Who exactly is God? I’d like you to meet the Father I’ve come to know.
I was 43 when I was invited back to “church.” I sat in a woman’s community center, listening to a pastor sharing some insightful things about God. He shared some things about the boneheaded mistakes he had made in life, but still seemed to have a close relationship with God. For years I had shunned the church scene because of people who thought they knew the only way to act if you wanted to be close to God, rarely smiling — yeah, with legalistic insights, and never wanting to be like them.
But here was a man, not just a preacher, telling me that I could be as close to God as he was. He made me feel that I could know what he knew and felt what he felt. That he wasn’t some holier-than-thou chosen one, and that only the chosen ones get close to God.
“You can do that. You can have that relationship,” he encouraged.
“It doesn’t matter who you were or you now are, your temperament, age, ethnicity or previous religious or lack of religious heritage; are left or right brained; are creative or non-creative; a career person or housewife; young or old. God wants to open your mind and your heart in order to show you the possibilities and realities in having a relationship with him, the God of First John, Chapter four: ‘God is love.’”
That’s the message God brought to me through this pastor of a small church called “Glory to God Ministries.” I was, for the first time, introduced to the God of the love chapter of First Corinthians 13 — the God who emphasizes intimate worship.
As I continued to attend the services, I thought I was going to hear the messages being delivered by a man. But instead I began to realize I was hearing a message directly from God. He was giving me message after message. And one of the most important messages He delivered through this pastor was, “Allen, I want you to enter my rest and cease from your own labors.” I had, for years, been trying to do things my way via various teaching jobs, hoping to please God.
I soon learned that God had a unique work to do in and through me and had a unique time frame in which He was going to do it. Not only did He place a godly new love interest into my life (I had gone through a bad marriage and divorce five years earlier), but He also placed a wonderful new opportunity before me, which was to allow me to grow spiritually in ways I never thought possible. I was able, through the Glory to God Academy, which I was made principal of, to see how God was able to multiple human loaves and fish as the Academy grew in size.
God allowed me to experience and embrace his vision instead of my own, which brought me into an intimate relationship with my Heavenly Father and a new love for the study of His Word. God was writing a new story for me and the theme of it was his love for me. What took place in the years following my new experience with the Lord is a significant part of the story.
It probably happens to a lot of people. You start out authentic, wanting God’s best for you and wanting to do your best for him. Then people begin saying things such as, “You’re great!” You did what others couldn’t do in my life.” “I could never have done it without you.” “You changed my life.”
And what happens is you begin holding yourself up and believing that you are the standard bearer. You start having a performance level you have to measure up to. You start focusing more on yourself, editing and critiquing yourself, and forgetting who it is who placed you in the position and who it is you were to be lifting up as the standard.
And then you begin noticing the mistakes, which have gone uncritiqued, as you begin reading your own press. As I was writing each chapter, I failed to get feedback from someone qualified to tell me what I was doing right or wrong. I had failed to get feedback from the Master critiquer.
It finally dawned on me, as God began critiquing my strengths and weaknesses, that I was self-centered, controlling and manipulative. I found myself once again being rescued by love and shown a better plan for my life. Even though I felt I was securely planted where I was supposed to grow, God removed me. The position as the head of a Christian school was no longer my spiritual security blanket.
In losing this position, I eventually gained a new life. Where I thought previously I had to perform in order to prove I was worth something, God needed to teach me that it is his love alone that had rescued me. I rediscovered the God of love I had been representing and realized that I was still a “work in progress.” Out of that experience I was to receive new life and a new hope. I now saw myself as a teacher of love who was simply an apprentice of Jesus Christ, wanting to hold him up and draw the world to him.
The season of my life that I am now in is, more than ever, about personally knowing Jesus more and more and trusting in a Father that desires to have a more deepening experience with me and allowing that experience to overflow into the lives of others. I want to partner with God in bringing the message of his love to others as evidenced in my relationship with Jesus Christ. I want to minister the same grace and comfort to others that he has ministered to my family and I, so that they may also be rescued by his love. That is why I am currently investing more of my time and energy getting to know and help physically and spiritually needy people find the Jesus and Father who are totally in control of my life now.
— Contact Allen Stark at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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