I was preparing for a recent speaking engagement and trying to figure out where to start. They wanted to hear my story, which always makes me hesitate. The best part of my story is really his story — that is, the years my husband and I were together in life and ministry. After all, he’s the exciting one. I’m just a boring white girl.
Yet, as I began reflecting, I realized it really is impossible to miss God’s hand at work in my life. I didn’t want to start with my day of birth, though I should give credit to my parents, who prayed over every one of their children before they were born. Starting at birth, however, seemed a little presumptuous, so I skipped to the ripe ol’ age of eight.
That’s the year things started happening after all, since it’s the year I gave my heart to Jesus. I remember it like it was yesterday. It started with a prayer with my parents at home, after I’d been convicted of sin and knew that without Jesus, I had no chance of heaven.
Yet, eight years old seems awfully young. After all, what can an eight-year-old know about sin?
That’s when I found two pictures. The first is my kindergarten picture. I was in a beautiful sailor dress that I loved. I was so excited to get my picture taken (remember this is way before everyone had a camera 24/7), so I got in line, ready to smile. That’s when my teacher started moving down the line with a comb in her hand (yes, that’s one comb for all the children). She proceeded to brush my hair right into my eyes.
Why? Why would she do that? I was so mad.
And it showed…right as the photographer snapped the camera.
Anger and unforgiveness captured for eternity.
That picture is the epitome of my life before Christ — angry at not getting my own way, angry at the acts of others.
To the right is my second grade picture, taken after I accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior. It’s my absolute favorite school picture, bar none. I liked my poncho and my hair pulled neatly back from my eyes. I even smiled sweetly, without showing my crooked teeth.
It’s a picture of a child at peace. I was at peace with Jesus.
It’s interesting that in both these pictures, before and after, I was wearing something I loved and looked good in. The clothes didn’t make a difference. The condition of my heart did.
What does your before and after picture look like? Do you have one? If there is no change in how you look after claiming to follow Jesus, then maybe you need to make sure you’ve actually allowed him to take control.
Have I ever made another bad picture since then? Of course. I’m still a work in progress in how I live out my faith, but the heart-change is a done deal. I’m just grateful that God changed an angry little girl into one who could learn to count to ten before allowing sin to have it’s way again. So, I’m happy to share my story now, because Jesus is the theme.
May he be yours as well.
Grace and Peace