A Guest Post by Marie Kellemen
A Word from Bob: Today I have the joy of sharing a guest blog post by my daughter, Marie. I pray that you will be blessed as you read Marie’s gospel testimony of her spiritual journey of faith in Christ.
A Tale of 4 Easters
What better time of year is there for a Christian than Easter? It would be wonderful if every church service throughout the year would have the passion, enthusiasm, and celebration that we bring to Easter Sunday. How amazing it would be if we lived every day with the Empty Tomb in mind the way we do on Easter!
A lot of significant moments in my walk with the Lord have taken place around Easter, and I would love to share with you today the ways Easter has been part of my life’s story.
Easter of 1992/1993: Joy and Belief
The first significant Easter moment in my life was when I was 4 or 5 years old. I had just watched a video of the Easter story, and I was so moved by what I saw that I prayed to accept what Jesus had done for me when He went to the Cross and died in my place. What a great Easter gift!
Over the course of the next decade-and-a-half, which I think of as “Act 1”—Joy and Belief—in my life story, I grew in my knowledge of and faith in Jesus and became passionate about my walk with the Lord.
Easter of 2008: An Empty Walk in the Dark
However, that passion began to wane during my sophomore year of college when I started to doubt God’s goodness and even existence. Easter Sunday of 2008 was the first time in my life that I decided to skip an Easter Sunday church service. While skipping church in and of itself is not the serious issue (after all, our salvation does not hinge on our church attendance) that Easter was certainly a milestone that marked my changing attitude toward God. I had transitioned out of Act 1 of my life story and had entered Act 2, which I think of as An Empty Walk in the Dark.
In the early stages of that walk away from the Lord, I was asking questions like (1) “Does God exist?” And (2) “If He does, do I want anything to do with Him?” Eventually, I transitioned from doubting God and turned to outrightly denying and renouncing Him.
During that Empty Walk in the Dark, I exchanged the purpose that Jesus had brought to my life in Act 1 for the belief that life has no inherent meaning and that we need to create our own meaning in life. I exchanged a belief in Jesus’ forgiveness of my sins for the idea that sin is pretty much okay. Instead of living for Christ, I lived for myself and chose to commit a lot of sin.
I can summarize this period of my life by saying that I had lost my faith and had fallen away from the Lord. But how thankful I am that never once did He fall away from me…
Easter of 2016: Intermission and My Quest to Accept Jesus’ Offer of Grace
My Empty Walk in the Dark lasted for approximately 8 years, until Easter Sunday of 2016, when I was 27 years old. I was home visiting my parents and I went with them to the Easter service at their church. Their pastor was preaching from Ecclesiastes, pointing out how life without Jesus’ resurrection is meaningless. That got me thinking about my own life and quest for meaning over the previous 8 years. I realized that my life had been less meaningful, I was less happy, and I was a less nice person compared to my life in Act 1 when I had faith in Christ.
From that Sunday until the following Saturday, I entered a stage of my life story I call Intermission, where I was faced with the choice of turning back to God after so long away. For the first few days I wasn’t ready to truly believe again. I still had questions that I hadn’t gotten the answers to.
But later that week, I was talking with a dear Christian friend who told me that sometimes those answers aren’t going to come without the Holy Spirit. She made a very good point—I can certainly admit that I had been fleeing from the Holy Spirit for a long time.
All of a sudden (or at least it seemed “sudden” from my human perspective, though God had planned it long ago) God wondrously, mercifully, and lovingly gave me another Easter gift: He gave me the gift of faith once again! The question I had been asking a moment before, though still unanswered, suddenly didn’t matter. God had opened my eyes so that I could see the One who truly matters.
With Intermission behind me, I entered the next stage of my life story: My Quest to Accept Jesus’ Offer of Grace. Although it would be nice if I could say that my return to Christ has been filled with nothing but joy, I have struggled quite a bit over the past eleven months as I try to come to terms with my past.
While I believe that faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection is all that is required for my salvation, and that there is nothing I could ever do to earn my salvation, I have been having a harder time recognizing that I don’t need to “do” things to make up for all of my sin that I committed during my Empty Walk in the Dark. There have been points over the past eleven months where I have been incredibly overwhelmed by the repercussions of my sin, where I have wanted to give up and not have to deal with the consequences of my sin here on earth. In at least one dark moment I have cried out to God, despairing even of life.
A passage that has been very meaningful to me in light of these feelings is Luke 8:26-39. This passage describes how Jesus met a man who was demon possessed and who had been living among the tombs, literally on the outskirts of society. Jesus removed the demons and returned the man to his right mind.
I see myself in this man. Although I wasn’t possessed by demons, I certainly was dominated by sin and had become blind to the truth of the gospel. Just as Jesus had returned this man to a full life, I know that Jesus has done the same for me. At the end of that story, we’re told:
“The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, ‘Return home and tell how much God has done for you.’ So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him” (Luke 8:38-39, NIV).
This man was begging to be allowed to accompany Jesus, and yet Jesus had a job for him that meant he couldn’t go with Jesus just yet. Similar to this man, I have not yet been called to be with Jesus in person. I’m still here on this earth because He has a job for me to do. And what better job could I ask for than to proclaim throughout the whole world how much Jesus has done for me?
Easter of 2017 and Beyond: A Bright Hope for Tomorrow
Moving forward, I want to live with the Empty Tomb in mind every day. I want to celebrate Easter in my heart every day. I want to retain A Bright Hope for Tomorrow, even in the midst of my struggles to surrender my past to Jesus. I am looking ahead to the day when I am fully surrendered to Jesus’ grace. But until that day, I will strive to be able to see more clearly and share with others more boldly how much Jesus has done for me.
I want to share with others that God created us to be with Him. I knew that in Act 1—I even knew that in the back of my mind during my Empty walk in the Dark—and I have once again come to know that.
I want to share with others that our sin separates us from God and that our sins can’t be removed by good deeds. We will never be good enough to earn our way to heaven. And there’s nothing I or anyone else could do to scrub ourselves clean enough to make up for our sins.
I want to share with others that Jesus paid the price for our sin when He died on our behalf and rose again. All of those sins whose repercussions I worry about—Jesus died for each one of them.
I want to share that everyone who trusts in Jesus alone has eternal life. Placing our faith in Christ is what brings us into a right relationship with God.
And I want to share that life with Jesus starts now and lasts forever.
I have been given not only a second chance at a life with Jesus, but a millionth chance! Regardless of how many times I rejected Christ throughout the second Act of my life story, Jesus has given me another opportunity to start my life over through Him. And I can cling to the assurance that my life with Him will continue forever thanks to His saving grace and the gift of faith that He has given to me.