As is written in Mark 4:21-23, JESUS said, "Is a lamp brought to be put under a basket or under a bed? Is it not to be set on the lampstand? For there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear." The Lord GOD, Who is Love, is the One who lit up my life, Who put the Light in me. He is also the One Who places me wherever He desires, so that He may shine His Light through me. i am but the candle -- He is the Flame. i am but the wick to be burned up -- He is the fiery Light that illumines the darkness.
The LORD's all mighty righteous right hand, by His Holy SPIRIT, engineers all my circumstances and environment to where His Light will shine best. i am but the willing wax, standing firm in His Word, cooperating with Him to be burned up to the very last so that He may shine His Light in the darkness.
i was once in darkness. The life i lived was centered on self -- gratifying the lust of the flesh (being immoral, satisfying my ego -- the seat of my greed -- with no thought of those in need, who were in literal hunger, starving physically or spiritually). i was puffed up with the pride of life -- wearing vain-glorious masks to hide insecurities -- wanting to bring focus on me, myself, and i. i lusted with my eyes, coveting what i saw and thought to be better -- not being content with my lot.
The life i lived had no Light, no real joy. i stumbled and fell repeatedly; i tripped and got bruised black and blue (once literally); i banged my head against many self-made walls -- i was blinded by the world system of "Work hard enough and long enough and you will get your dream house, dream car, dream partner in life, and live happily ever after." Or "Just do it! -- satisfy your lust NOW -- whatever it is...get happy NOW! Why wait?"
i wandered in my self-created Wilderness -- hungry and thirsty for something unexplainable. And in that process of wandering like the prodigal son, i splattered destruction on those around me with my anger, deceit, pride, self-righteousness, sexual immorality, impatience, judgmentalness, bitterness and unforgiveness. i was a mess, but looked oh-so-normal on the outside.
i delved in world religion -- toyed with Taoism, Buddhism, and other "isms" -- but leaned most towards the New Age superficial feel-good spirituality, whose foundation is built on shifting sand. i traveled here and there and all over, using experiences garnered in these travels to feed that hunger and thirst for deeper knowledge of -- WHAT?!!! i felt empty inside...it seemed that life was superficial and shallow -- was there anything in the depths of me?Not much depth...nor much peace.
Today, in hindsight, i realize that i was indeed so very superficial and shallow -- a walking dead trying so hard to be filled with quickened Life! i did this, i did that -- i traveled from country to country, jumped from relationship to relationship, diving in and out of one marriage into another -- straining and striving to find Life and meaning -- grabbing at life, being filled with this or that experience, believing it will satisfy what it was i had such yearning. i longed to be fully alive, not just walking the seemingly routine treadmill of life like a zombie from the Twilight Zone...i wanted more than anything to live Life! -- life with an exclamation point.
Why did it take so long for me to find The Way, The Truth, and The Life!? This life with the exclamation point?
Because my heart was so hardened from lack of good soil -- raised in a dysfunctional and GOD-less family. Because i was so full of pride -- me, myself and i allways on center stage, the drama queen star of this super-melodramatic, soap opera life. Because i was blinded by the world's array of tempting but empty goodies -- sweets that were in reality poison to my very soul.
But thanks be to GOD, Who was ever patient and abundant with His grace and mercy! He permitted my heart's desire and passion for world travel; and He used that passion to teach me about people less advantaged materially, yet richer than i in the deepest way -- rich in GOD amidst sometimes near-poverty conditions.
Though i've lunched atop the Eiffel Tower, the experience of sharing Sopa de Lengua at a local eatery in Cuzco with "my" two orphans (whose attitude towards la gringa was one of marked patience), touched my heart more deeply. Though i've slept in 5-star hotels in London and Paris, the hard floor shared with a family with 4 kids in Manila, and the cramped rear quarters of my Bronco as i drove solo for six weeks to Vancouver Island, are more memorable today. i've seen Cats! in London, Chicago in New York, Porgy and Bess in San Diego; flown by Cessna to Catalina Island to eat ice-cream, and around Alaska to view wildlife and icebergs; sat bareback on an elephant's hairy neck, and on a put-put motorcycle on the muddy roads of Phuket -- all these were wonderful diversions , but empty vanity...showing me today that good is the enemy of Best.
The various and sometimes hair-raising adventures in my life, which were allowed by GOD, do not even compare with the exhilaration of being moved emotionally, mentally and spiritually by His Creation. He has gifted me with hands-on experience -- dazzling full moon and a gazillion stars unobstructed by city heights or lights, shimmering rainbows (partial or circular, single or double arcs, and even upside down -- in Belize), driving rain and wild winds, crashing waves and colorful schools of fish beneath, silent fog and soft showers, verdant rain- and cloud-forests and steamy jungles, volcanoes and total-blackout caves...i can rave on and on and on about GOD's Creation, teeming with life, on land, in the seas...and how about the mind-boggling expanse of galaxies where even the Hubbell has not penetrated? Who can exhaust and imagine all of GOD's handiwork? i get exhausted when i try to imagine it all!
And what human artist can ever eclipse GOD's awesome art...His ever-changing, blazing sunsets or glorious sunrises?
Can i ever say, "Been there, done that"? No way, jose! Not in this lifetime...nor in the next.
Forty-seven years of my 54, i walked as a living dead -- blind and ignorant (an arrogant ignoramus) to the One Who provided pulse and adventure to that superficial life. In 2003 -- GOD stepped in and put the scattered pieces together so that i may have direction and purpose. He took me out of my mindless wandering in the Wilderness. He opened my eyes -- literally -- to "The Purpose Driven Life." i didn't realize at the time that it was CHRIST-based literature. i thought it was just another self-help book -- another candy to gorge myself with in my quest to fill my hunger for that elusive mystery i've searched for all my life.
But i know today, that the Holy SPIRIT at work in the world, with tender kindness, orchestrated everything, even directing my attention to that particular page which spoke Truth in my heart, causing that spark to Light my soul. The SPIRIT drew me and led me to GOD's Word -- the Bible, the Holy Scriptures.
Then i understood at last! My search for knowledge and deeper spirituality, the need to be filled with something truly satisfying to the soul -- the Word of GOD was the Key which unlocked the barrenness of 47 years of self-idolatry. GOD switched on the light bulb in my mind -- all the self-help books, religions, philosophies -- the true nourishment for which my spirit hungered -- the answers to my questions, my quest for depth, for wisdom, for life's meaning -- were contained in the Holy Bible: GOD's literal Word.
And when the SPIRIT of GOD, all mighty and infinitely wise and loving, led me to the Word -- He led me straight to the Word made flesh, JESUS. "CHRIST is the Bible's grand subject, our good the design, and the glory of GOD its end." (Gideon's Bible foreword)
But in my New Age-fed flesh, i stubbornly held on to pride. i didn't receive JESUS with the honor due Him. i didn't call Him by His true name, the CHRIST (Messiah, Savior, Redeemer, Whose nature and character is pure goodness). Rather, i dishonored Him by labeling Him "Hero," rather than rightfully calling Him Lord and GOD. Was i soundly saved then? Only GOD knows. i thought yes...that i was forever reconciled to GOD, forgiven of all my sins, by the Cross of JESUS -- i was enthusiastic in my profession of faith in CHRIST as the risen Savior, publicly and joyfully announcing it with a full-immersion baptism at Midway Baptist Church, with my family, friends, and the congregation as witnesses of my heartfelt intention of living a new life for CHRIST. But i did not truly comprehend the magnitude of His love, nor what it cost the Father to sacrifice His only begotten Son, so that i may receive the most precious gift of salvation.
i continued in the flesh, acting outwardly like a "newbie" believer of CHRIST, doing good works (for family and church), but with motives like filthy rags -- demonstating by outward actions my CHRISTianity, my new religion (versus MErlinism) -- yet inwardly, still motivated by pride and fleshly desires. i had put on salvation like an outer garment...it hadn't yet penetrated my heart.
i read the Bible like a novel, front to back, -- touched inwardly but little by the Old Testament (with the exception of Genesis and Psalms), but profoundly moved by the New Testament -- especially by the Gospel of John and his first epistle. The Bible became my personal number one and only best seller, the security blanket that traveled with me everywhere i went. Oswald Chambers' My Utmost For His Highest became my daily devotional, even today.
And though i still(!) continued in the flesh, i began to perceive that i was genuinely saved, yet still acting shallow and superficial. i continued in my sins (pride, self-righteousness, judging, gossip, controlling, unforgiveness), reciting Bible verses, not understanding GOD's principles and their righteous application to my life. i constantly leaned on my own understanding and used His Word to suit my needs and justify my choices. i even discounted my pastor's warning, "Do not be unequally yoked." i went my own way anyway. Reluctant, but foolish, faithfulness to the old MErlin negatively impacted my decisions, my witness for CHRIST, my credibility as a believer.
Yet my most wonderful and gracious GOD, my Father in Heaven, did not allow me to continue as a babe in CHRIST. He gave me real food, True Bread, which nourished the seed of faith He had planted in me. He grew my spirit as i experienced trials such as common to man. i travailed shadowed valleys of death (Jazmyn's), deep rejection, blatant abandonment, wrenching loneliness, unsettling fear of being alone again and no money in the bank for that rainy day...
GOD revealed Himself to me as Sovereign -- in control of His Creation, including all minute details like myself...that He is indeed Faithful and True, my Good Shepherd, the generous Provider that He promised to be to those who are His children. i got to know GOD's unlimited mercy, compassion, and tender lovingkindnesses as He walked with me through these dark valleys. He tested my faith, strengthened it, by burning off what impeded His Light from shining forth through me. He brought me low so that i may reach for His hand, extended in loving comfort and providential power. Through tears and fears, loneliness and uncertainty -- i realized that He will indeed never ever leave me.
i cannot pinpoint when the Reality of my Redemption became a confident assurance that i was indeed soundly saved, but i know! deep in my very soul that today, i am on Rock-solid ground. i feel the loving presence of the Almighty GOD in my day-to-day existence, i realize the SPIRIT nurturing and growing me, and i am comforted by JESUS Himself, through a very personal fellowship with Him, through answered prayers and countless blessings.
i am not yet fully sanctified, for that is a lifetime process as defined by GOD's will. Being the ultimate Perfectionist and Craftsman, He is still shaping and molding me. He is the infinitely gifted Potter, and i am but the now pliable clay. i am no longer that body of death, consisting of the old MErlin -- hardhearted and stiff-necked and hard of hearing and stony grounded. (i am not sinless...but i sin less.)
As the Potter, His hands on me and my circumstances are sure, with firm gentleness, loving and patient. When He detects an "air bubble" in this clay that i am (pride or superficiality or hypocrisy), He stops the wheel of my growth process and checks me. My part is to be still and yield to His correction. He removes that flaw, for that pocket of noxious hot air will surely cause weakness in the finished vessel.
When GOD finds a "stone" in the clay that i am (a stronghold not of His making), He will check my growth and remove that unwanted gunk which does not glorify His handiwork. My part is to submit, to honestly say, "Thank You, Father!" and be grateful for His cleansing work.
Today as CHRIST's fully devoted follower, SPIRIT-filled and controlled (for daily, i surrender self-control to Him Who is in perfect control), i stand at the ready -- waiting to be used as His instrument, a channel for the blessing of others -- perhaps as a cup, filled from the fountain of Life so that others may drink of Him; or maybe as a plate, used to serve Bread for those who hunger; or as a simple vase, to hold sweet-smelling flowers so that others may be gladdened by His beauty.
Or maybe as just a plain and ordinary candle -- lit up with His fire, burning brightly, waiting for His hand to carry me wherever He desires, according to His purpose(s) and perfect wisdom, so that He may shine His Light in the darkness.
Wherever my Father puts me, is where He intends for me to be burned up to the last...to the nub, 'til all that's left is but a glob of melted wax...all used up. i want to meet JESUS with a clear and joyful heart, saying, "i used up all You gave me!"
My heart's deepest desire is for JESUS, my CHRIST, Lord and Savior, and Ultimate Hero -- to welcome me Home, saying, "Well done, good and faithful servant. Well done indeed, rln!"
To me, this would be the happiest ending of this very short lifetime, but just the beginning of the everlasting life, filled with true joy and irrepressible delight, which is GOD's promise of eternal bliss found only in the presence of CHRIST JESUS.
But for now, one day at a time, i am confident that the abiding SPIRIT of GOD will continue to grow and mature in me the fruit He has imparted: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.