God, restore me!

(Letter Diane Stukey read to the brothers and sisters of the CNY Church of Christ on August 19, 2007!)

There’s a party in heaven when one sinner repents!

Our lead evangelist, Andrew Smellie often says, “If we’re not humble, God will humble us.” Ain’t that the truth! Recently, I had eye surgery for a detached retina. The healing process is not painful, yet it is disciplined and long. For 4 weeks after the procedure, the vision in my left eye was foggy at best. Not seeing clearly impedes my very active life. But God is good and I’ll be back to normal just in time for school to open. This is important since I am a seventh grade English Language Arts teacher for New York.

For the last 5 months, I’ve had an even more critical need for spiritual healing. In truth, my spiritual health needed to be restored. I had to reexamine my promises to God when I was baptized. Studying the scriptures with some great friends has “opened my eyes” and I now see clearly that I have not been obeying my promise to “encourage each other daily” as God has asked. I have repented and in my sorrow, I wrote a letter to God and read it to the church here in Syracuse as my apology for any pain I may have caused. I’d like to share it with you.

Dear God,

Ten years ago I decided that your ways are the best ways for me to live my life. I believed that your words, your bible, were without error… no red pen needed (middle school teacher joke).

So, I began to read and study your words daily… alone and especially with members of this church, this church who then and now please you so much. They please you because in our friendships with each other we hold each other accountable as we joyfully hold to Jesus’ teachings (John 8).

I was happy to be baptized into a church that called itself Christian and its members were not hypocritical. I found that they would help me to not compromise your plans and Jesus’ teachings. My commitment was not going to be about my comfort and convenience. That made sense to me. I did not want to be a Christian who “talked the talk, but didn’t walk the walk.” Father, you must have giggled when I came up out of the water since for 15 years prior to my baptism, I proclaimed atheism. I admit that I too was shocked to accept your will for my life.

I believed I was a true disciple of Jesus who was following the rules with all of my heart, soul, and mind until 5 months ago. Some very faithful women at a weekend retreat challenged me. I now know you were pleased with them when they asked me to reexamine my support for God’s ways and God’s wisdom to set up and run a church using Jesus as the master teacher.

I also now feel that I must have “ticked you off” when I fired back at these women, “Are you giving me an ultimatum? Are you throwing me out of this church that I am convinced is a church of Christ, a church I love and tell everyone that they would love too?”

At that ugly moment in my life, I was relying on my own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5-6) The mind that I promised to love God with was deceiving me into not remembering that God is my judge (Matthew 7:21-23). These women cannot decide if I make it to heaven or not. Some of these same women taught me that before I decided to get baptized!

The truth is that Pam, Kerri Sue, Patrique, Cornelia, Sharon, and Barb were asking me if my decision to be a “Sunday Only Christian” was what God intended for his church. They were asking me to search the bible to see if being lukewarm was acceptable to Jesus (Revelation 3). Ironically, Andrew had been leading a church wide study of the book of Revelation. When he would urge the church to not be a “Sunday Only Christian,” I can remember being very vocal when I shouted, “Preach it, Andrew. Teach it!” I was becoming the hypocrite I promised not to be.

The truth is… five months later… is that Jesus intended much more for his followers than “Sunday Only,” and I had agreed for 8 years that would be the way for me. But for almost 2 years, my actions revealed that I had rewritten biblical doctrine to suit me and my busy schedule. I now can see that without God in my daily life, my schedule gets very difficult, overwhelming, and many times crushing.

Father, thank you for opening my eyes. I don’t want to rewrite your bible or think that my plans are better than yours. Thank you for steering me to this church who has held to your standard. Forgive me, God for breaking your greatest commandments (Matthew 22). I want to love you with all my heart, soul, and mind. I will ask for help from your church to watch that my mind does not deceive me into believing that I can make adjustments to your words and to your leaders who I have been convinced always follow your words.

Forgive me, church. I am deeply sorry for not loving you as myself or as Jesus loves me (John 13) by being invisible. I must have caused some of you to stumble by worrying, “Where is she? What is she thinking? What is she believing? Is she leaving God’s church?” I apologize to my brother Ron who leads the Charlotte church for deceiving him. He trusted me when I told him that my spiritual life was on track. He now advises me to be more open and communicate my thoughts and needs to the body. He assures me that my leaders and friends in the church want me “to win.” I now trust that this is true.

God, never again do I want to be so arrogant to believe that I can make changes to a church that for 10 years of my life and 29 years of my brother Ron’s life has held to the biblical standard that is yours. This is a church that for 13 years has helped hundreds of Syracusans know that you, God are alive and well and willing to transform lives in a prosperous way. I am one of those lives.

A scripture that I must hold to is Proverbs 3:7 where you teach me, “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.” God, I fear you and I trust you. I vow that I will make every effort to be with this church, to support its leaders whom you know and I know are helping me and many others live as a Christian, a disciple of Jesus … without hypocrisy.

God, restore me.

Your faithful servant,

Diane Stukey