I've known what it is like walking with Christ and what I experienced when I went it alone. They don't compare. I was raised in a Christian house by hardworking parents. Life was good and safe. Other than the usual teenage angst I can't remember too many problems. I had great friends and attended the local Christian school. I remembered thinking, 'with all the rubbish going on in the world, how did I win the lottery to be born knowing Jesus.' My faith in God was real but it was untested.
I was 17 years old when I met a boy, my first real boyfriend - other than the two week hold-my-hand friendships I'd had up until then. He was a nice guy and treated me well. Our first date was during the 1994 Sydney bushfires. He drove out to pick me up and met my parents. They were agreed he was nice but had reservations as he wasn't a Christian. To this day I remember standing in our 90's kitchen saying to my mum, 'Relax, I'm not going to marry him.' Famous last words.
We got married four years later when I found out I was pregnant with my first son. Over those four years I can't remember ever making a decision to stop following Jesus. It was just simple little decisions to not put Him first and compromise my lifestyle and standards.
We were six months into our marriage and my son was nearly ready to be born. We had been working hard and saving for a house deposit. We were young, happy and had good jobs in the investment banking industry. I felt like we were ahead of the game. Until we weren't... It was all built on sinking sand.
I had gone to the supermarket to buy groceries when our card was declined. I thought this was impossible, there should have been $20000 of my hard-earned savings in that account. The account had been blocked and the bank wouldn't tell me why. That same day I had a knock on our door from the local police. My husband had turned himself in to the police and they had come to tell me why.
There were signs of his gambling earlier, a few TAB tickets or some lost hours at the club. But he had been a master of disguise and was always able to cover his tracks. It had finally caught up with him and he had got himself in trouble trying to hide it from the world and me. He was looking at a gaol sentence and I was facing becoming a young first-time mum on my own.
Fortunately, his sentence was delivered as weekend detention and we were able to keep the family together part of the time. But everything had changed. I no longer felt like I had options or a future. All my trust was gone and I realised my life was a lie. I felt like a total fraud and failure.
No longer able to hide the gambling addiction, we spiralled into constant fighting about money. We tried for as long as we could until several years later, pregnant for the second time he was convicted again and I called it quits.
I was 25 years old, nearly bankrupted and had 2 young sons to support. He was given home detention at his fathers house and his addiction had gotten so bad was unable to contribute financially.
You would think that the disaster I had gotten myself in would have brought me back to God. It didn't. I was so angry. Angry at him, angry at myself and angry at God. A wall of bitterness wedged itself in my heart and I despised life.
I worked hard during the week at various jobs and came home to care for more to sons in the night. I felt like the oldest and loneliest 25 year old ever.
LIFE OF THE PARTY.
My weekends were empty and dull when the boys went to their Dads house until I caught up with an old friend at a wedding. She had found herself in a similar situation as me, young and divorced. We started hanging out and clubbing. I found temporary highs with binge drinking, dancing and party drugs.
I soon lived for weekends. I felt like life had been stolen from me so planning or saving for the future now seemed pointless. I was masking the pain and looking for joy in empty places. It never satisfied.
One night the kids were at their Dad's, I was off-duty and had popped a pill whilst I was getting ready to go out. My mother asked me to go to Church as she had frequently done for years prior. My usual response was a resounding 'no.' This time, perhaps the temporary happy vibes I was experiencing, I said yes.
I recall dancing about in the worship service and carrying on quite loudly. When the music stopped and something happened that woke me up. I heard the strong voice of a father speak right to my heart saying, "What are you doing in my House like this?" It was the first time in a long time that I thought God paid any attention to me.
WAKE UP CALL.
I didn't immediately clean up my act. I still found it really hard to say no to my friends when I was sitting at home in an empty house. I juggled two lives well and my family didn't have any idea of the risks I had been taking.
One day, after her usual prayer time, my mother called me and what she said shook me to the core. She told me as she had been praying, she heard the words "tragedy." When she prayed into it, she felt like the message was for me and that I was going to be offered something and not to take it because it was going to end in tragedy. She didn't know what it meant, but I did. The fear of God hit me. I knew that if I died then where I was going to end up. I knew I was separated from God and not right with Him.
I returned to Church and walked out the front in response to the invitation of Salvation through Christ. It felt like a decade of tears poured out on the altar. The pastor hugged me and said, "God is sorry for how used you are feeling." I remember thinking, "God is sorry? I walked away, not Him."
Over the next months God restored me piece by piece and renewed my hope for life. He gave me the strength to make the lifestyle changes I needed to make and walked with me to understand His word, filling me with His spirit and placing me in a great Church at C3 to help me follow Him.
I am fully redeemed. I am bought back by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. He compensated for my faults and gave His life in exchange for mine. I am eternally grateful.