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Immeasurable Rewards!

Some months back I reconnected with a friend from high school. I think it's fair to say that neither of us were living our lives for the Lord back then. Praise the Lord that much water has passed underneath our bridges and God has chosen to bless both our lives more than we deserved. I have been so excited to talk with Susan and hear how the Lord has blessed her and her husband Chris. It has been a true joy to see her excitement for our Savior and her willingness to serve Him with all her heart.

Today I have asked her to share her story. I pray that you will leave encouraged knowing that God never walks away from His children and always welcomes them home with open arms. Please welcome my dear friend Susan Sykes.

I grew up going to church every Sunday. When I was about 7 or 8 years old, I accepted Christ and was baptized. I’m not sure I really understood what was happening, but I did know that Jesus had died for the bad things I had done and would do. As I grew older, church became somewhere I went because that’s what I was supposed to do. I still believed in God and what Jesus had done for me, but I thought I could live how I wanted, and then come back to Jesus in my own time.

While I was in college, I never went regularly to church except for when I came home on the weekends. I do remember feeling guilty every Sunday morning because I had not found a church to go to. There’s no other way to describe it except to say that I had an empty space. I also knew exactly what I needed to fill it, but I chose not to. I wasn’t done with MY life yet. After college, I moved to the Outer Banks, and married my husband, Chris. We never attended a church regularly there either. I was good at talking about it though! I said every week that I was going to find a church to go to, but I never went.

After a while, Sundays just became the second day of my weekend. Deep down though, I wanted to find a church home. The empty space was still there; it was a very recognizable need in my heart, but I chose to ignore it. It was too hard to go to a church where nobody knew me and I didn’t know them. I thought that if I went and I didn’t like it, everyone would shake their heads me when I didn’t show up the next week. What would my friends say? “She went and got all religious”, I would imagine them remarking to each other. I told myself, “I’ll just find a sermon on TV to watch”, “I’ll worship God in my own house”, “I’ll just go to church the next time I go home.” I came up with all kinds of excuses, and did none of them. I was feeling guilty. The Holy Spirit was convicting me. Still, I ignored Him.

Soon, I became comfortable with not going to church on Sundays. Sometimes, well, most of the time, if I came home on the weekend, I would “forget” to bring something to wear to church. I’d also say I needed to go ahead and get back home early. It’s not that I didn’t believe in God anymore—it’s just that, that’s all I did! I believed there was a God. He made us, He loves us. For a while, I thought that was good enough. But something inside me was just not right. I felt guilty. This lingering guilt would not go away. I’d go out with my friends, have fun, feel guilty, and then go out and do the same thing the next weekend. God was working on me. He was weighing on my heart, convicting me of my sins. I just kept pushing Him further and further away. My pride and independence was more important to me than God.

I had drifted away from God, and I was now feeling the effects. God never left me, but I left Him- halfway promising to come back after I’d done what I wanted to do. All the while, I knew the consequences of choosing my own will. I was being selfish, choosing the world over Him. It was easier for me and more fun.

In January of ’06, Chris and I found out we were pregnant. We were so happy and excited. This pregnancy brought me back to those guilty feelings, but it was a little different this time. Now I was worried that I wouldn’t be a good parent that sets a good example for her child. I started to realize that God had trusted us with this little person inside me. It was going to be our responsibility to teach him or her about their Heavenly Father. Not long after finding out I was pregnant, Chris got a job offer back in our hometown.

So, we moved back home. The first couple of weekends, I excused myself from going to church on Sunday morning because we were working on fixing up our rental house. I was also hesitant because if I went one Sunday, I would certainly have to go the next and the next. It was a commitment I wasn’t ready to make. And there would certainly no anonymity at my home church! After the excuses ran out, we finally went to church. As we attended each Sunday, I noticed that at each worship service, I was being moved to almost tears, feeling as if I had a huge knot in my throat that reached all the way down to my stomach. God was convicting me and I knew I was not in the right place with Him. Church was making me uncomfortable, and I was fighting it. Week after week, I pushed back the tears and heartbreak and said no to Jesus one more time. “Maybe next week”, I’d say.

One Wednesday night, I went to the church family supper before the prayer meeting. Of course, I wasn’t going to go to the prayer meeting, just the dinner. My plan was to just enough to not feel guilty. On my way out, Ashley, now one of my closest friends in Christ invited me to attend one of her mission circle’s meetings. Needless to say, I tried to think of every reason not to go, but I knew deep down, I had to. God was tearing down the wall I had built. Attending that meeting and being accepted into a circle of Christian friends began my path back to Christ.
In September of ’06, Chris and I had a beautiful baby girl we named Molly. It was becoming increasingly apparent God was blessing us. God kept guiding Chris and me to church every Sunday. We were both feeling convicted, both wanting to learn more, and both of us experiencing God’s calling to our hearts like we never had before. I was still holding back the tears and convictions until finally, I was broken. God was preparing Chris and me both at the same time. On May 27, 2007 we were both baptized, Chris for the first time, me for the second. This time I understood, we both understood.

It was an awesome feeling. My heart was running over. I made the commitment, and this time I wasn’t afraid. I was excited! I finally knew what it meant to be free. It’s not always easy. In fact, Jesus promised a life lived for Him would be difficult, but the rewards are immeasurable! My life is not always a fairy tale, but I take great comfort in knowing how my story will end.

Susan Sykes, 31, lives in Edenton, NC. She is married to Chris, her wonderful husband of almost 6 years. They live an always exciting life with their 2 ½ year old daughter, Molly, two cats- Josie and Hazel, and Max, the wonder-dog . Chris and Susan serve at Rocky Hock Baptist Church. Susan is a stay at home mom and a silversmith. Chris is a computer network administrator. Susan's beautiful handy work can be found at Susan Designs.

2 Lovely Thoughts Shared:

Beth in NC said...

What a great testimony and woo hoo -- another NC girl!

Thanks for sharing with us.


Krista said...

I have reconnected with high school friends recently too and was pleasantly surprised and happy to see that they loved Jesus as much as I do! Thanks for sharing!