Relationships Are Important
I am starting this series on relationships because of just how important relationships are to a healthy life. Relationships are a foundation of who we are and how we live. I am going to start off this series with my own personal story and the story of this marriage and family. I was the unlikely wife and mother. I grew up under difficult circumstances family wise and did not have a foundation for a happy home life. Many do not grow up that way either and are searching for what home and family can be. Here is my story and I hope to build on this as a course of healing and hope for those who are searching for significance.
They Said We Wouldn’t Make It
I did not grow up in a Christian home. Neither did my husband Ted. That is putting things mildly.
In 1989 I gave my body, soul and spirit to Jesus Christ. I was hurting, broken and needed a dramatic life change.
I was living with my boyfriend for some time, and we had split up. I had enough of that lifestyle and I was done. Let's just say there was a lot more partying and pain than there was love and respect.
He went to Las Vegas, Nevada one weekend with his friends and I took everything that wasn't nailed down and moved into my own apartment. My heart set on moving on and cutting off the relationship permanently.
That same weekend I began going to a Vineyard Community Church in the area. It was a great church. There were plenty of loving and wonderful people there who adopted me, as is. I was grateful for every single one of them. I am still in contact with many of them.
I had a pretty extreme conversion. The day I walked in that church, in fact, the minute I walked into that church, my body began to tremble from the inside out. During the worship time, I was so overcome by Holy Spirit, I could not speak, all I could do was shake and cry. A woman came over to me because she noticed me shaking and asked if she could pray for me. All I could do was nod 'yes' and she prayed. Her loving prayer touched me greatly.
After the service that day I went home and the Spirit remained heavy upon me. I could feel the weight of Him and the Presence of Him surrounding me. I had the sense of holy conviction and the mark of His Being in me, on me and around me. Even writing about it now, years later, I am moved and my heart pounds just like it did so many years ago.
I was compelled that day to clean out my apartment of things that no longer aligned with who I now was. I knew I was different and there was no room for compromise or engaging in things that were not befitting transformation. No one had to tell me that, I wouldn't have even had language for that kind of revelation.
I knew everything had changed. Not only did I clean out my home, but I cleaned out my 'friends'. I chose that day to cut off all unhealthy ties with everyone. That was really the most difficult part and made for some very difficult conversations. Nobody told me I had to do anything like that either, I knew from deep inside me that in order to survive, it had to be done. That was the beginning of a renewed journey with God and things of the Spirit. I dove deeper and deeper into my faith in the following months.
About three months later, my former boyfriend contacted me. He had a huge falling out with his stepfather. He had to leave the family home, which, he had moved back into after I left him. I told him he could move in with me temporarily until he could find another place.
Even though I had made the decision to separate completely from him a few months earlier, I had compassion for him, having been in that situation myself in the past. I told him he could live with me on a condition that he understood that I was not his girlfriend in any capacity and that he go to church with me while he was staying in my home. I was clearly defining my boundaries to preserve my own dignity and desires, as well as protect him from having his heart broken one more time.
My former boyfriend immediately began attending college/career group meetings and Sunday services with me and found another place to live. After about a month, he gave his life to Christ also.
They Said He Was Trouble
"That boy is trouble with a capital T, you need to get rid of that guy. He is going to cause you to backslide. He is only here because he is chasing you. I've seen this before, it happens all the time. Everyone is concerned about you." said a few different people.
"I understand why you would think that, but you don't know him. He is different. Everything about him is different. You didn't know how dark he was before. He has had an authentic encounter and it shows in hundreds of ways. He may have started off coming here for me, but that is not the case now. You are going to have to trust me. You'll see." I said.
I understood their concern. The truth is, the guy had a major God encounter like I did. The transformation was immediate. No more drugs, no more alcohol, and a complete attitude change. To this date, I have never seen anyone take to the gospel so immediately as him.
My former boyfriend had about a third grade reading level prior to his salvation and was reading AW Tozer from the get go, Tozer can be heavy with revelation and God concepts. Not only could he read the words, but he totally understood it. He experienced and heard God clearly. He functioned in signs and wonders and miracles immediately and had an understanding of the kingdom of God, complicated scriptures and biblical principles. I have never seen a man more loving, faithful and godly.
Still, the churched people (those who grew up in church and the Christian faith), which was pretty much everyone in our circle, did not completely buy the conversion. It took a while for them to see the goodness happening on the outside and recognizing it as a true God change on the inside.
I had at the point still felt like I was not interested in an intimate relationship with him. Trust had been lost because of the things that took place in our relationship for the past two years of dating and living together. I grew up in a home with alcoholism and domestic violence, and so did he. One of the reasons I moved out was because I could see us going down that same road as our parents did if there was not an immediate shift. I wasn't going to subject myself to the things I worked so hard to get away from. I still didn't trust him completely, nor did I have any respect left for him left at that point. Those feelings were residuals of my emotional and inner healing issues.
My former boyfriend had an encounter one day at a friend's house. He was sitting in his friend's room reflecting upon his life and he began to weep. His friend asked him what was wrong. He said he realized that he truly loved God and was no longer going to pursue me. He was going to focus on God alone because he had fallen in love with Him. It was a huge transition in his thinking.
Strange enough, that day, having no knowledge of this going on in him, suddenly I had a shift of my own. I'm not sure how it began, but I had an unusual turning of the heart. I literally felt my physical heart turn and change directions, as if it faced another way. I had an appreciation begin to grow and change shapes towards him. A new affection for him was conceived. Before this, there was a void, almost a hardness, suddenly there was a soft warm lightness towards him. A light turned on somewhere on the inside. My mind was changing.
Not too long after that we found ourselves in love again and planned to marry. God was healing the wounds and repairing the trust issues. We were being bonded together. Not everything was perfect though.
Shortly after that, we became sexually involved again. Guess what? I became pregnant too. Of course all the naysayers came out again with the I-told-you-so comments. The odds were against us, so were the voices. They said we wouldn't make it.
However, there were also those who were so filled with love and kindness, grace and compassion. There were those people who believed we could and would make it. Those were the ones who were able to impart the vision for redemption, covenant marriage, and family. Those were the ones who stand out and still impact me today. Not only did they embody the gospel, but stood up for and helped create a foundation for what they believed to be true. They chose to trust God and His work inside of us rather than merely exhort what they were against regarding our circumstances.
Empowering Faith That Remains
Yes, new believers do stumble sometimes. That does not mean their faith isn't real. It just means they are in the process of spiritual maturity. Not everything always comes together at once. That is why there is love, grace, repentance and forgiveness. Those things are inexhaustible and found in the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. If we choose to focus on the goodness of God rather than the stronghold of sin in people, we will see a great transformation of our generation. We will see those who come to Christ remain in Him without hesitation or reservation.
You want to see revival? You want to see reformation? You want to see transformation that is lasting?
Believe in God and in the power of the gospel, which is always good news.
Trust the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit inside of people.
Release the false responsibility to control everything.
Walk people through the processes of faith with encouragement.
Empower people to make their own decisions and walk on their own path.
Speak life into people when they are down and dying.
Build relationships instead of monitoring morality.
Provide foundations that under-gird others.
Empower people to think rather than tell people what they should think.
Love without conditions.
There's a good starter kit for you.
For those who knew we could make it and for those who said we would never make it:
We have never walked away from Christ, not even for a minute.
We are about to celebrate our 27th wedding anniversary in July 2017, and we are more in love now than we were then.
We have three adult children. At this point we have two amazing granddaughters.
I think we made it.
We continue to be alive and thrive and together.
Dare to hope.
Copyright © 2017 Toni Imsen. All Rights Reserved.