God’s Love Is Given, Not Earned - Laura's Story
I was always pushing myself, trying to find the one thing that would change my life and make me close to God. Because I’m a rule-follower, I thought it was something I was or was not doing. I remember moments in my life when God spoke to me and used me, but I lived constantly trying to do the right thing.
A friend who attended Anderson University invited me to NewSpring while I was at college. I liked NewSpring because it was different, and I tapered off my attendance at my "home" church—where my parents made me go. I joined in 2003.
For a long time, following God seemed easy. I had a picture of what a Christian should be, and I met those criteria, so I thought I had it all figured out. Then I started having trouble at work, taking on more responsibility and facing greater challenges. And as life got harder, it became easier to doubt God’s love and my salvation. There was a nagging suspicion that something wasn't right between me and God.
Then one day in July 2011, I found myself reading Romans 9:15-16. "I will have mercy on whom I have mercy and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. It does not, therefore, depend on man's desire or effort, but on God's mercy." I actually got scared. I was afraid because I knew if salvation didn’t depend on what I did or did not do, then I was in trouble because that’s exactly what I was counting on.
The following Sunday, during a service at NewSpring, Pastor Perry spoke on having a heart of stone and trying to achieve God's love rather than receive it. For the first time, I understood all my life I had been trying to do the right thing, so God would love me, be close to me, lead me, bless me, and use me. I never really trusted Him or received His love with a heart of humility and surrender. I was tired of fitting a certain mold and measuring up to what I felt I needed to measure up to. And I heard Jesus speak to my heart saying, "You don't have to try to fit a certain mold anymore. You don't have to wear yourself out or exhaust yourself to fit the mold. I've already done the hard work."
I Gave Up
On that day, I gave it up. I surrendered my efforts and gave in to His mercy. The biggest difference is the sense of freedom that I had no idea I could experience. I don't hear that voice that there is something wrong. Reading the Bible means something now, and I can see God at work all around me. He is still teaching me that He isn’t after my behavior but my heart!
Jesus is teaching me a lot about having compassion; being merciful and learning to see people through His eyes. I have come to realize how easy it was for me to cast the first stone in judging others. My husband and I took a next step in joining a small group, which is something we had never done before.
I am so thankful that Jesus brought me to a place where I could accept my mistakes and receive the love He has for me. It’s funny. I’ve been in the church all my life, but I’m totally new at this Christ-follower thing.