We all have a life story – the facts, the events, the circumstances, the tragedies and the triumphs that we can put on a timeline, type out on a résumé, or tell in a testimony. We can tell how God intervened in our lives to change us at crucial and needed moments. There is something even deeper, though, that is more important. It is the story that we live by. The story we live by shapes how we see ourselves, how we see the world, and how we see God. Often the story that we live by is shaped by pain, by problems, or by our past clinging to us and causing us to live with a sin-marred view of ourselves, others, and God.
One of the times I treasured in twenty-seven years of being a senior pastor was the opportunity to be the shepherd to children, houseparents, and staff of STCH Ministries Homes for Children in my years at First Baptist Church of Kenedy, Texas. I look back on it now as a unique ministry unlike I had ever experienced before or since. I was able to see lives changed then, and now that I serve on staff at STCH Ministries, I am able to see how the stories of some of those lives continue to change as I am around former residents and many of those same houseparents.
One incident clearly stands out in my mind of a little girl who was about ten years old, and who was only at Homes for Children and my church for a short time. I was leading a group of kids through a Bible lesson and I had asked the children what verses of the Bible they could quote from memory. Hands shot up all around the room and one by one the kids began to say John 3:16 from memory.
I finally said, “OK, who knows a verse other than John 3:16?”
This little girl looked at me with her big brown “My life verse is eyes and raised the only hand in the room at that point. I nodded to her and she said, “My life verse is Psalm 27:10.”
There was a pause, as if I was supposed to know that one by heart, and then I asked her to share it with us. Very calmly, as if this verse brought her great peace, she quoted, “Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me.”
Now there really was a pause in the room. I felt all the eyes of the adult workers turn from her to me as the possibilities began to go through their minds of why a ten-year-old girl would know that scripture by heart and call it her life verse. But there was something about the peace with which she said it that brought a peace to me. I knew God had done a work that only He could do of changing someone’s life at a very crucial point. There was a lesson far beyond what I was going to teach that day that she had already learned. God had showed her that life-changing reality, and the story of her life was being changed. More correctly, perhaps, the story that she lived by was being changed.
I affirmed what she said and what God was doing in her life and moved on into the lesson, but the memory of that moment would stay with me. Though I never knew much of the life story of the little brown-eyed girl, she gave me a glimpse of the story that she had lived: “Though my father and mother forsake me…” Meanwhile, God was giving her a glimpse of the story she could live by: “…the Lord will receive me.”
Loving houseparents, skilled case workers, and dedicated staff, along with generous donors, were part of a process in which her circumstances—the story of her life—had changed. God was using all of that to intervene so that the story that she lived by could change.
To me, that is the great joy of seeing what God does through STCH Ministries. He makes sin-marred stories become the story of the gospel. It is the story God offers us through faith in Jesus Christ, despite what others have done to hurt us and despite what we have done to hurt others. It is not just changed circumstances, but a changed life.
Thank you for what you did to help that little ten-year-old girl, who had endured such pain in her life that she knew the first phrase of Psalm 27:10, “Though my father and mother forsake me,” to come to know the reality of the last phrase, “the Lord will receive me.”
So what is the story that you live by? Are you ready to let God change it?
Read more stories of life change in the Messenger online! Our digital edition has all the stories from the printed magazine plus videos, blog posts, and the latest news. Visit www.STCHM.org/Messenger today!