A Life Transformed
I was 29 when I moved in to share a house with two girls in Athy, a small town in southern Ireland. I arrived at the house laden down with sports equipment such as: hockey stick, squash racquets, wet suit, canoeing gear, and bicycle. I had just returned from a six week holiday visiting relatives in the US and Canada. It should have been a great holiday–I’d visited wonderful places and was even at the Winter Olympics but I felt empty inside and very alone.
One of my housemates, Irene, had a very busy life with lots of friends and was happy for me to join in when she had them to visit. She had told me she was a Christian, but then, I thought that I was too. I was a good Catholic and did all I knew to do to be right with God. I went to mass every Sunday and during Lent, went every morning. My parents were devout Catholics and my father, in particular, was a strict disciplinarian.
The very first time I met some of Irene’s friends I knew they were different from anyone I had ever met before. After a short time I started to read one of her Bibles if no one else was around, pushing it quickly under a cushion if anyone came in to the room. Within six months I became a Christian. I saw life totally differently. I went from being bored at work to seeing it as God’s perfect place for me to serve Him. Due to a knee injury I had to give up hockey and squash but I never missed them and made no attempt to play again. I knew Jesus was my saviour and that He was real, alive!
My parents weren’t too happy about my Christianity. My father was brought up in Northern Ireland and to him I had become "English" He was extremely angry and later I realised why. He associated the Bible only with the worst element of Northern Irish Protestantism, which to him, unfortunately, was that of self-righteousness and hypocrisy. A challenge that was thrown at me was that God wouldn’t want to break up families. A verse that spoke to me at that time was "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, …yes, even his own life, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26). The Bible fell open at that very verse one morning after I refused to go to mass and went instead for a drive by myself.
However, after about two years being a Christian, I felt like I was still missing something. I did not "feel" like I loved Jesus in the way that some Christians talked about. I didn’t speak in tongues-though I pretended to and so felt like I was not good enough for God to give me these gifts. What a deception! Around this time Irene had been talking with a friend of hers, Mary Walsh, who was saying she had found answers and decided to go over to Cobham in England for an Easter Conference. I decided that if Irene was going to be finding out something new, I wanted to discover it too.
It was like everything fell into place when I heard the speakers. They were real about their lives. They weren’t afraid to say that they had failed as Christians. Not many Christians in my experience acknowledged any difficulties or failings. It was a relief to know that God hadn’t given me less and was waiting for me to be good enough before he could give me "more of the Spirit." I had been given the Holy Spirit; Christ was now living in me as me. I had thought that I had to do better or that Christ would help me do better. No. All the glory is His. He is the doer.
The verse "be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Rom. 12:2), now made sense. I was learning the truth of who I really am in Christ and the transformation began.
At work as a bank official with the Bank of Ireland, I ceased to be anxious about making mistakes and trusted that, as long as I was not in any known sin, it was Christ living His life in me, and if He wanted the cash to be out, that was His business. It used to be that I’d be in a state when I was away from work, in case some awful mistake I had imagined, would be found out. As I realised that it was Christ working at the bank through me and that He did not give me anything to do beyond what I was able, my confidence grew. During the first Summer Camp that I attended, I was encouraged to resume a course of study that I had abandoned. (Some years previously I’d obtained a certificate in finance and decided, "That’s enough study for me!") I completed my diploma in Financial Services with honours in 1999 and at present I’m studying to complete a degree in Financial Services. Needless to say, the course I was encouraged to pursue continues to be very helpful in my career-more about that later-and has been positively commented on in several of my annual appraisals. One evening, in a conversation about my faith, a work colleague said to me, "I noticed a great change in you after your first trip to the States." That was my first Summer Camp!
Before I went to that first summer camp I had a dilemma about shopping for clothes. I hated clothes shopping as I thought nothing suited me. My standard garb was jeans, sports tops and sneakers as I had worn since my teens-they felt comfortable and safe. At age 33 I did not think the word "woman" applied to me. I saw myself as a gauche, immature person who would never look elegant and didn’t dare wear flattering clothes or makeup. I was encouraged to dare to believe that I was a mature woman of God and that there were lots of smart clothes I could wear. Another barrier was broken through, a further renewing of the mind and further freedom as I went to camp that year.
At camp I got further input on color and clothing. These details may seem insignificant in the scheme of things but God used them to show me that He cared about every detail in my life. About two years after I had purchased my house, friends from the fellowship visited. They showed me how to hang pictures, helped me with new furniture and generally with decor. I had not learned these things growing up and God was now looking after me through His precious vessels in the Zerubbabel fellowship.
During my first year at camp we were put in different work groups. I remember thinking that I didn’t know the people I was put with and that I’d prefer to be with others I knew. Also, I thought the other groups were doing more interesting things. I knew this attitude was wrong and realised that what I had been doing since childhood was looking to people for approval and affirmation. In school I had always wanted to be with whomever I perceived to be the most popular students and doing the most exciting jobs. Now my first thought in any situation was changed to, "This is where God wants me today for His perfect purpose for others." What relief and freedom. My mind was off myself and on to Jesus Christ and others. It didn’t matter what I was doing. I knew with an inner knowing that I was always in God’s perfect place and situation.
I was learning, slowly but surely, that Christ in me is sufficient and all I would ever need. Another verse, which now made perfect sense, was: "Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine" (John 15:4). As the eldest of nine, I am very aware of God’s purpose for me in abiding and standing in faith for my family–none of whom is saved. My younger brother, James, who lived with me during his senior years at school, and my youngest sister, Hilary, have been the most visibly receptive in recent conversations and contact.
To conclude, on Friday evening, Sept 22nd, I received a phone call from the Bank’s new Area Manager to hear, "Congratulations Marian, you are our new Customer Service Manager for Naas Branch!" I was delighted and very grateful to God for His faithfulness. Over the last few years in Newbridge I have worked hard at furthering my education and doing my job well. Opportunities for promotion were not plentiful unless I was prepared for a few hours spent in city traffic every day. I trusted that God would have something for me in His time without having to commute to Dublin. Naas is just six miles away.
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own under-standing; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight" (Proverbs 3:5-6).
More Articles from The Intercessor, Vol 16 No 3
- The Law: Stepping Stone to Man’s Exposure
- To Think About…
- Editor’s Note
- A Look at a Book
- Summer Camp 2000, The Adults
- Tape Talk
- Bible Study: God’s Law
- A Life Transformed
- Zerubbabel Focus: Computers
- Questions & Answers
- Spontaneous Living
- The Laugh of Faith
- Youth Camp Report
- On the Web
- The Christian in the Workplace
- Leadership in Music
- "One Died for All, Therefore All Died"
- God’s Restoration of Man
- Only Men Count
- Intercession In Action
- Faith Produces Deeds…
- Words to Live By…