[guestpost]Today’s Testimony Tuesday guest is my good friend, Tera Sellers. She’s an great speaker, and has preached at Camp Beno for our girls. I know that her testimony will bless you.[/guestpost][featured-image single_newwindow=”false”]
Beauty for Ashes
What an amazing exchange! The Lord took the ashes of my broken, burned over life and has given me the beauty of His mercy and grace.
I wore a mask to cover up the feelings of never being good enough, or smart enough, or pretty enough. A plastic smile for all to see while struggling to find something, anything, to fill the aching emptiness within.
My testimony is so typical. In junior high, I began smoking pot and drinking all the while maintaining the image of a good, smart girl. But by the age of 17, I grew tired of trying to hide the desperation, and surrendered to the depression. My illusion shattered around me.
Was I shooting up in alley ways and selling my body to get drugs? Was I stealing and facing jail time? No. Just existing. This is where so, so many find themselves; overwhelmed and not knowing where to turn. It could be anything; men, money, things, food. You try to stop and can for a brief time, but the emptiness engulfs you, and you turn to what you know to numb the pain.
The Bible says that there is pleasure in sin for a season. And for me there was, but sin “takes you farther than you want to go, keeps you longer than you want to stay and demands a price that is higher than you want to pay.”
I had been slowly stripping away my dignity and self-worth, and drowning in shame and regret. I was dying by degrees. When you have sex outside of marriage and especially at these tender ages, it leaves you with wounds that will not heal. They only fester.
In my junior year of high school, I just couldn’t do it anymore. I had gotten where I just did not want to live. I was sick and tired of trying to survive. I ended up spending three months in a rehab unit after getting scared of what I was doing and where I was headed.
Because rehab changes your behavior but not your heart, the emptiness was still there. The worthlessness and shame never went away, even when I was no longer using drugs and alcohol. And because I was seeking for someone just to love and accept me, I found myself pregnant my senior year. I married and divorced before I was 21 years old. Then I had gotten involved in a relationship with a man 22 years older than me. He was involved in some pretty perverted things that resulted in an even greater depth of hopelessness and helplessness. I felt like my body was only good for others to use and abuse. As you grow older, the chains of sin and shame wrap you stronger and stronger.
I had a chance to move from Mo to Alabama and I lept at it!
[shareable cite=”Tera Sellers”]…the problem with running away is that you take yourself with you.[/shareable]
I still was so broken and so empty inside. So, of course, I found a new man to ease the pain. After living with him for two years, the new had worn off. The feelings of worthlessness prevailed. It did not matter that I had a good job and material things. I was just existing. There was no joy, peace, hope, or true life. I knew that drugs and alcohol was not the answer. I knew another man would only fill the void temporarily. Moving cross country did not solve anything. The man I was living with, Pete, was just as mixed up and miserable as I was. One night, we were talking about it and one of us, I am not sure which, had said, maybe we need God.
He had grown up going to church and his children attended a Baptist church with the great aunt they lived with. We went one Sunday morning and tears rolled down my cheeks as I listened to the song….
All alone and broken hearted, trying to calm the raging battle in my mind
In search of many answers that my troubled soul just could not seem to find
I saw a flower blooming where there was no rain or sunshine
And I knew not that this flower would change the rest of my life…..
We left the service immediately after this song. I remember driving down the road. It was raining outside. I looked out the passenger window, and I asked Pete how did that song know exactly what I was feeling! And, I don’t even know anything about how to get or be saved. He said, “Let’s go to Mama’s. She will tell you.” And I said, “No, not today.”
But, I could not get that song out of my mind. Would God really want me? Why would He? And yet, hope began to blossom in my soul. Before long, we started attending Sunday School at his mother’s church, Grace Chapel A/G. And it was not long before Pete and I decided together that maybe God could help us find the hope and help we needed. That maybe, He was the answer to all I had been searching for my whole life. It was not an emotional conclusion we came to. It was not a decision we came to out of fear of hell. It was a rational decision based on facts. We both had tried everything to fill the void and nothing else had worked.
Since we were living together, we decided to get married. We did on a Tuesday and the following Sunday night we went to church. The pastor, Bro. Leon Mayfield, stopped the music and said something like, “Aren’t you tired of running? Just come and pray.” Oh, with a trembling heart and trembling legs, I made my way to an old fashioned altar. I knelt down, with tears rolling down my cheeks and told the Lord if He wanted my mess of a life, He could have it. I was so, so very tired of being me. I was a broken woman. I was exhausted from carrying the shame, the guilt, and my brokenness. I was not merely ashamed of the things I had done, I hated who I was, and knew I was absolutely helpless to change myself. And as I wept and cried out to God, and as those women who I thought could care less about someone like me, prayed with me, an amazing transformation began to take place. Even now, my eyes and heart are overwhelmed at the great grace and mercy of such a holy God who loved me, in spite of who and what I was. Jesus Christ washed me and made my soul clean. His Spirit filled the emptiness as nothing else ever had before! I felt the chains of sin and shame begin to fall. I felt clean and pure for the first time ever in my life. I experienced a joy that even today I cannot explain. I was vibrantly alive and filled with a peace that is beyond understanding. And I finally felt accepted and loved beyond measure!
That was almost 26 years ago, and I still have not gotten over the truth that Jesus loves me. As is. Unconditionally, relentlessly and eternally. It was not going to church. It was being born again, washed in the Blood of Jesus that He shed on that cruel cross at Calvary when He died instead of me to pay the penalty for sin. It is not doing right, but it is found in a real relationship with Jesus as my Lord and Savior—walking and talking with Him daily. True and abundant life comes from Him and Him alone. Every single thing I had been searching for, I have found in Him. Everything I am and everything I have is because of Jesus being the lover of my soul.
I found the Lily in my valley.
I found strength when I was worn.
I found a place to leave my burdens.
I found refuge from the storm.
A place where I traded my dark skies to beaming rays of sunshine.
I came to Him with nothing but a wasted, broken life and He has taken it and transformed it into a thing of grace and beauty. He has taken the shame and humiliation and given me His righteousness and His glory. He has given me the oil of His joy and filled me with Himself! Oh, to know Him is a wonderful, amazing thing!! You can’t explain it. You have to experience it for yourself!
I knew nothing about the Bible or God when I was born again. But I came across a scripture very soon after my salvation and I remember that it was pretty much what I saw and felt that night as I came and knelt at the feet of Jesus in broken surrender. With hands outstretched and love in His eyes, He says to you today, “Come unto Me all ye that are weary and are heavy laden and I will give your rest” (Matt 11:28) Not religion, not a system…but Me…an intimate and personal relationship with the Savior!
So if you are down and broken hearted
And just can’t seem to find peace of mind
You’re searching for your answers, but your problems are getting worse all the time
Just reach your hand to Jesus,
He will take you in and break the ties that bind.
He’ll be the Lily in your valley and you will watch Him bloom all the time!