I unfollowed God because I transitioned into adulthood.We all like the stories of people that 1. were sinful, 2. found Jesus, and 3. now everything’s great. But what if that’s not my story? One of our members here at Grace, Michel, shares his testimony having grown up in the church only to slowly fade away as he transitioned into adulthood. “For those of you that don’t know me, my name is Michel Harding and I probably have a very similar story to some of you in this room. I grew up in a Christian household, I was in church every Sunday, I went to Sunday school most of the time, I went to a private Christian school for kindergarten, and vacation Bible school most summers. From day one my parents taught me all about the Bible stories: David and Goliath… Jesus and the disciples… Adam and Eve. But for me the stories were not deep/personal, they were just stories. I remember being in Colorado and going to church, I must have been in fourth or fifth grade, and I remember planning out when I would get up and go “use the restroom” during worship. I was the type of kid who did not like worship back then. Anyways, I knew that there were three songs, but I had to be careful. If I went too soon, I would get back at the beginning of the second song. But if I went too late, I would walk in after everyone has already taken a seat and everyone would notice. But that is what I did. What I did not realize is that these thoughts of “being bored” stayed with me and continued to grow as I went to high school. I Started realizing that it was not exciting to wake up early in the morning on Sunday to go to church…. The messages were boring…. I did not understand the Bible…. I was more excited about seeing the friends that I knew then what we were doing and the message that we were listening to. That was my life through high school. Then came college. I had all the freedom in the world. And I don’t know about y’all but I also had an amazing ‘book of excuses.’ ‘Oh, I don’t want to wake up early because it’s my only day off.’ ‘Oh, I need to get my rest…’ ‘Oh I need to study for my classes because I’m going to college and working.’ ‘I don’t have time.’ Each excuse added upon the last until I found myself taking step after step after step away from my faith. The next thing I knew I had not been to church in 2 years. During this time, I became a workaholic. I would work 50 to 60 hours a week, go to school 15 hours a week and then come home and sleep. I used to joke about how my life revolves around three things: work, school and sleep. And that I knew the semester was almost over I would always get sick at the end of each semester. For my work… I became stagnate. I was not learning new things. I was not growing. I was doing the same thing over and over. Then I graduated college. I stayed in Lubbock and kept working, but I lost the aspect of interactions that going to class every day brought. I had not built up real relationships with people so I got to this lonely time. AS a result, I was bringing my frustrations to work. I was getting frustrated with people when they did not meet my ‘high standards.’ I would take my workaholic mindset and expect people to do the same. I was running people into the ground and wearing them out. As a result I was pushing people away at work.. which led to even more loneliness. This was the only time in my life that I can truly say I was lonely and depressed. …But thank God, that my story doesn’t end there. By the grace of God, I had a fellow brother in the faith that invited me to church. Being as lonely as I was, I jumped at the opportunity to build some relationships with somebody outside of the four walls of the place that I worked. I started going to church and listening to this fantastic pastor who just spoke the truth about the Bible. Truth that started building up convictions in my heart for the first time in my life. I remember that this pastor would always challenge the congregation with three things; He would say if we would just read our Bibles every single day, go to church once a week and join a life group, we would be amazed at what our lives will look like 6 to 12 months from today. I took this concept and ran with it. I started reading my Bible (not every day but close), I was in the church pews every single Sunday, and I joined a life group. And what I will tell you is that the life group is where things started getting crazy. I think it was the second, or third time that I was attending this life group, the leader started talking about the day that he was baptized. How excited he was and how great of a day he remembered. Now, remember what I said earlier, I was in a Church from day one. I was baptized when I was in kindergarten, or first grade, but I couldn’t remember the day… I couldn’t remember this massive declaration of my faith… Did I make the decision because everyone else did that day, or because I genuinely wanted a relationship with Christ? Even to this day, I do not remember, but what I can tell you is that this was the first of many convictions that the Lord placed on my heart. I just knew that I had to get baptized again. Not because I needed some validation from my life group leader. Not because it says in the Bible that if you can’t remember the single day that you were baptized that it “didn’t work,” and you must do it again. But simply because I felt in my heart that this is what God was calling me to do. …so that’s what I did. I got baptized again, and what I’ll tell you is that from that day on, my life changed. I can honestly say that since the day I got baptized, March 16, 2016, my loneliness disappeared. My depression… gone. The beginning of Every single spiritual gift that God has given me can be linked back to that day. Two months later, I got a job that jump started my career. Five months after that, I met this beautiful woman who is now my wife, and in about 30ish days, my first child will be born. Now, I can go on and on about each of the many stepping stones that have landed me in front of you all today, but long story short, it was like this one event sparked them all. Now, please do not understand me… all of these events did not happen because of being baptized. All of these blessings happened because I listened to a conviction that God placed on my heart, and what I will tell you is that God states over and over again in his word that he will bless those who listen to Him.”
Bitterness is one of the the most consuming of emotions. It’s human nature to feel disappointed, betrayed, envious, and frustrated at times; but we must be cautious as to how we refine those feelings on a daily basis. If we aren’t regularly tending to our heart it quickly becomes a breeding ground for seeds of bitterness and eventually leaves us with a garden of resentment. Hebrews 12:15 stresses this very value.
“Look after each other so that none of you fails to receive the grace of God. Watch out that no poisonous root of bitterness grows up to trouble you, corrupting many.”The choice is ours. We choose how we cultivate our hearts. We choose who we give control to. We choose if we forgive those who’ve wronged us. We choose. Our heart can either be a place where bitterness thrives or one where bitterness dies — the choice is ours. –Brooke