New in Christ: Righteous in Him, Karen Parks
New in Christ: Righteous in Him
New-just the word evokes thoughts of unused, never before seen, things but also free of tarnish, filth, brokenness
My story is unlike many people who talk about being new in Christ. For many years as I’ve listened to others talk about being new in Christ I have heard of a former life of partying, drugs, alcohol, sex, lying, dishonesty, a life out of control. My story is just the opposite. It is one of a young girl raised in the Bible Belt in a wonderful home. It is the story of being in church every time the door was open, participating in absolutely everything there was to offer to a young girl trying to do the right thing. It is a story of trying, yearning, striving, worrying, determined, stressed and working, working, and working harder that all led to disaster.
I heard how I could become a Christian at a very early age and it was exactly what I wanted to do. I wanted it because it was the RIGHT thing to do and that was all I had ever been inclined to do. I made my decision known and began the life described above. There was some hidden stress in my home and my parent’s needed a good child and I sought to become just that.
On the outside I was every parent’s dream. I worked tirelessly to please all of the adults around me. I pursued creativity and academics to an unbelievable degree. I took every kind of lesson and pursed every avenue of possible praise that I heard about. I won the praise of adults in my church, school and my parent’s friends and thrived on it. It was my security and pride. My favorite Bible verse was “Be ye perfect as I am perfect” and I didn’t understand why it wasn’t everyone’s favorite verse. I thought God would have a much easier job if everyone was as good as I was and the world would be a lot better place. I often heard that “God helps those that help themselves” and I believed it!
Underneath though there was a different person. I was stressed, worried, became more and more controlling of a schedule and goals and with this became critical of any one that didn’t try as hard as I did. I even became critical of my parents and talked down to them. I was the epitomy of self-righteousness but no one every knew because I wanted to look so good on the outside and make my parent’s proud. I remember one time my mother saying, “Your Sunday School teachers would be horrified if they heard how you talk to me!” But instead of being ashamed, I thought “Well, they’ll never know.” I was good at keeping my self-righteousness a secret.
By the time I was 16, I was wearing out. I worried constantly and felt very alone although I had many friends. I had secret fears of illnesses, school work that was becoming increasingly difficult, and not being liked by boys. I was seen as the mother hen of my group of friends because I never pursued the fun but kept my group of friends “in line”. Often times they lovingly put the work “mother” before my name and had no idea how true I felt it was on the inside. I felt not only responsible for my behavior but theirs as well. I thought God needed me to make everyone make Him happy!
When I was 17 I met a Christian man and woman who were different. They loved everybody, even my friends that were are times what I had called “out of control”. People loved them because they showed genuine care and concern for the hearts of others, not their behaviors. That was a new idea to me. As I got to know them they started showing me how I could be free from the bondage of striving and being self-righteousness that had me tight in its grip. They told me about the grace of God and how He didn’t need me but wanted me. In fact, He died because He wanted me so much. They told me that no matter how hard I tried, I could never measure up and that was why I needed Jesus-that He had measured up, in God’s eyes and He wanted to be the substitute for my lack of perfection They told me that I could be free to love others and let God be the substitute for their lack of perfection. In fact, they said that if it weren’t for God’s grace alone, I could be just like those that I judged. This was a revolutionary way of thinking for me.
I wish I could say I changed overnight but I didn’t. It was a slow process of learning to love others, seeing them differently, and seeing myself as God sees me. But God did change me. I was reNEWED and am reNEWED daily. Thankfully, though I still struggle with some of these old habits after many years, I can honestly say that I can weep with others over their sin instead of feeling distain and can rejoice over their successes. It still amazes me that others like me even when they see me mess up and it delights me to read of God’s pleasure in me even when He knows how dark my heart can be. He is FOR me all of the time, the Bible says.
I am new. I love others. I rejoice when I see others made new. I hurt for those that struggle with addictions and other sin instead of hating them for disappointing God
Praise God for His grace that set me free. I am a new creature in Christ.