Friends, today I’m excited to bring you a God Story from Kelly Tyson. I met Kelly through her husband Ben, who was an Engineering Student at OC with my husband, Jeremy. We got together a few times while we both lived in the city, and I always enjoyed spending time with them. They now have six kids, who they homeschool. She has such a tender heart and is a humble God seeker. I know you will be blessed to hear a part of her God Story as I have been…
Images of “the dream” are forever burned into my memory.
I can remember with perfect clarity what it felt like for my feet to leave the ground as I began my ascent to heaven, this breeze touching every nerve ending in my fingers, each bare patch of skin on my arms and legs tingling as they were lifted upward by an unseen force. I recall the surprise I felt – disbelief, even – that this was to be my path.
Enter fear. My body, carried heavy by this gentle power, suddenly changed directions. And now the force that lifted me heavenward, amidst sighs of relief, began to slowly push me downward, toward my rightful place in Hell. Rightful, yes. Although my mind reeled with horror and panic, I felt no shock this time. I knew this was where I belonged.
Yet even as I inwardly confirmed the choices I’d made and the eternity I’d chosen, the winds could not decide. So there I was, held captive by my life of mediocrity. The breezes played a game of human ping-pong with me, as I was raised upward and then pressed downward another time. Back and forth, back and forth, again and again and again. A terror like none I’d before known, and never have since that day.
My eyes snapped open to the brightness of day and the reality of this life. The Truth of God immediately flooded my heart. “So, because you are lukewarm – neither hot nor cold – I am about to spit you out of my mouth!” (Rev 3:16)
Laying there in the stark morning sunlight, listening to my heart pound in my chest, breathing deep as if to be sure I really could breathe – I saw clearly the message God was sending me. This sitting on the pews, living through the “good works” of my husband, heartlessly following the “moral laws” of the Bible. This was not enough. This was lukewarm. Spit out I most certainly would be.
As the next few years passed, I found myself seeking change. I attended in-depth Bible studies at my church, desiring to grow closer to Him. I became more involved with the inner-city church where my husband and I had volunteered for many years, even teaching some of the classes for the teen girls. I began to eliminate from my life many of the impurities in movies and music that were filling my heart with lies.
Yet peace eluded me still.
I knew the promises of God. In John 10:10 Jesus tells the Jewish people that He came so “that they may have life, and have it to the full.” I still knew nothing of this full life, even then, after striving so hard to change directions with my life and please Him.
It was around that time that my husband, Ben, and I went one evening to Wal-Mart.I wanted to buy something nice for my sister and brother-in-law who were expecting their first child – a niece who would make me Aunt Kelly! Ben and I had already discussed things, and we were planning to purchase a glider-rocker for their nursery. We walked directly to the furniture area of the store and found what we wanted. I was excited because the gliders were on sale, and it would be so fun to surprise them with such a nice gift.
We took the glider to the check-out and I listened as the cashier told me our total bill. I balked – this was not consistent with what was printed on the shelf-tag. After another trip back to the furniture aisle to confirm what price I had seen, I began to feel frustrated. The tag was actually for a different color of rocker. I attempted to stay calm, although I felt nothing close to calmness, as I explained to the cashier that the tag was placed on the shelf directly below these gliders. Therefore I should receive that price for this chair. She did not agree but called her manager over to further discuss the matter with me.
As I waited for the manager, the sin that had been waiting began to devour me. It started as a hammering of my heart, a first sign that I was treading on dangerous ground. I did not heed the warning, and it only took one word of disagreement from the manager for the rest of my fury to kick in. Before I knew what was happening, my hands were shaking with that too-familiar feeling of rage. My mouth opened and out of it came wrath, spewing hate wildly. Anyone in the front half of the store would now understand the depth of damage that Wal-Mart had done to me – that this manager had done to me – in refusing me the price I desired for that chair. Ego and entitlement gushed forth, yelling of injustice and disservice. And then, silence.
Silence from my Ben, the man I adored so deeply. The man who had taught me so much about serving the people of God. The man who chose to love every day of his life and see people as important and beautiful and cherished. I looked at him, his eyes cast to the ground. All I could do was turn in shame and walk away. I wish I could say that this was the first time a scene like this had played out in my life. In my honesty I must confess, I could not count the number. Yet God was doing something different on that day. As we left the register and headed for the door, it felt as if the entire world watched my back in anticipation of my exit from that store, ready to begin their whispers of disbelief. Still something drew my eyes upward, and as we walked past the bench in the entryway, my eyes fell upon 4 familiar brown orbs gaping widely at me in disgust.
My mind reeled. I smiled and said a polite hello, while my insides melted in disgrace. The two women staring back at me were a teenager and her grandmother who had visited our humble inner-city church two times before. They returned my awkward greeting and quickly released me from the bondage of their gaze. In that moment, I knew. They saw everything. Ben ushered me past them and out to our waiting car. I sank down low in the passenger seat, wishing I could disappear into the cushion, imagining I could turn around and start again. It was not to be.
I remember precisely what God showed me in that moment.
Just who do you think you are, Kelly? Gulp. How could you possibly think you have ANY right to go and teach my precious children about me… and then turn… and act like THAT? Truly for the first time, I saw with such crystal clarity the truth of who I was. Lukewarm– that was still me. I WAS STILL LUKEWARM!
For years since that dream, I’d imagined that I’d moved on, that I’d been doing just what God wanted. I’d believed Satan’s lie that adding on good works and morality would find me blessed and living within God’s will. Yet finally, after years of self-deception, the scales fell off my eyes and I could see the real me: the insecurity, the pride, the judgmentalism, the lukewarm.
What good was knowledge of scripture when I didn’t allow it to change my heart? What profit was it to teach young women about living in purity when I secretly led a life of anger that often was taken out on my husband, my mother, and – yes – countless strangers? What lesson was I teaching new Christians when I spoke of freedom in Christ yet put a mighty burden of complete dependence on Ben, forcing a barrier between my God and I? What good was it to gain the whole world in selfish desires and power and entitlement, yet forfeit my soul? (Mark 8:36) Or the souls of others.
I cannot tell you if those women ever again darkened the door of a church building. But I can tell you this: they did not become a part of our congregation. I am not naïve enough to believe their absence had nothing to do with me. How I long to know that they know the salvation – the grace – of our Lord today. I will always remember that moment in deep sorrow and hope beyond hope that our God had another plan for those two beautiful souls.
Yet when I think of that day, praise and gratitudefill my heart. He has taught me such joy. He has taught me such freedom. He has taught me such love for His people. I still feel those old feelings of anger welling up in my chest at times. I have even yelled at my own beloved children here and there. Sigh. Yet my God’s mercies are new every morning. Every single day He allows me to begin again. So, today – oh praise Him! – I am truly living the fullest of lives.