My experience of growing up in the church life.
By the Lord’s mercy I was born into a family who is for Christ and the church.
I grew up witnessing my parents living a normal church life in a small locality. For a few of my early years our family was the only family in our locality, so my experience of the church life was only through those coming to visit and by our visiting and blending with other nearby localities. As a child I looked forward to all the times with the saints whether in our home or in our visits to others’ homes and church gatherings.
As I grew older a few more families moved to our city and we began to have the Lord’s table meeting in our home. I remember receiving the Lord at the age of 6, when I asked my dad if I could pray to receive the Lord. This was never presented to me as something I must do, rather I observed and listened to the older saints speaking of their experience of the Lord, and I realized that I also wanted to have the Lord live inside of me and to come to know Him.
I also began to attend children’s camps in larger localities in the area and as I entered junior high I was able to attend the regional retreats and Summer School of the Truth. It was in those young people’s gatherings that I began to be touched by the Lord regarding His purpose and my response was that I wanted to give myself to Him so that He could use me in the carrying out of His eternal plan. In these gatherings the young people were always encouraged to exercise our spirit by singing, praying, pray-reading and speaking our enjoyment. I was an extremely shy child, and I was nervous and uncomfortable trying to enter in to pray in groups and larger meetings. But if I didn’t want to speak, I never felt forced to speak. I always felt that the serving ones were encouraging us and nudging us as a way to help us break out of our self and into our spirit. Sometimes I may have compared myself to the other young people- the ones who were more eloquent in their speaking and had boldness to pray. On the other hand, I never felt pressured to do anything just because the others were doing it. On the contrary, I felt like I was learning to be led to the Lord, how to find my spirit and how to respond to the Lord if there was a feeling to speak or to pray.
At home, my parents never forced me to pray or to attend the meetings, but always let it be my choice. There were times in my early church life that I determined not to go to meetings for various reasons, one being that a particular saint encouraged me to take care of the younger ones around me by being in the meetings, so I resolved to never go to another meeting again. Even when the meetings were in my living room I remained upstairs behind my closed door, but I remember some saints would always come to visit me upstairs and this shepherded me to the point that eventually I made the choice to return to the meetings.
As I passed through high school I began to pursue other interests and was friends with Christians who met in other denominations. I visited some of their meetings and joined a weekly worship time with them. I was never discouraged by my parents from attending these gatherings. However, eventually by my own accord I was ultimately led back to the local church meetings. It was through the rich speaking from all the members (based on the Word of God and the ministry of the age) that I was fed and supplied with life. Even from a young age I sensed that there was an unlimited supply of life in the church and with the saints.
In college I attended a university where there was no campus work and no other students meeting with the church in my locality. I went through a dry period where I wasn’t meeting regularly. There were a few sisters who were faithful to contact me during those years. Even when I didn’t respond to their calls they would leave me messages on my phone with a verse or some encouragement. Their care for me was out of love and because they wanted me to go on with the Lord. Once a sister who was attending the FTTA left a message on my phone of a ministry portion she enjoyed. I remember listening to her message and playing it over and over again while weeping because I was so touched by her calling me and also because I desperately needed the supply (and I wasn’t coming to the Lord or to the church meetings to get it). These little times of being contacted by the saints would encourage me to go to a Lord’s day meeting or to a small group gathering during the week. I also always made time to go to the regional retreats because I always enjoyed the Lord when I was there. Every time I was with the saints I was watered and shepherded, and could sense that their love for me was genuine and that they truly desired that I would return to have fellowship with the Lord and with His Body. The enemy was also operating during these years, telling me that I was not worthy of being with the saints because I had left to pursue other things. He would shoot darts at me making me think that the saints were judging me. When someone would say to me “we haven’t seen you in so long” I could easily accept the lie from the enemy that they were judging me. But ultimately I was able to reject these lies from the enemy and receive the shepherding from the saints and allow the Lord to care for me in His Body.
Eventually the Lord led me to the FTTA where I had a fresh start with the Lord and in the church life. At one point in my 4th term of the training I began to struggle with my health. I was unable to attend the classes and I was battling anxiety due to an imbalance of thyroid hormone. At first I was reluctant to seek help for this issue because I thought perhaps my anxiety was coming from Satan and that I should be able to combat it by turning to my spirit and casting my anxiety on the Lord. When I was unable to get out of it on my own I finally opened my situation to one of the co-workers. His response to my situation was that I needed to take care of both my mental health and my physical health rather than telling me simply to turn to my spirit. Another sister in the medical field shared with me that we are tripartite beings, and the Lord cares for each part. When we have a physical illness we should go to a medical doctor. If we need to care for our mental health we should go to someone trained in caring for our psychological faculty, and take medications as necessary. I was encouraged not to be overly spiritual, but to care for my medical condition before returning to the training. This was so shepherding to me. The enemy still attacks me regularly, but now I realize that no matter how long I’m in the church life he will never stop attacking. May the Lord help us all to be balanced in taking care of our entire tripartite being so that the Lord can use us for the accomplishing of His eternal purpose.
After the training, while I was actively pursuing and enjoying the Lord, the enemy came in to attack my enjoyment by bringing in an offense. This often happens- immediately following a mountaintop experience, the enemy comes in to attack. In this particular situation I felt like I was fully justified in my feeling offended. However, because of this offense, I was unable to touch the Lord in my personal time or with others. I felt I couldn’t break through my bitterness. I went to an older brother to fellowship about how I could let go of this offense. I expected the brother to help me nurse my wounds and acknowledge that I was wronged and had every right to be offended. Instead he told me, “You need to die!” I was shocked at his response. He directed me to the Life-study message on the waters of Marah, which speaks of the need for the cross of Christ to be applied to our bitter situations in order for the bitterness to become sweet. I read the message prayerfully with another sister, because I felt too weak to get through it alone. As we read and prayed it back to the Lord I immediately sensed my bitterness melting away. The Lord is able to turn even the most bitter situation and make it sweet. In my case I was able to enjoy the Lord with the saints again and was no longer trapped in my offended state. This is one of many experiences I’ve had where the Lord has dealt with my situation in a way of life. Only His life is able. By this life He is transforming us and bringing us through to glory. My life is a failure at its best, only His life can stand the test!
Even now, I’m still learning how to deal with my self and how to live the church life. I’m realizing that there are plenty of situations that could result in offenses in the church life. The enemy is always looking for ways to attack. Recently I was feeling offended by some saints and my first thought was that I didn’t want to be offended and so I tried to ignore those feelings. Then my husband helped me to see that if we are offended we need to deal with that offense otherwise the enemy will use it against us later. He may even use an undealt-with offense to attack the church through us. It is not easy to acknowledge that we are still able to be offended. The ministry says that if we can be offended this means our self is still active. Once our self has been fully dealt with we can no longer be offended by anyone. I have by no means reached at this point, but I am thankful that the Lord is faithful to expose my self rather than allowing it to remain untouched. I have a new appreciation for the situation that the Lord has allowed in order to expose my self. I still have a self that is independent from God and from the Body. When my self gets offended this is a necessary exposure and a good reminder that I need to deal with the self. Lord, don’t let me go until You’ve delivered me from the self. Only in this way can we be built up into the Body of Christ.
I am so thankful to the Lord that I was born into the church life, and that over time I chose to have a church life of my own. By His mercy I am still here, endeavoring to live a normal, healthy, vital church life with the saints in my locality. At the same time, I realize that not everyone has had the same experiences that I had growing up in the church life. This is simply my testimony. I do believe that our experiences, whether good or bad, are for one another and that we are members one of another. When one member suffers, we all suffer. Also, when one member rejoices, we all rejoice. There are many situations that others have gone through that I cannot imagine. As members of the same body I care deeply for the members who are suffering and who have suffered. In the same principle, I’m praying for each one to be cared for, healed and supplied with the Lord’s life that flows out from the Head through and to the members.