In the early summer of 1979, my life began to change. I made the decision to commit my life to Jesus and let Him bring the transformation I desperately needed. A month later, my boyfriend, John, followed and in 1980, we married. As I have said in previous posts, we had a long road ahead of us but we were no longer on our own.

As an 18 year old girl, newly married, having left my destructive lifestyle behind and starting new, I struggled terribly. There was so much damage inside of me that it took quite awhile for things to turn around. I had left all of my old “friends” behind as it had turned out that my mother was right….none of them really were friends. I knew that now and had nothing but caution concerning hanging out with any of them. I didn’t want that life any more. I wanted what I heard people talk about in church. I wanted to be known and loved deeply by God. This involved growing a relationship with Him, talking to Him and reading the Bible to learn about who He is, what He’s like and who He made ME to be! I found this extremely hard because that required discipline and I wasn’t a disciplined person. I still had great anger, fear, stubbornness and rebellion flexing muscles inside of me. Only now, I had to face them without drowning myself with substances. I felt like a caged animal. I complained constantly to my mother. She made a suggestion that to this day is one of the most important pieces of advice ever given to me. She said, “Tracy, you need to practice the presence of the Lord.” What? What on earth was she talking about. I informed her I couldn’t. “I feel like I’m just talking into the air when I pray!” I cried with frustration.

Here’s what my mom did for me. She went and got a chair which she placed next to the bed in my room. “In the same way as you would acknowledge someone sitting here with you, practice Jesus being with you. It’s a beginnding.” And so, I did! I “practiced” being with God. I kept the chair there until I began to believe that when the Bible says, “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you”, that meant He was with me everywhere I went. I “practiced” God going to the store with me, driving to work and being with me when I laid in bed, afraid of the dark.

I hated the dark. My husband worked third shift so I was alone in the dark a lot. It didn’t help that we lived in a creepy tenement building on the third floor. There were nights when I would call John at work and tell him to come home as I was SURE someone was outside the apartment door. He would zoom home to find…. no one. I still struggled with fear so badly! I thought all of this was going to end! What I had to learn was, “feelings” and “faith” are two separate things. What we feel is right in our face and our present reality. Then, we read what God lays out in His Word. God’s Word is Truth. But, we have to chose to believe what the Bible says though our feelings scream “No! It can’t be true because I don’t feel it!” Believing what God says over how you feel is called, “Faith”. Hebrews 11:1 puts it this way; “To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see.” Faith and confidence in what? In God and in His Word. Jesus stated, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one goes to the Father except by me.” (John 14:6) He IS truth. So we choose to believe what He says. His Word is the plumb line. Straight. No warp, twist, bend or curve. Yes, we all must choose. “But these have been written in order that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through your faith in him you may have life.”(John 20:31)

All of the things we have experienced in life make up how we feel. But feelings are not facts. I FELT afraid most of the time because I had experienced so much danger and abandonment in my life but that didn’t mean that I was, in fact, in danger. Fear was my learned reaction and anxious anticipation of repeated events. I learned to tell God how I was feeling then I had to see how that lined up with what God had to say about the situation in His Word. God gave me great Pastors and teachers that helped me find my way around the Bible. They gave me tools but I had to learn to use them. They shared what God had done in their lives but I had to develop my own relationship and come to experience God myself.

Here’s a little picture that helped me:

Imagine a three part train (Like the one in the picture for this post)-The engine, coal car and caboose. We are accustomed to having what we think and how we feel be the engine that drives us along, charting the way we are going to go. The coal car is “time”. The last thing to follow is the caboose of “decision”. When we let how we feel and what we think lead us along through life, the decisions we make are going to follow those whips and whims, often leading down dead end paths the finally taking us over cliffs. We crash and burn, piece ourselves back together and chug off again, more damaged than when we started! Problem is, our feelings and accumulated collection of thoughts gathered through life’s experiences were not designed to lead. They are untrustworthy and fickle.

One of the most well known portions of the Bible is the 23rd Psalm. We hear it read at all kinds of gatherings. “The Lord is my Shepherd….” But wait! Doesn’t that mean we are the sheep? So, who does the leading, the sheep or the shepherd? I’m sorry to have to break it to you but sheep are some of the stupidest, neediest animals on earth. Without constant care and tending by the Shepherd, they die. Yes, The Lord is our Shepherd. HE leads, WE follow.

So let’s look again at the little train as it is purposed to travel along. “Good decisions” based on the truth of God’s Word should be the engine that leads us forth, even if we don’t FEEL like making those good decisions. Next comes the coal car of “time” then the caboose that comes last is “feelings”. They may kick and scream when you are letting “Right Decisions” based on what God says to do be the engine and lead you, but after some time, your feelings will turn around and follow the right decision you made. It does, indeed, take time! That is SUPER important to remember. I had to practice that as well. Lots of practice. I’m still practicing.

There was something else that made a huge difference in my life. Music. Christian music. Music that spoke about and to God. It was an entirely different “plate of food” for sure and I hated it, of course. I was used to music that fueled the beastly fire in me so I had to practice that as well. I sat on the floor in a corner in the dark listening to my mother’s records she let me have. That, too, made me angry. Did I mention that I had an anger problem? Oh, right. I did. But while sitting there on the floor, something happened. Something huge….and I can’t wait to tell you about it!

(See “That’s Music To My Ears!”)

Join me in the corner soon? I’ll be back shortly.

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