From the Heart: Chris Zweifel

 Chris Zweifel Head Shot 2Overcoming my Spiritual Enemies

Anticipation.  It’s makin’ me wait.  I’m anticipating good things to come, namely from the church that my husband and I are planting.  Never would I have thought I would help to plant a church, but God foreknew before He even created me.  As I am in this stage of preparation and waiting, I am taking a look back on my life and praising God for His saving me, His keeping me and His using me.  My life to this point is story a of redemption: from depressed suicidal teenager, to insecure stay-at-home mom, to entrepreneurial church leader.  This self-examination has brought to light areas of personal growth that I pray will be an encouragement and an inspiration to discover your life’s purpose and to go at it with gusto!

Rescued from Despair

I have always been a sensitive soul.  Even as a young person, I hated injustice and looked to Mother Theresa as a role model.  I longed to improve society and to replace evil with beauty wherever I could.  So when the good girl meets bad boy thing happened, my heart was stolen – and virtually destroyed.

My father warned me, “Don’t let him drag you down.”

“Never,” I thought.  I was the president of my church’s youth group and even played the organ for mass.  But sadly, I allowed what my father warned me against to happen.  Several years of a toxic relationship crushed my spirit and left me without any hope whatsoever.  I cried everyday, several times a day.  Walking through the doors of my high school one morning, I said to my classmates, “Death has got to be better than this.”  They carried on with little concern or notice.

A few days later I committed suicide and awoke in the ICU where I would remain for a few days.  I was disgusted at being discovered, only later to learn that it was God’s prevenient grace.  From the ICU, I was transferred to an adolescent psychiatric unit for a few weeks’ stay where I would be on suicide prevention.  It was in that hospital bed that I heard, felt God speak to me.

“Christine, you’ve got to get better.  You’ve got to get better because I am going to use you as a prophet.”

I was elated.  It was an amazing, personal encounter with the LORD Himself!  God spoke to me!  I felt exceptional.  (He knew I needed that.)

I took to my new task right away.  I wish I could say I was entirely changed right then and there, but I wasn’t.  I knew just enough about God to be dangerous and thought I could be the cool chick and still love Jesus.  When I was released, I really started to live a double life.

A couple of bad boys/men later, and I had taken on some destructive habits and behaviors.  My oldest sisters were married, having children and going to church with their families, living the life that I wanted.  This was my bachelorette dream.  Though rather than praying and waiting, I hoped that eventually the object of my affection would come around to religion.  (I was living in sin, but never missed church on Sunday.  The eyes of my heart were not yet opened.)

When the depression and suicidal thoughts returned, God showed up once more.  Unlike the first time when I heard Him speak to me, this time was much more subtle – a quiet conviction that this was not how I was supposed to live.  A modern-day prodigal child, I called my father, my voice crackling.

“Dad?…  Do you want your daughter back?”

“Come on home, Baby,” was all he said.  He was a man of few words.

Depression and despair are seriously threatening enemies.  Several times while I was just a teen, this enemy almost won.  Almost.  During each assault, God reached down and saved the day. Hallelujah.

Piercing my Pride

Shortly after returning home, a couple of friends did some matchmaking while I was none the wiser.  I was invited to a casual night out.  When the four of us left the local bowling alley to grab some pie at the all-night diner, the matchmakers coerced me to ride along with Rob, the man they introduced me to.  I was so clueless, I didn’t catch on to what our friends were up to.  We said goodnight and that was that.  No spark, nothing magical.  He clearly was not my type:  He had a decent job and a new car (a sedan no less).  He didn’t even appreciate heavy metal.

 To my surprise, the following week, Rob call and asked if I’d like to go out.  Why not?  I had nothing better to do.  We went to see a romantic movie, had some good conversation, some  good kissing, and the rest is history.  We fell in love and married the next year.  Our wedding day was the best day of my life.

 Spiritually speaking, my husband and I were in a very similar place, active in our churches, but not living up to God’s holy standards.  We thought we were good enough.  In fact, I thought I was better than most when it came to spiritual matters.

Not long after we got married, I became active in Rob’s church, teaching Sunday School, leading youth group, ringing bells in the bell choir and more.  The understanding that we would not enter heaven on our own merit came a few years into our marriage.  The gospel of salvation by grace through faith was received by each of us, not simultaneously, yet in very close proximity.  It was revealed to me when a woman more than twice my age lovingly explained that my works will not get me to heaven; Rob’s faith came by hearing me teach our kids the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection. I am convinced that the LORD drew us together, and together He drew us to Him.  I am so thankful that He did.

The Battleground of Insecurity

Rob and I wholeheartedly agreed that as a mother, my first and foremost responsibility needed to be caring for my children and my home.  I knew my calling was to be busy at home, raising a family.  We got started on that immediately.  My doctor confirmed that our first child was conceived on our wedding night.  I was beyond happy, and people were happy for us.

Then came our second child, and third, and fourth and fifth.  The “We’re expecting!” announcements became anticlimactic, as if I was telling people I just bought a new dress.  Rob didn’t even tell his employer when we were expecting our sixth child.  He simply called in one day and told them he was going out on family medical leave because I just had a baby.  I was living my dream, but the rest of the world looked at my situation as if it were a nightmare.

“Boy, you’ve got your hands full!” I’d hear.  “Just wait until they’re teenagers!”

“You’ll be working until you’re a hundred!” they’d tell Rob.

“They don’t know what they’re missing.” I told myself.  Meanwhile, at the beginning of each new day, my sleepy eyes would glare at the neighbors heading off to work, leaving me feeling isolated and insignificant.  Everyone else seemed to be doing big things, while ordinary, mundane activities consumed my days.  Through sheer comparison, I was beginning to believe that I needed a successful career to complete me.

Thankfully, since that day that the Holy Spirit enlightened me, I put down my magazines and catalogues and picked up the Bible.  I’d begin each day in God’s Word to prepared myself for another round of managing chaos.  Devotions and prayer made me ready for anything.  These were sacred moments during which I cleared my head of the internal voices when I felt them getting to me.  Time after divine time, God would reaffirm my primary call during this season: to care for my family, to teach them biblical truths, to nourish their faith, to build in them good character and to show them the value of doing hard things.

To this day, I refuse to conform to the pressures of modern living as I continue to pursue a noble and meaningful life.  I now do this with complete confidence, as if a veil has been lifted from my eyes.  I am helping my family become who they want to be, and the vocation that God is preparing me for will be worth the wait.

Breaking the Addiction to Comfort

My husband was a blue-collar worker for many years.  He worked very hard and was a model employee, but needless to say, a family of eight living on one paycheck, which happened to be bi-weekly, was quite a challenge.

“Perhaps we really are in over our heads.” I thought.  We had to sacrifice so much in order for me to stay at home.  I wondered if I was actually doing them a disservice by enduring the financial strain.  Thoughts pop into my head that I deserve more.  There are a lot of things that I thought I would have by now: a single home with a manicured lawn, a garage, etc.  When my mind drifts to such temporal things, I recall a couple of experiences in which God reminded me how He is my provider.

Once was during a Bible Study lecture, when I felt prompted to give into the collection plate what I had left in my wallet.  I reminded God that this was more than I usually gave, and that this was all I had until the next payday.  I was going to buy a loaf of bread on the way home, so I could pack sandwiches for the kids’ lunches until then.  I trusted God, gave cheerfully and bypassed the grocery store on the way home.  That night, Rob walk in the door with a loaf of bread in his hand.  (He never shopped for groceries, especially if I hadn’t asked him to.)

“What’s with the bread?” I asked.

“Oh, Billy delivers to a guy who works for a baker.  He said, ‘Here… You’ve got a lot of kids.’ And handed it to me.”  No kidding.  That never happened before at this place and hadn’t since.

Another time I was not such a good steward.  It was again a few more days until payday, and I needed a few lunchbox staples, so although I hated to do it, I was going to charge them.  Now, it’s proven that when buying with credit, people buy more than they plan on.  I knew this, but did it anyway.  Along with the milk, juice, bananas and peanut butter, I picked up a couple of items that I was out of, but could have done without: pickles and oregano.

Get this: The next day, a friend from church called to ask if I would like any pickles and oregano.

”What?”  (You gotta admit, that’s pretty random.)

“Pickles and oregano.  A food supplier has a surplus and dropped it off at church, but the condition is you have to take it by the case.”

“The case?  How much is there?”

“A pallet of each.”

Each case of pickles contained four one-gallon jars!  Several years later, and I’m still working on the oregano. (Sealed spices keep indefinitely.)  I’m not making this stuff up.  God can have a pretty good sense of humor when he disciplines His kids.  I honestly think He just likes to show off sometimes.

What did the pickles and oregano teach me?  They taught me it’s alright to deprive ourselves of things that don’t matter in order to lay out a firm foundation.  I will not wallow in self-pity.  I will appreciate what I have; I will choose gratitude.  I come from a humble beginning and am now at a humble middle, and that’s okay.  I want to leave a legacy, but not merely one of personal property. A simple and inspiring life is fine by me.

Inconveniences cause us to grow, and when God’s ready to lay something on me, my storehouse won’t be able to contain it. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to use my father’s line with the concerned folks who come by and want to treat my lawn: a polite, “No, thank you.  I’m raising kids, not grass.”

Conquering Doubt, Fear and Other Immobilizers

      Fear of failure, anxiety, and apprehensions are ever-present battles.  I continue to pray that God increases my faith as I step into the role of pastor’s wife.

One last case in point: It’s been said that our strongest asset can become our greatest liability.  I’ve got a keen eye for detail, and so, perfectionism is my kryptonite.  I cannot be perfect this side of heaven, but I can be real.  I can be genuine.  I can be intentional and deliberate.  I can care.  I cannot be overly concerned with my insufficiencies.  I will not allow my own limits to tell me that I can’t do it.  I will strive to reach my full potential and to achieve optimal goals using limited resources.  I will maximize the opportunity before me.  I will not consider quitting.

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Chris works in the boutique that benefits the Truth for Women Center.

This helpful introspection has further motivated me to live a life that is worth remembering.  It has been a blessing to consider that while I was more concerned with who my kids were becoming than what they were wearing, I hadn’t really noticed what I was becoming.  It is an ongoing evolution, and I step onto the battlefield each day, determined to be an endless example that there is still good in the world.

What are your spiritual enemies?  Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.  Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31b,32)  I sincerely pray that you know this freedom.  I pray that you are the recipient of the amazing grace and goodness of Jesus Christ.  To Him be the glory.

 Chris is employed by Truth for Women, an organization that confronts life issues through support, education and advocacy.  She blogs at chriszweifel.com.  She and her husband are launching Radiant Church on November 17 at Regal Cinema, 3720 Easton-Nazareth Highway, Easton, PA.
zweifel@enter.net