Faith Sharing – Trust and Forgiveness
Faith Sharing is a regular part of our worship of God at White Plains Presbyterian Church. The following was shared by a member of the congregation on Sunday, April 27, 2012
When Pastor Jeff invited me to share my Faith Journey with the congregation, my first reaction was, (even though I did not tell him) “I can’t do that”. Now, I don’t have a problem sharing my short-comings, my doubts and my fears with my friends in Bible Study, but with the congregation? WOW! That’s a bit of a stretch. Well, after many weeks of dredging up memories, some not too pleasant for me, I invite you to follow me on this bumpy ride.
I was brought up in a God-fearing home – but in 1972, after many years of emotional turmoil, my faith diminished and I denied the existence of God. Praise be to God, my faith has been restored, and today I can assure you that no trial or tribulation that life throws my way would ever cause me to doubt that God is real.
Let me give you a brief glimpse into my upbringing. My Mom, may God rest her soul, told me that I started attending Sunday School at age 3-1/2. By the time I was five, my doting parents would ask me to entertain their guests by reciting Scripture Passages and as precocious as I was, I gladly accommodated. I remember reciting the 23rd Psalm, The Lord’s Prayer, John 3:16 etc., etc. This was common practice until I was well over six years old. After that, no more show time. At age seven my sister and I were not only attending Sunday School but also Christian Endeavor every Tuesday evening. Incidentally, my sister and I received prizes every year for regular attendance at both Sunday School and Christian Endeavor.
Even as a child I believed in the power of prayer. I remember every morning throughout Elementary School, I would say to my helicopter Mom who accompanied me to the gate, “Off to school, Mama –pray for me.” My sister didn’t say that, and as far as I knew, the other kids in the vicinity did not say that, they usually said, “Bye Mama”. I also remember when I was twelve years old and was studying for the FIRST JAMAICA LOCAL EXAMINATION. I had studied six subjects for one year and on the morning of the big exam, I asked a spiritual neighbor of ours to come over and pray for me. Miss Iris, who knew the Bible inside out, obliged. She came into the Living Room and together with my Mom and me, we knelt on the floor, holding hands as she prayed. Well, let me tell you, three months later, when the results were published, I passed that exam with distinctions. The positive answer to our prayers further cemented in the mind of a twelve year old girl, that God is real and that He answers prayers.
By the time I was a teenager I was very much involved in Youth Circle at the church and almost always stayed behind for Evening worship at 7pm. If you are wondering where I am going with this, I’ll tell you.
My journey took a sharp turn. In my sheltered upbringing, I was not prepared for life’s inevitable personal storms. So, in 1972, after many years of what seemed like no end to my misery, I denied the existence of God and I expressed that without reservation to all my friends. Incidentally, they were all believers. At that time, I honestly believed that if there were a Higher Power, He would surely not allow my children and me to suffer like that. After all, I loved my neighbors, I followed the Golden Rule, I read the Bible, I prayed, so why this agony? I felt that if there were a God, why wasn’t He creating a miracle in the life of the individual who caused me so much grief? That would put an end to my incredible sorrow. In my despair I felt that all that I had learned about the Creator, all that I believed in from childhood was nothing but a myth. I had given up on God. Some of my friends suggested that I re-read the book of Job; a few reminded me of the words in Jeremiah 33:3 – CALL TO ME AND I WILL ANSWER YOU. That’s not what I wanted to hear. A beloved sister-in-law refused to listen to what she called my stupid rhetoric, and she told me that she would continue to pray to HER God to open my eyes. She not only kept her promise, she also submitted my name to a Spiritual Group in CT to ask for prayers. This group prayed for me, sent me literature and encouraged me to once again turn to the Scriptures and to pray. Somewhere along the line, my faith was not only restored but it entered a new height. In hindsight, I came to realize that GOD DID NOT PROMISE DAYS WITHOUT PAIN; GOD DID NOT PROMISE LAUGHTER WITHOUT SORROW; GOD DID NOT PROMISE SUNSHINE WITHOUT RAIN. What GOD does promise is STRENGTH FOR THE DAY; COMFORT FOR THE TEARS AND LIGHT FOR THE WAY. A bit of plaigerism there.
Today, I know that MY SAVIOR had NEVER left me, NOR had He forsaken me. In those dark days, I chose to put out of my mind, God’s words to Joshua, “DO NOT BE DISCOURAGED, FOR THE LORD YOUR GOD WILL BE WITH YOU WHEREEVER YOU GO.” That same promise that God made to Joshua and other Patriarchs of the Bible, still holds for each and every believer today. I feel blessed that God did not hold my misstep against me and I am now back home in the house of the Lord forever.
Once the scales fell from my eyes and I got back into the discipline of praying, reading the Bible I cannot begin to tell you the many blessings that God has bestowed on me.
I don’t want you to think that in my born-again life I have been totally obeying His words. Oh no! Along this Journey I found myself struggling with the unwillingness to FORGIVE. I know that Christ emphasized the importance of forgiving others, including one’s enemies, and I know that Our Lord practiced what he taught, but I would tell myself that HE is the Son of God, that is why He can do that. I am only a sinner. Stay with me now. How does one love one’s enemy; how does one love someone who has hurt you deeply? I don’t know about you, but that is not easy. It took Pastor Jeff to help me lay down the burden I had been carrying for so many years. Those of you who remember Pastor Jeff’s sermon on Forgiveness on September 11th will understand. The scheduled Lay Leader for that Sunday could not attend and I happened to stop by the church on the prior Friday afternoon. Pastor Jeff saw me and said to me, “How would you like to be Lay Leader on Sunday?” Little did I know that the Sermon was about FORGIVENESS, nor did the Pastor know of my struggle with that topic – not unless he was clairvoyant. Was that a coincidence?? I DON’T THINK SO. During the sermon, Pastor Jeff suggested that the congregants take home some of the bricks from the structure that he and young August had built. The sermon struck a cord and I took home two bricks. The following Monday morning I attempted to take them with me on my early morning walk. I am sure I looked either comical, criminal or crazy, walking around with two bricks. After that practice, trust me, I got the message. An unforgiving spirit is an unnecessary burden – not worth the energy. I also saw some of the words from the Lord’s Prayer in a different light “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. How can we expect Our Heavenly Father to forgive us, if we are not willing to forgive those who cause us grief? Thank you Pastor Jeff and thank you my friends in Bible Study who have helped me bear many burdens over the years.
In conclusion, I would like to encourage others who find themselves traveling difficult roads to faithfully read the Good Book and pray. This way we get to know God’s character more deeply, so that when trials occur, we won’t feel overwhelmed and question God’s goodness.