“THE PROCESS IS THE END. FOR IT IS THE PROCESS THAT IS GLORIFYING TO GOD.” --Oswald Chambers

"This life therefore, is not godliness but the process of becoming godly, not health but getting well, not being but becoming, not rest but exercise. We are not now what we shall be, but we are on the way. The process is not yet finished, but it is actively going on. This is not the goal, but it is the right road. At present, everything does not gleam and sparkle, but everything is being cleansed." --Martin Luther

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

THE JOURNEY-LONG

Now to test my memory… Back in ‘02, I was what I would call a carnal Christian, I had my fire insurance and that was it. I had allowed satan to bind me spiritually. He had been selling me lies most of my life and I was buying ever one, thus rendering me inept and ineffective spiritually. I was not the spiritual leader of my family; I had left that to my wife (which is sin). God has called us men to be the spiritual head and we will be held accountable to God for that! I knew I was not living the way I was supposed to. The hole of sin I had dug was huge, I had spent my whole life digging it and I was pretty good at it.
Satan had got a hold of me at the ripe old age of 10 years old. That was the first time I saw a pornographic magazine. To this day I can tell you exactly where I was and what was going on. I remember the exact moment. The only way I can describe it is a switch being flipped or a door being opened that was not to be opened. Satan had me; he showered me with guilt, shame, self hatred, and told me that I could not tell anyone because I was the only one. You can imagine the constant conflict taking place. As I grew and become a young man, I chose the wrong path; I tried to escape my pain in all the usual ways of the world (alcohol, drugs, porn, cutting), when the only way to escape the pain is to be set free from it through the power of Jesus Christ. I grew up in church but I thought I was the only one screwed up (another lie). I believe one of the reasons the church in America is dying is because so many men in the church are living in bondage to sin (like pornography). These things need to be brought to the light.
When I look back, I’m amazed at how involved God was in my life. He never left me. He was constantly trying to draw me back into relationship with Him. I believe He wept over me many times as any father would over his prodigal son. He brought people into my life that to this day continue to pray for me. And he gave me parents who never wrote me off but prayed for me.
After high school, work and money became my god for three years, until I burnt myself out. Some would say God lead me to Bible school. I see it more that He drove me to Bible School.
Remember, I was a guy deep in sin. Bible school was not my first choice, but I wanted a vacation, a place to relax. I clearly remember feeling lead in this direction, and I didn’t particularly like it. But once again God had a plan. One particular weekend home I was talking to a certain prayer warrior. She informed me she was praying that I would meet my wife-to-be at school. Well, in all my worldly wisdom, I informed her that there were a lot more important things to be praying about and for others too. She proceeded to “rip me a new one” and rightfully so! She also informed me that “she will pray for whatever and whomever she wants and God WILL answer her prayer.” Three weeks later, I brought home Kelly. She still reminds me of it from time to time! Boy was I a fool!
A year later Kelly and I were married. Things were pretty stormy early in our marriage. By year three I was wondering if we made a mistake. Kelly had no idea things were that bad. But frankly divorce was not an option. I have to take responsibility for our troubles. By this time my hole was really getting deep. Instead of my addiction to porn getting better, it got worse. It’s strange; there were times that I clearly felt the Lord’s leading even though I wasn’t walking with Him. One of those times came, and I confessed to my wife my sin. I think that was probably the start of the road to healing. I didn’t realize that my wife had been praying for me and had been asking others to pray for me as well.
This was a hard road to go down. I was recognizing sin in my life and I would try not to sin but I would fail and fail miserably. When I would fail it would just drive me deeper into my sin. My wife wasn’t completely oblivious (only partly so she says) to what was going on but she didn’t nag or force me to go where I wasn’t ready to go. God granted her tremendous patience; I can be a slow learner (hardheaded) at times. All this time I had no desire to go to church or be around other believers, for obvious reasons. I was afraid that someone would be able to see my sin. And I had worked very hard to keep it hidden.
Kelly had been making new friends at MOPS. Little did I know this was all a part of the Lord’s plan. There was one particular gal Kel became friends with. I didn’t know (neither did Kelly) that this gal’s husband was just coming out of a lot of the same sin I was stuck in. About a year later we were invited to a bible study at their house. I did not want to go but Kelly did and frankly if I knew what was good for me I’d suck it up and go. It wasn’t what I expected-not sure what I expected. I found that this couple genuinely cared about people, and that he and I had a lot of common interests. Then he shared with the whole group that Jesus Christ had set him free from an addiction to pornography. Needless to say I became very attentive. I started thinking that if Christ can do that for him, He can do it for me. The study was on being set free from spiritual bondage, something I had never heard about. It fascinated me and it sort of made sense but I wasn’t completely sold on it. The last night was for “ministry.” I’m like, okay, what’s that? Well we broke up into smaller groups to pray (to confess out loud and repent of sin) and to command that any hold that satan had on our lives to be broken in the name of Jesus Christ! I was scared to say the least but I figured I had nothing to lose and I wanted to know if this was real, if it was truth. It was! Praise God it was! As I was praying I literally felt a weight lift from my shoulders. I felt 20 lbs. lighter. It was amazing. I didn’t tell Kel what happened; I was afraid to, that it might nullify it. The wall that satan and myself had built now had a major opening in it.
Over the next year God and I worked through some junk. You see, the more light you let in, the more garbage (sin) you see. The end of that year Kelly came to me and asked me to pray about whether or not we should have more kids. I told her I would; but I didn’t. In fact I TOLD God how it was going to be: we were going to have more kids because I wanted a son. My arrogance still amazes me. Well, Kelly got pregnant and at about 12 weeks Kelly became ill and wound up in the hospital for a few days. At that point the baby was fine, two weeks later she had a checkup. She called me from the doctor’s office and told me she needed an ultra-sound to check on the baby. When I hung up the phone with her I already knew, don’t ask me how I just did. And I knew why! Now this is where a lot of people will strongly disagree. The fact is I lost my son because of my sin. I had chosen to take God’s place. God shares His throne with no one! There is nothing God won’t do to maintain a relationship with His children. In Hebrews 12 (a quote from Proverbs 3) it says that our Father disciplines those He loves. God is love, yes but He is also just! If He would not have disciplined me I would not be where I am today. Did He enjoy it, NO. I believe it broke His heart, and that He wept over me. He loved me too much to let me go. We say God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow. In the Old Testament God showed great love, grace, and mercy towards His people but He also at times disciplined them for their sin. For instance, King David’s son died because of his sin. That was the price of David’s sin. Yes, he confessed and repented but there were still consequences to his sin as well as to ours. During that time of grieving I felt God’s arms around me like I never have. I confessed my sin to God face down on the basement floor. And He forgave me. I also had to confess to my wife, and ask for her forgiveness. She did.
After that time, I began going to prayer and worship at church on Wednesday nights. This trial turned my focus even more to prayer. I remember one night at prayer I finally, completely surrendered to God. I was convicted of my sin, yet again. God sent His Son to die for me, and all my life I had asked things from God, but I had never offered him anything. So I told Him, whatever it is you want me to do, the answer is YES.
Months passed, I continued in seeking Him, praying, developing the relationship I never had with Him before. I forgot my “offer” to Him. But He didn’t! A few months later, God worked on my life again, convicting me of sin in my life. See a pattern yet? This time it was a sin of prejudice; not extending grace to people. During the sermon Sunday morning in church, I clearly, audibly, heard God tell me Kelly and I weren’t to have any more kids of our own, we were to adopt. Not exactly a thought on my own radar. I wrestled, and cried, and struggled with God all day long. Later that afternoon working in the barn, God clearly impressed on me that I was to go to prayer at church that night. I got there, and eventually the story spilled out. My friend told me the story of Abraham and Isaac. I knew the story of course, but this time it had special meaning to me. In the barn that afternoon I had asked God, why? Why adopt? He didn’t tell me, He told me to go to prayer. This story was His answer to me. God was asking me if I was willing to give up my desire for a son, for His son, for the son He would have for me. It was then that I remembered my offer that was still on the table, and that I had already said yes.
Hours later the prayer meeting ended, and I still had to milk cows… and talk to Kelly. I hadn’t told her ANYTHING yet. I called and asked her to join me in the barn so we can talk. Not necessarily the right words to say to a woman, she was thinking the worst I’m sure! At this point, there was still a pretty big wall between us. I felt inferior to her in so many ways, not the least of which was on the spiritual side. There was this huge wall I felt I couldn’t get over to even talk to her about spiritual matters. I began to share the events of the day. I wasn’t sure how she would respond, I asked what she thought of all this. I will never forget the words she said to me, “it doesn’t matter what I think or feel-God is talking to you, and I am not going to get in the way.” That huge wall just crumpled in the 3 seconds it took her to say those words.
Needless to say, we (Kelly) began the process of researching adoption. A month or so later we had a referral for some boys in Sierra Leone. The process was long, as adoptions are, and we were preparing to go to SL to fight to bring those boys home, even jokingly saying we’d go do missions for six months there to meet the residency qualifications for adopting. It was during the preparations that we found out our boys weren’t even at the orphanage or with our agency. Our agency was unknowingly being fleeced by a few gentlemen. It was good to be involved in stopping that fraud, we knew God’s hand had been in this process, but we still felt hurt and frustrated.
Through conversations and connections, we ended up with our new agency, Acres of Hope. When we accepted Joseph’s referral and began the final preparations for him to come home, Kelly found out she was pregnant. Originally we had planned to adopt two boys, even had the referrals for two. The week Kelly got the positive test, one of our boys had to leave the orphanage. We look back now and know that that too was God’s work. As we were obedient to Him, he gave me the desire of my heart-and not just one son, but two! About three months later, Joseph came home, and six months later he was joined by our other son Myron.
Joe’s adoption was another stepping stone in our faith journey. I foolishly thought that my offer to God was paid in full! But it was an open-ended deal. It’s been amazing for us to see the many, many other people God has put in our path whose adoptions have been steps in their journeys as well, many ending up in missions too. It has not been an easy path (definitely not boring either!), but we can travel it in full assurance that we are on the path God has called us to.
And this brings us to where we began:
a beginning point.

5 comments:

Brandi said...

Thank you, Brian for sharing your journey. I loved reading it and watching God work in your family! I can't wait to see all that He has for you guys!

Brandi

Helen said...

That's a beautiful story you guys. Thank you for being bold in sharing. There is a verse in Hosea I believe that says that "My people are destroyed for the lack of knowledge." Now they don't have to be anymore. So proud to be in your circle of friends. Love, Helen

Aaron & Sarah Minnick said...

That was awesome! We remember well that "ministry" night at the Arends' It was a turning point for many of us. Keep up the good work brother. May God bless you for your obedience!
Aaron & Sarah

The Kuehl's said...

Thank you for being bold in your faith and sharing your story! The Lord works in mysterious ways and He has been working in your lives.

In Him~Teresa

Liberator said...

Brother - You truly are my "battle buddy". We have come thru a lot of stuff together and I thank Father that he brought our families together. You are a true man of God, not perfect, but being perfected. Willing to step out in faith and follow His leading, literally to the ends of the earth. I love you man.

Blessings and peace.
Al