telling the truth. The motive of these lies was so the perpetrator could cover up their own lies that they had lived for a long time. This person thrives on the definition of world greatness. Appearances! Nothing genuine and authentic or from the heart. Their motive is the complete opposite of mine.
People have formed an inaccurate opinion of me and that bothers my head. But at the end of the day, my heart knows that their opinions don’t matter. The people that love me and recognize truth are all that I need in my life. And Jesus knows that I chose truth, I chose word greatness, over carrying out the lie of false appearances and world greatness. I am just so thankful that in the summer of 2017 when my whole life as I knew it was turned upside down by learning the truth about someone I loved dearly, that I completely surrendered my heart and prayed, and Jesus filled my heart with peace and strength. My father’s suicide and the turmoil of lies that ensued afterwards would have broken someone without faith. I was so consumed by my faith and what it had done for my life that I made a profession of faith and was baptized.
Here is my testimony that I read to the congregation:
I grew up in a home that attended an Episcopalian church occasionally. We were a part of the Christmas and Easter crowd. Bible study was not something we did at home. I was confirmed into the Episcopalian church my senior year in high school. I could recite the Nicene creed but I didn’t know John 3:16.
Wood and I began dating in late November of our senior year of college. We were immediately inseparable. He was different than anyone I’ve ever known. Not only did he treat me with a level of respect I’d never felt before; there was more. There was a grounded, centered core to his heart and I was yearning for more. I had never encountered anyone with his level of faith and we were only 21. One of the first gifts he gave me was a red leather KJV bible with my name embossed on the cover. Just like his. He encouraged me to learn the word but was never forceful. And thus my journey began.
When little Wood was born, I knew I wanted to raise him in a Christian home. I was still on my journey and wanted his to begin at a young age. As I have watched him grow, I have seen Jesus living through him. His heart is truly inspiring and the encouragement he gives to be Christ-like is almost unbelievable. It started as a toddler but the depth of it has grown as he matures. Every day he has been witness to my faith and its growth. He inspired me to know and learn to be Christ-like. To focus on what matters. But I still wondered one thing. I had heard people say that Jesus was in their heart, both of my Woods felt it, and I was wondering if it’s just a saying or of it truly is a feeling.
On June 26, 2017, I received a phone call that devastated me. I was so broken-hearted to learn what had been my reality my entire life wasn’t the truth. My whole world had been turned upside down and everything I had ever known had been a ruse. A love and respect that had guided many of my life decisions was not mutual. The more I tried to make sense of it, the worse the situation became. I began spending a lot of time on my porch each morning in prayer. Sometimes I would read a devotional, sometimes I would journal, and sometimes I would just stare into the distance and let myself cry. It was during this utterly vulnerable season that I truly opened my heart. And Jesus did not disappoint. Here I was at the hour of my most need and he lifts me up. Even though the actual situation didn’t improve, Jesus changed my heart and my perspective. My life was looking much differently but with each passing day I became more content and at peace and truly found a joyful heart despite all of the truths and untruths encompassing my life. I became firmly planted, just like that strength I had recognized in Wood nearly 20 years ago. The writings in my journal followed my transformation.
On the morning of Monday October 16, 2017 I wrote in my journal:
“My heart and mind are at peace and full of joy because I have the love of two perfect boys and they make my life complete. I am thankful for them, for recognizing the truth of my life, and for God filling my heart with peace and joy!”Just a few hours later I received the call that my father had taken his own life with a gunshot to the head. To say a whole new realm of emotions and questions flooded over me is an understatement. I was so blessed during this time to have Jesus in my heart. He carried me when I needed him most. I have continued to pray for strength and grace; it’s how you put one foot in front of the other. But most of all I have prayed for a soul that didn’t know Jesus; I pray that he was given one last opportunity. Jesus answers my prayers with assurance and I want to be a witness to everyone, believers or not, that with Christ all things are possible.
Two years later, there has been no change in the lies or the opinions. But there has been a change in me. My faith has only grown deeper. Grown to a point I want to share it with others and hopefully help others on their journey of a faith-based life. I want to share with them the peace that only Jesus can bring into your life. Once you know a peace like that, the opinion of others no longer consumes your head because your heart is consumed with peace.
So, I will leave you with this question: What type of greatness are you trying to achieve in your life?