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I Stand in Awe

by Kristen Phillips

I awoke this morning, considering what I would say if asked about Jesus, and what he can do. I was floored, to say the least, at how well my mind was working, minus coffee and any awake time at all. I thought about how I sing so many songs that talk about praising him endlessly and how full my heart is of love for all that he has done. How can I ever stop singing his praises? It is never far from mind how Jesus truly lifted me. I stand in complete awe that he took my sin and shame and utter hatred for him and changed me into the person I am now. He loved me through my hate, my anger, my resentment, and my bitterness. I stand in awe; he loved me anyway—completely. He suffered for me, took upon himself all that I have done, leaving nothing for me to pay. He was mocked; with love, He bled for me, even though I hated everything. He did not hold my hate against me nor consider me too far gone. He saved me—me, the Kristen, who sinned continually and hated completely. In tears I sit, knowing I owe all to Him. My life, my husband, my parents, my child, my hope, my voice, my song, and my very breath are His. I wake every morning knowing that every day truly is a gift, not because I live or have life, but because He gave me joy, peace, faith, and hope. Life is really worth living now because He lives in me.

I sing for him; I live for him. There will never be enough words of thanks for me to give Him. There will be never a song written that could spell out the awe and love and humility I feel for Him. He took a wretched person like me, broken, used, and torn—exchanging ashes for beauty. As I sit, the words run through my heart; “how great thou art.” If asked, “What can He do,” I will answer, “There is nothing He cannot do.”

I have learned He can do anything at any time; a person must only trust, let go, surrender all, claim His promises and believe. He will do the changing. No one has to pay for this life He gives; all can take freely. Some will ask, “Why all this for free?” Love is the answer.

A person should never underestimate the power of a seed planted in a child’s heart. I knew who Jesus was and what He had done for me a long time before I truly understood exactly what it meant. I knew I had been taught that He died for me. However, it took time for it to sink into my hard head and begin to soften my bitter, hate-filled, rebellious, lonely, hard heart. The seed that was planted did grow.

For some, the lessons come with time and pain and sorrow, which lead to tears and surrender, but finally to peace and joy. The words we speak to one another are important. No matter how small the words of encouragement may seem or how trivial a testimony of God’s grace may sound, seeds are planted in those that hear. When you see a person whose eyes were dead and had no light transformed into a person filled with the love and glory of Him, there are no words, only the very pure fact and realization of His power. I remember as a young person, sitting in services and hearing Brother Thomas. His words would reach down into my heart, causing it to pound. I remember reaching for the Lord while singing in church services, and I remember what it felt like when His presence filled the room. Nothing has ever been its equal—no drug, drink, person, experience. Nothing ever filled me with peace. I remember going forward at altar calls and crying; I wanted Him. However, the person that I was as the time wanted the world more. I wanted to have fun and not have rules; I wanted to experience the life I wanted. Thank God I was His and He knew, much like with the prodigal, what I would have to experience, but I would be back. I am thankful that He loved me, and that He protected me through everything I went through. He was with me all the time. This cannot be doubted because if He were not with me always, I would not be here now. The seed was planted; it is always worth the time to teach and instruct our children because they are listening, even though we may not think so.

I cannot remember the first time I got high or drunk, but in the beginning I thought I had found what I was looking for. I felt nothing when I was wasted. I assumed I was feeling what I yearned for, peace. I did not care about school or my life or my body, or anything. I just floated there, and then—it owned me. It did not take long; I did not just want it anymore; I needed it. It was the only way I felt okay. It kept the voice in my soul at bay. I felt bad for the things I had done; I felt conviction. In the bottom of my drunken, high heart, I knew, on some level, I was wrong.

To do anything, I had to drink. Because each night, I would do more that I needed to run from. Only drinking provided me with the ability to not care; it fueled my anger. I thought, who cares what people think, right? So I ran; I ran for years. The drugs were not far behind the drinking. After a while, things started to really pile up, and I needed release.

I continued to run. I did everything possible to alter my mind and body from reality. Because of all I had done, I hated myself. I could not go to God for help or so I thought. I was angry at Him for things that had happened to me. Full of bitterness and hate, I knew coming to Christ would end my life; I would have to give up so much. Looking back, I see how crazy it was for me to think this way. Because all I was doing—the drugs, the drinking, the men, the lifestyle, I thought it made me “free;” however, it only enslaved me. I was not free.

For fifteen years I drank and used drugs. Towards the end, I drank in the morning to keep from being sick; I drank at work; I drank alone; I always drank. I was arrested twice and charged with DUI. I tried to take my life, and ended up in the hospital. Afterwards, I was sent to a state mental hospital for detox, where I had DTs, including seizures and hallucinations. Then I went to rehab. By the grace of God, I was delivered and have been sober for almost ten years. One would tend to think that this mercy He had on me would have been enough to drive me to my knees in surrender; it was not. Anyone who knows me will tell you I am hard-headed. Thankfully, God, in His wonderful mercy and gracious love, did not take the gift of sobriety from me. I remained sober. The devil found another way to try to destroy me, kill me, and end me, which is what he wants. The Bible says, “He is a lion seeking whom he may devour....”

To say the least, the devil is smart. As soon as I drank too much and lost that little bit of control, he knew he could come in and have free reign over my thoughts. I reached a point when I was no longer steering the wheel; the devil knew the moment this happened. I would be remiss not to realize he took that opportunity to come in and make my life his own. For this reason, so many crimes happen under the influence of drugs and alcohol—violent crimes that boggle the mind and make us cringe. Furthermore, because of its dangers, drinking in excess is warned against in the Bible. The trick of the devil is that he shows the worldly things, the luxuries, the feeling of being high and living one’s own life—freedom—all the while, blinding a person to what is being done to the mind, the body, the life, and the family.

When I hated God, He loved me. How amazing is it that even though I cursed His name, I was so filled with anger, blame and rage—I screamed to the sky, hating everything— and wondered how He could forgive me. How could He still love me? Then suddenly, to my bones, I understood. He loved me! Nothing I had done would change that love. I remembered the verse in the Bible that speaks about the many things that cannot remove his love from me, “…neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” I was so thankful, and still am, that his love for me is not contingent on how eloquently I pray or how many things I do in his name. It is not about measuring up to a set of rules or standards or about being as “good” as the person next to me. He is a friend of sinners, and I was like the woman at the well in awe that he could love me—a harlot, a drunkard, a drug user—an angry, bitter, hate-filled person. The sins I had committed—very big things against God and nature—and He still loved me. He looked past my guilt and sin and hate and all that I was; He saw my need and saved me anyway, loved me anyway, lifted me anyway. He knew all this when He was suffering on the cross, bleeding for me, dying for me, loving me. He was crushed for my sin. How amazing and worth everything to me!

In all the places I looked for love, freedom, and peace, he was there the entire time, ready to give to me freely. I am thankful salvation is not about the law or following rules and regulations. I am thankful for His gift to me. I am so very thankful he changed my wants. It is not about trying to get into Heaven, or trying to do the right things and somehow earn His gift to me. He simply changed my heart to one that wants to do the right things for no other reason except they are good and pleasing to Him. After all he has done for me, how can I give less than all I am to Him? He convicts my heart, and I am thankful. I am thankful to hear that still, small voice, and I can talk to him anytime. What a great God I serve! How lucky I am that he gave his life to know me and for me to know him—all for love!

After being delivered from my addiction issues, I had about two years where I was just learning to live again as a sober person. Then things worsened. It is hard to describe the type of darkness I ended up in and, to this day, the only description fitting is complete darkness. It began with anxiety, which I had always struggled with to some degree. I chose to go see a psychiatrist. At this point, I was put on about four different medications and diagnosed with a whole package of disorders. This began a horrible time in my life, that to the best of my recollection, lasted for around two or three years. At which time, my first psychiatrist died of cancer, sending me to a new one, who put me on eight different medications and tacked on a few more disorders. I was in and out of mental hospitals almost every month for suicide attempts and for harming myself to the point that it required medical intervention. At one point, the doctors thought about permanent residential care. This was a time in my life where I gave up. I wanted to die and believed that nothing mattered anymore. I was crazy, so they said. However, looking back, even then, I think I knew it was the Devil on my shoulder, in my mind, polluting my thoughts and giving me ideas of how to destroy myself.

I stopped taking care of myself and sunk very deep into despair and madness. I do not use those words lightly. Some of the most horrible sins I have committed were done in this time frame, and it was all because I really believed I had gone too far. For a while, it seemed others, even my parents, thought I was going to die. Mary, my step-mother, told me that every time the phone rang, they feared I was dead. Nearing the end of this time in my life, I ended up living in a dilapidated trailer with no heat or air, feeling the cold of 40 degrees or the heat 100 degrees outside. I have little recollection of much due to how medicated I was. My parents rescued me from there and moved me to my grandmother’s house. At this time, I came off a very strong medication; I thought I was dying. I could not sleep, eat, or talk. My eyes were dilated; I was throwing up. I was out of my mind with crazy thoughts. In the middle of the night, I would call my father crying, and he would lovingly tell me to pray—to hit my knees and pray. Finally, in my most weak and despairing moment, I did. I hit my knees in front of the bed, and through tears and crying, I uttered the only words I could manage, “God please help me.” I cried, and I shook. He heard me, my gut wrenching cry. The moment of my true surrender—it was not pretty, it was not eloquent; It was real. I wanted Him forever. My life began to change. For a while, I had been attending services again, and as my mind began to clear, the Lord began to speak to me. I began to get better. Once again, He delivered me, and this time, when he reached to hold my hand—not for a short while—but for always, I reached back.

As I sit here now, I am so thankful for my father and Mary, whom I choose to call my mother, because they loved me through it all. Through the time in my life when I was supposed to be a grown up, but when I was actually the most broken. As I carry my own child today, I know now the importance of having a God-centered home and a united parental unit. My parents never judged me or stopped praying. The environment they created where I could be honest with them and come to them with all that I had done, made it possible for them to pray for me properly and to understand me.

Today, my husband, Michael, and I want this for our children, too. Because as dark as the world was when I was out there, we have not seen anything yet. Satan is being loosed like never before, and we are going to need to be strong Godly-praying parents, who listen and love. Today I am married to a wonderful man who loves the Lord and me. He too, in-spite of all that I was, looked at me and saw my heart, loving me with a love only God can give us for each other. I am closer to my parents than I ever dreamed I could be. Mary is my best friend, mother, and anytime laugh partner. Someone spoke of how we have grown together and that is so very true, because, while she may not have brought me into this world, she most certainly gave me life. The Lord has done so much in both of us. I am thankful for everything I went through because there is not a moment of my life that I doubt His power or His love for me. It reaches to the highest star and truly to the lowest hell. I am blessed to sit under the ministry at our church, and the Lord continues to speak to me and grow me up more each day. Although I still falter and make mistakes as we all do, He gently speaks a word of encouragement, and I grow each time. I am blessed to sing with the choir and even with Mary. I get to lift up and glorify His name, which is what it is all about. When I am singing, I imagine that He is standing next to me, because He is. I am singing to him, praising his name because he so faithful and worthy. I hope that if anything is evident from my testimony, it is His power and grace and mercy. I hope that it shows that in myself I am nothing, and it is the perfect picture of how His strength is made perfect in our weakness.

To anyone who thinks your sins are too great. There is almost nothing I have not done, and He loves me just the same. He bore our sins for love, for me, for you, for everything we have done; Jesus paid it all. Come to him and surrender to Him. What you leave behind will never equal what you gain. Sleeping peacefully and filled with his love, joy and hope is the most amazing thing in my life!! When God becomes your all, your life will be worth living. Because He will be living in you, the darkness will vanish, and you will be set free from the prison in your mind. In the end, it was not drugs, alcohol, relationships, medications, doctors, or my delusional freedom that saved me. It was and is daily, Jesus Christ!

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