By Jenn Howell
Hi. My name is Jenn, and I go to the Rio Church. I may be smiling with my family in the pictures around my house, but there was a time in my life that I didn't smile much. I d like to tell you about it.
I was a giddy 18-year-old girl when I showed up to college. I was excited to be there and excited to start this next phase of my life. I lived in the dorms and loved it. I didn't get involved in any party scene. I was a Christian and wanted to get involved in a Christian group on campus. I soon did and enjoyed the great music and good conversations with people who loved God. Life was bright and exciting.
Within a month, I went to a new Bible Study in my dorm. There was this old guy there (he was 24!), and he talked real quietly. I thought, What is this old guy doing here? It turns out he had been in the Navy for 6 years after high school and was now a freshman living in my dorm. To make a long story short, three-and-a-half years later, we were married.
Well, it didn't take long for our marriage to become a mess. I was raised by a successful, hardworking, single mom who knew how to take control and make things happen. I had no idea what it took to be a wife. I didn't know how to work together with someone who had different opinions than me but whose decisions impacted my life so much. I didn't know how to control my emotions. And I sure didn't know how to forgive someone who could wound me so deeply.
When my husband hurt my feelings, I only knew to hurt his feelings back. We had some sweet times and some times when we enjoyed being together, but more often one of us was offended or felt rejected. I was whiny, selfish and self-serving. And he wasn't much better. What a disaster.
I decided to go to graduate school. Life cheered up a bit when a school in Colorado accepted me and gave me a job as well. There was new hope. We were both excited to move. Maybe by trying a new environment, our marriage would get better. But it wasn't any better there either. In fact, it just got harder as we each pursued our own interests, me at school and my husband at work. And with so many unresolved hurts, it was hard to have much fun together.
It got so bad that I truly wished that I could die. I knew I couldn't take my own life, but I asked God to take my life for me. This was a regular prayer of mine. But God had different plans for me.
We eventually found a church in Colorado and met some friends there. One couple (who later became our good friends) actually enjoyed being married. That was neat to see, but hard to fathom. They also seemed to genuinely care about us and wanted to be our friends.
I would go hangout with my friend, and she would share crazy advice from the Bible with me. Stuff like, "Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult" (1 Peter 3:9a). What? I could hardly imagine that. It was rare that I didn't return an insult with a bigger insult. But, slowly, over time, I started realizing that I could do the right thing regardless of my husband s response. I could be kind when he hurt my feelings instead of lashing out at him. I could keep quiet (or at least keep that return insult to myself instead of sharing it!) when he was rude. And over time, those little choices made a difference in our marriage. Soon, my husband was
My marriage still isn't perfect. But it is so much nicer than it was before! We care about each other. We enjoy one another. We enjoy traveling together. We enjoy playing games together. And we enjoy our kids together. And, thankfully, I don t feel the need to ask God to take my life anymore!
That is one way that my life has been changed by God. It has benefited me, my husband, my kids, my family and my friends (after all, it s no fun to hang out with married couples who are mean to each other!).
Another way that my life has been forever changed by God is by believing what the Bible says about my eternal destiny, where I will go when I die. Clearly, I have made bad choices, or sinned. And the Bible says that my sins have separated me from God (Isaiah 59:2).
And I used to feel that. No matter how much I tried to "do better" or apologize, I couldn't quite get rid of the feeling that something needed to be made right.
The Bible says, "For the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23a). So, what I have earned for my sin is death. No wonder I felt like I could never make everything right.
Romans 5:8 says, "But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Jesus Christ, came to earth, lived a truly perfect life, and because of that, he was able to die in my place. He came to pay my "death penalty" for me. That really IS a demonstration of love for me.
The full verse (including the more encouraging second half) from Romans 6:23 says, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." So, eternal life is a GIFT. But like with all gifts, there is something more I need to do to make the gift my own. I need to receive it.
Look at the famous verse, John 3:16. It says, "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." To receive this gift of eternal life, I have to believe. This kind of belief is not just an intellectual belief; it's about where I am placing my trust. It means giving up trying to earn my way into heaven, and instead placing my trust in Jesus' death as payment for my sins and accepting eternal life as a gift.
Making the decision to trust Jesus was the most important decision of my life, even more important than returning kindness for an insult. If you want to trust Jesus with your life too, you can pray something like this (though there's nothing magical about these specific words):
I know that I have sinned, and I am sorry. I know that I cannot earn my way to Heaven. I believe that you sent your son, Jesus, to die in my place, to pay for my sins. Thank you for the gift of eternal life.
If you would like to talk with someone about how you can have a relationship with Jesus both now and for eternity, please talk with me, one of our pastors, or one of our small group leaders.
"My wife had been growing increasingly distant.
One day she looked at me and said,
'I still love you, but I m not in love with you.'"
"...after a few days it was clear she wanted to end it.
I collected the pieces of my shattered heart
and was on the next bus home."
"To make a long story short,
three-and-a-half years later, we were married.
Well, it didn't take long for our marriage to become a mess."
In the end, this led to even more broken relationships and emotional scars.
By my high school graduation, I was a battered mess.
"'We haven't been able to revive her; you need to pray,'
was the first medical report I heard after about ten minutes of anxious waiting."
"My sexual orientation
has been constantly questioned through high school and college.
Even now in my work place people have asked about my orientation."
"God needed me at Newsbox, Etc. at 1717 Dryden Street
to pray and talk to those two ladies...God's timing is perfect."
"It all happened so quickly.
In a matter of seconds the men had dashed up from behind,
put me in a choke hold, and shoved me to the ground."