There was a day when I knew who God was, but I didn’t know Him.
I had no idea that He was watching over me, let alone singing over me, and waiting for me, with great long-suffering.
Today, I remember the story.
As a young girl, I attended church here and there with my friend Nan. I remember being excited one time I visited, when missionaries shared their experiences of giving in other countries. The whole experience stayed with me. And I remember coloring pages.
I think back in high school, attracted to the spiritual world. Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach was found in my hands over and over again. Quotes that moved me I wrote on scraps of paper to look at during school, like:
It wasn’t until I moved away from my home in Phoenix, Arizona to NYC, did I experience New Age powerless failure, to continually an insatiable hunger to meet God, the True and Living God.
and that’s after searching in a ‘spiritual world’ that was literally, ‘out on a limb’ without God! This search only led to healthy food and ‘self-realization, but NO power. No power to do a changing work in me.
I have been a child of God since a very rainy Palm Sunday in NYC when I was 20 years old, not by saying some traditional prayer, or anything like that, it was simply a process of God drawing me nearer to Him, and ultimately simply talking to God straight from my heart in desperation, and He heard…but before that took place, I guess the first real moment of conversion for me was making the decision to go to church in the first place! I walked into church on Palm Sunday because a few weeks prior, I had sat in a 12-step program meeting because I had eating disorders that were ‘making my life unmanageable.’
At this first meeting, someone was reading the steps to recovery and they read the words: “and came to believe in a Power greater than myself”, etc. As I was listening to the steps to recovery, I was looking around the room (it was a church meeting room). And there was a poster on the
wall that said, “Let GOD.”
Seeing this word ‘GOD’ turned on a light in my heart and I remember thinking, “Yes, I need God.”
It was that powerful for me. Words cannot even describe what had happened even then, but the words spoke to me, and perhaps it was because I was a big mess, and I finally admitted it and realized I couldn’t ‘fix’ it on my own.
The other signs on the wall (that I actually think on very often, even still) were: ‘HALT, never get too hungry, angry, lonely , or tired’,
and ‘Easy does it, first things first, one at a time’. But there was even another poster, it’s well known today, but to me, it was life transforming – it was the serenity prayer, ‘God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference!’
I think about these thoughts, even today because, each in their own way, they turn the chaos into a focus once again on God, who then in turn helps all the ‘frantic-ness of mind’ to HALT, and take note if I am simply hungry, angry, lonely, or just plain tired. Then in the discovery of my immediate need, be it to eat, or to forgive, or to make a call, or take a nap; there is now time to grasp: ‘Easy does it- first things first, one at a time’. All of a sudden, ‘paralysis’ now turns to life and simple direction, where I can breathe and move again, by acceptance: ‘God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. That I can accept those things that will not change, that I can take a look at myself and change the things that I actually have some control over, and that I continually look to God for wisdom to know the difference from the two!
Back to that Palm Sunday; for this reason, I walked into Norman Vincent Peale’s Church in Manhattan, (because I had read one of his ‘positive thinking books in high school. And I was now living in NY having graduated from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts nearby.
Anyway, I was there in my black pumps with my curly hair and my polka-dotted dress,(yes, kind of like Bette Boop!) and watched Norman Vincent Peale hold up his Bible, and I heard him say many times over, “This Book is the most Powerful Book ever written. This Book can turn you around! This is a most amazing Book!”
I was all ears, but when the choir sang, I talked with God. I prayed. And it was a sincere prayer from the depths of my heart. Kind of like the prayer that George Bailey prayed in ‘It’s a Wonderful Life when he prayed at the bar.’ I didn’t really have the ‘right’ words, but I had the right heart and I asked, “God, if Jesus is Your Son, show me.”
I know this prayer was genuine because, the first thing I did when I got out of that church building was- buy a Bible!
I bought one of those easy to read paraphrased Bibles and began reading it as I traveled on the subways. God answers prayer.
It is true, ‘You will seek Him and find Him, when you seek Him with all of your heart.’ He forgave me, (even though it did take me awhile to really believe that He did), I learned to forgive myself and began a process of forgiving others.
He helped me learn how to eat, and He healed me of my eating disorders. Now, this didn’t happen over-night, this took a process of time. But, do you know what it really took?
Quite honestly, it was thinking on a particular Bible verse that God put on my heart – that was the answer to freedom for me, and continues to be the verse that gets me on track when I find myself going the wrong way. You are probably wondering, “How can that be true?” “How can a Bible verse set someone straight?” “Just a ‘catchy’ phrase can get someone on track?”
Well, when you are ‘sick of being sick’ and you want your life back – when you are sick of being ‘sick and tired’ something finally happens – your ears are open, your heart is open, and your mind then, is able to ‘think on what is true’ and not the lie. There is POWER in TRUTH. “The verse?” you ask.
Matthew 16:24, “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me,
let him deny himself,
and take up his cross,
and follow Me.’
“For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”
You see, with compulsive obsessive behavior, I needed to ‘deny myself’ – I needed to deny myself the ‘self destructive’ behavior , and my negative, insecure, and angry thought life. Period. It’s the thought life that is the killer in destructive behavior. What in the world are you thinking? Well, whatever it is, that will make or break you.
I then needed to take up my cross. Now to me, that meant, “Not my will, but God’s will be done.” My will was to destroy all the good, God’s will was to bring good into my life!
Not my will, but God’s will be done!
That is what ‘picking up my cross’ means to me. Those were the words of Jesus before facing His total surrender to the excruciating pain of the cross. You see, MY WILL was to destroy all that was good, that was the ‘natural’ me. Insecure, afraid, etc.
BUT God wanted my life to be used to glorify Him, not to be tied up in knots with an eating disorder. That was not God’s will for me. So I had to – over and over again- deny myself, pick up my cross and pray, “Jesus , not my will but Yours be done.”
And I believe this is a daily thing. I believe this is a ‘moment by moment’ thing, I believe this is a ‘step by step’ thing-which leads me to… follow Him, to continue to grow in Him. And, in order to do this, I needed to surround myself with others that wanted to follow Him, because I was in a battle, I could not do this on my own.
Moment by moment, day by day as I learned to surrender to the will of the Father, I began to be healed. I had set-backs, but I learned ‘if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us of all unrighteousness.’ (1 John 1:9), I had someone that I was accountable to, to call when I wasn’t thinking ‘right’.
God helped me overcome an eating disorder, one day at a time, and good thing because it was His plan for me to go through 11 complete term pregnancies, and 4 miscarriages.)
Yes, and that was the other miracle in my story. I was ‘never’ going to have kids! As I grew in the Lord, however, my attitude became, “Lord, what is Your will for my life!”
For me, His will is quite simply, to be a child of God, a wife and a mother, and a sister, and a friend, and to encourage all to worship the Lord with a song, (and even perhaps to play the instrument which leads others to do the same!)
But I can’t do even the basic things in life well without Him, so I wake up each morning praying, “Search me O God, and know my heart, try me and know my anxieties, see if there is any wicked way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Ps. 139:23,24)
“And in that day you will say:
O LORD, I will praise You; Though You were angry with me, Your anger is turned away, and You comfort me.
Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid; ‘For YAH, the LORD, is my strength and my song; He also has become my salvation.” Isaiah 12: 1,2.
So my first song? Simply discovering that yes, it’s true, “Jesus loves me, this I know…”
So, for people like me that struggle in their thought life, God has shown me, that many times, it’s a song that is the remedy. It’s His word and truth as well. It’s how I’m thinking for the moments of my day.
First, I have to stop- HALT- to take it easy, first things first one at a time, to continue through my day , and think on Him the ‘author and finisher of my faith’ and as the crazy, unexpected rough edges of life come and hurt me, like a thorn on a bush on a finger full of nerves.
Even if today is the first day you have acknowledged God, it is not the first day that He has acknowledged you. He’s just waiting for you to respond to His love.
I had no idea how God loved me. But He shows me more and more. There is a songwriter, worshiper, worship leader who was given some words right before she went home to be with Him. I believe these are the words God has for you and me, yesterday, even in darkness, today, in uncertainty and forever for all of eternity, for all who turn and acknowledge Him as their Father, and Jesus His Son:
I Will Care For You,by Mary Barrett
I sing this love song to you My child, I love you with an everlasting love.
Trust Me and hold on to me with all your heart. I will care for you.
My love has drawn you with tenderness.
Nothing can take away My love for you.
Trust Me and hold on to Me with all your heart. I will care for you.
Love letter written so long ago, Promises given , I’ll never let you go.
I sing this love song to you My child…I will care for you. Mary Barrett, The Vanishing Point, footsteprecords.com
Maybe I share my story just for myself to remember where God has brought me from, but maybe it will encourage you. I do pray that you at least know that God is able to accomplish all that concerns you…find an old song from church or an old hymnal, start ‘chewing’ on those words of truth – you are what you eat… I mean, ‘think’, you know!
Much love in Christ, Toni Rypkema