Forty-four years later, I can tell that I’m not at all the same person I was. Now the Vessel is a nice silver-type -- probably won’t reach the gold one til I’m headed to heaven, but that's OK. I love the Lord with my whole heart – my whole being – partly because I know I wouldn’t even be here if it wasn’t for Him. I’ve had a few times over the years when I found out that the Lord had changed me beyond my former recognition.
I had been saved for about ten years, was working downtown in an office. Had only been in Omaha for a year or so. A couple of my co-workers were Christians, and I had been very frank about my background; always have been. One day one of them came to my desk, grinning. She told me that she had been in the break room eating lunch with a few others, and one of the young women was telling them that her boyfriend had just moved in with her. When she finished, she told my friend, “Don’t tell Joanne. She’d never understand. She’s too naive.” All I could do was thank the Lord for somehow changing my appearance, taking off that “hardness”, without me even knowing about it, but others seeing it.
A number of times over the years since then similar experiences have taken place. Each time, I praise the Lord again, because I’m seen as an innocent in our culture.
Do I still have problems? Oh, absolutely. Especially anger. I don’t often show it, but I DO often feel it. My personality is still in the intense range; I may never be the “sweetness and light” that I desire to automatically exhibit and I respect so much in others.
However, the difference now is that in this silver Vessel that I am, it is opposite of the way the dumpster was. The dumpster had garbage and the occasional gem. The Vessel has the blessedness of God ... the spiritual gifts [teaching, giving], results of ministry [discipling new believers, missionarying, helping anywhere He sends me during crises], and swirled in with Family members from the Body -- not just "in general", but Dads, Moms, Sisters, Brothers, Kids and Grandkids, around our country and in other nations. It absolutely thrills me to have them in my life. However, in the Vessel, in the mix, are chunks of leftover garbage from the dumpster. Not huge amounts, often nearly hidden by the blessings floating past them, but “there”. Lack of submission, too much independence, some rebellion, misbehavior, imperfect personality.
However, most of the time, people hardly notice. In general, they don’t see me that way. I do. I notice those ugly tiny particles of gunk. But I also know that the cleaning of the Vessel with the Blood of my Savior and the power of the Holy Spirit and the GRACE of my Heavenly Father, will continue to cleanse in such a way that the particles will disintegrate, sometimes suddenly, and I won’t even know they are gone until someone says, “Oh, you can’t tell Joanne. She won’t understand. She’s too naive.”
A short summary might pass hope along.
I have family members who have come to the Lord and are serving Him. From nearly the beginning of my walk with Him, He defined me scripturally and in my heart, as a family "Pioneer". About fifteen years ago, a sister mentioned that she saw me the same way and showed me a song that described it. As hard as it is to still see the "other" life our family has led to still be in place in some lives, it is a huge blessing to see some dramatic changes, also.
March 17, 1979, I received a letter from my Dad, who was 60 at the time, and this is what he said:
"I finally gave up my solo fight against alcohol and went to church ... I came away with an awful load off my back; I hadn't realized how heavy it was. My problems are still here, but the Lord is sharing my burden. I am really surprised at the feeling.
"Things are looking up for me now, but it wouldn't hurt for you to say a small prayer for me, I need all the help I can get."
I hadn't seen him or spoken to him for years before receiving that letter. Five years later I saw him shortly before he died. I am SO looking forward to spending time with him in heaven. Can hardly wait!!
My mother also turned her heart to the Lord about 10 years ago when she was turning 80. She will be 90 in July and even though it's still tough for her, overall there's been a change. For me, one of the most important aspects is that I actually have a below-the-surface relationship with her, and I hadn't, except for the occasional moment, for all those years. I'm still only out to see her about once a year, but the change has truly taken place.
So, we continue onward and upward ... HE is the HOPE.
Thanks for reading.