A few years after these spiritual experiences, our oldest son and his wife had their first baby. We watched as our son and daughter-in-law went from being elated new parents to being devastated three days later when he learned their newborn son had multiple heart defects that would require emergency open-heart surgery in order to survive.
Fortunately, the world-renowned heart specialist Dr. Vaughn A. Starnes of the Los Angeles Children’s Hospital chose to have an opportunity to look at our new grandson to see what he could do to help. It is very difficult to operate on a newborn’s heart because it is so small―about the size of a walnut―so we were very pleased to have such an experienced surgeon willing to help. A few days later, our grandson had his first open-heart surgery. The objective of this first surgery was to repair one of the valves which was so small that it practically didn’t exist. After the surgery, Dr. Starnes was very pleased to tell us that everything had gone well, and his surgery was successful.
Unfortunately, the valve that the doctor basically created was quite primitive and was leaking. So they closely monitored his heart over the next few weeks to see how it healed. Unfortunately, our grandson didn’t heal properly. This was a serious problem because he kept bleeding in his lungs because the valve was leaking. This complication was also the result of another serious defect―a constricted artery coming out of his heart. It functioned like a kinked hose. So when the heart pumped, the blood would hit that restriction, flow back through the leaky valve, and release the pressure through his lungs. There was no way to stop this bleeding without another operation. The doctors had originally planned to do the second operation six months after the first so our infant grandson could heal and the heart could grow larger. Unfortunately, there was no time to wait.
Our grandson’s second open-heart surgery was very risky. The baby was weak from the original surgery and his heart wasn’t functioning properly so he wasn’t receiving the nourishment he needed. They would have to also repair the artery coming out of his heart, and they had no option but to install an artificial valve, which they never wanted to do on an infant that small. An artificial value would require our grandson to have multiple heart surgeries throughout his life to replace the valves as his heart grew. The surgery on the artery was also very dangerous. They had to go in and replace a section to broaden its circumference. Even if everything went well, there was a high probability that they would not have time to finish both procedures before his weak body expired. Each of those procedures was very risky on its own. The doctor said that there was about a 50 percent chance of survival if they were only doing one of these procedures, so it was impossible to estimate the chance of success when combining them in one operation. But we had no choice. Our faith was tested during this experience, and interestingly, it also grew dramatically. Our family pleaded with the Lord to please inspire and guide the heart surgeon as he performed that operation so the baby would survive.
After the long operation, the doctor came in and told us that it went very smoothly and was a total success. He said they did not need to replace the valve after all. He said that when he was beginning to work on the tiny heart, he got the idea of cutting a piece of tissue from the sack that holds the heart and putting it over the hole in the valve as a patch. He tested it, and it worked. This was fantastic because this tissue would bond with the valve and continue to grow as the baby grew. This way, he hopefully would not need further open-heart surgeries. We were elated and grateful for this answer to our prayers.
We soon discovered that we were participants in an even greater miracle. Moments before our grandson went into his second heart surgery, John, the father of another child who was in the ICU, saw me standing in the hall outside. He walked right up to me and said, “Grant, your grandson is going to be just fine. My family has been praying that the valve will work OK so they won’t need to replace it.”
Of course, replacing the valve was one of the purposes of the operation. So I politely said, “Well, I hope so.”
John vehemently replied, “No. Not just hope. They will not need to replace that valve. Otherwise, your grandson will need to have more surgeries, right?”
I said yes.
He confidently declared, “Well, that’s not in God’s plan. We’ve been praying that that valve will work, and it’ll be just fine.”
Sure enough, that is what happened. Because the second operation was so risky and not your standard, normal open-heart surgery, the news of its success quickly spread through the floor of the ICU. John came looking to congratulate us and tell us how happy he was for us. He found us in the family lounge. I thanked him for his prayers and told him I strongly believed that his prayers were influential in the successful outcome for my grandson.
John paused, and then he said, “Well, let me share something with you. My son was born a few weeks later than your grandson with a similar condition. And they were going to turn his heart into a three-chamber heart because they measured his mitral valve, and it was only four and a half millimeters wide when it needed to be nine millimeters.” John said he insisted that they remeasure it. This time, it was six and a half millimeters. The doctors explained that the valve’s actual size was five and a half millimeters because there’s a margin of error of one millimeter, plus or minus. So five and a half millimeters is right in the middle. That is what they said accounted for the discrepancy.
Several days later, the doctors conducted another battery of tests to prepare for the operation the following day. The medical staff did another echo index echocardiogram and measured his valve. Surprisingly, it was now seven and a half millimeters. The doctor said they had no explanation for it, but it was still too small, and they would still need to turn it into a three-chamber heart. The next morning, they did the operation. And when they went in, they measured the valve, and it was exactly the right size: nine millimeters. They did not need to turn the heart into a three-chamber heart after all. They still needed to do some repairs, but the infant would be able to fully function with a four-chamber heart.
John then said, “God answered our prayers for our son, so we knew He would answer our prayers for your grandson as well.” John’s love and faith touched my heart. I know that God does answer prayers of faith and loves his little ones.
Not all prayers are answered the way ours were, but sometimes God gives us a glimpse of His will so we can exercise more faith in him. Sometimes Jesus knows that it is more beneficial for us to suffer with him in order for us to realize a deeper union with the Divine than is possible in any other way.
Seeing God’s hand heal these two small boys was a remarkable miracle. But there is an even greater miracle that many people have witnessed. Everyday God heals hearts broken by betrayal, infidelity, and abuse. Jesus is the balm of Gilead and can sooth our pains and sorrows. We each can experience a miracle when we allow the master surgeon to heal our soul while he performs surgery on our open and willing hearts.
We lived in a variety of places. Sometimes we lived in very nice homes while at other times we lived in very humble surroundings. One of the biggest contrasts in our housing occurred during my freshman and sophomore years of high school. When I was about fourteen years old, we lived in a mansion that previously belonged to the owner of the largest local newspaper, the Sacramento Bee. Governors of the state of California previously held large parties and receptions at this estate before we lived there. It was a home that most people can only dream about.
This estate consisted of about five acres nestled in an upscale part of town. The residential section of the estate was situated on about one acre of land in the middle of the property, concealing the house from the busy outside world. Out front, we had stables for our horse and a pasture surrounded by trees on about two acres of land. A long driveway ran up one side of the pasture and then turned into a large circular driveway in front of the mansion.
We had a three-car garage―unheard of in those days―with a wood shop connected to it on the end farthest away from the house. We had the largest swimming pool I had ever seen at a personal residence. The back two acres consisted of a rural setting with a year-round stream running between the oak trees. There were about half a dozen large brick barbecue pits interspersed throughout this natural setting. Surely, most people would think that they had finally arrived and would be happy owning such a nice property.
A year later, we were living in a dilapidated house in the middle of a rundown rural trailer park outside of Redding. The house was not much more than a shack. It consisted of three rooms and had a corrugated tin roof that leaked like a sieve and made the house sound like the inside of a drum when it rained. We hardly had any furniture. We used a Styrofoam cooler to keep our food cold because we did not have a refrigerator. We did not have a television, so our neighbor invited us to his trailer to watch the first man step foot on the moon. My brothers and I slept on the floor next to the little table where we ate. We certainly were poor by anyone’s standards.
Interestingly, I was happier living in this dilapidated house in the middle of a rundown trailer park than I had been a few months earlier living in a mansion on an estate. Our family was closer. We spent more time doing things together and talking with each other. I began to develop a more personal relationship with God and would read the scriptures each morning before the rest of the family arose.
Even though we were in the midst of upheaval, I felt more settled, secure, and peaceful than I had for years. The contrast was so dramatic that even as a teenager, I consciously registered a great life lesson: happiness comes from within and not from an outside source.
This truth was reaffirmed when I served as a missionary among the Quechua-speaking Indians of Ecuador. Most were poor and destitute, yet many seemed to enjoy life.
I will never forget visiting Brother Ruiz in his small, half-built house with walls made out of dried mud with dirt floors and a thatched roof. His wife had died several months earlier, leaving him to provide for and take care of their three young boys, including a baby less than a year old. The six-year-old would care for his younger siblings while his father worked in construction during the day, earning a mere pittance. When Brother Ruiz arrived home at night, he would prepare their dinner and food for the next day, then gather his family around him to eat and play together. He and his children always seemed so full of life and love, even while struggling through this difficult time.
One particular evening when I dropped by to pay them a visit, I discovered that Brother Ruiz had invited a homeless man, even more destitute than himself, to come over for dinner and to stay with his family for a few days while this stranger looked for work. I was amazed. Here was someone who had practically nothing sharing his meager portion with someone even less fortunate than himself.
His great example helped me realize that his family’s happiness was based in gratitude and a willingness to share. This attitude of gratitude is certainly a key to happiness. It is impossible to be happy without feeling gratitude. Sharing not only evidences our gratitude but also adds to it.
If we believe material things are the source of all happiness, we will be sorely disappointed. The pursuit of happiness through materialism is insatiable. We can never acquire enough stuff to fill the emotional black holes that drive us to succeed. There will always be something else we want or something else that is a little better or bigger. We will never be fully satisfied in life until we find the source of truth and love, God.
I find it very instructive that Christ referred to his message as a “well of living water” to a Samaritan woman at a well. Every day for decades, this woman had probably come to this well to draw water in a futile effort to satisfy the demands of the parched earth and human thirst. She could never draw enough water to fully satisfy all the demands for this life-sustaining substance in this dry and barren place. She had to repeatedly return, day after day. No wonder her interest was piqued when Christ told her, “Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:14).
He then instructed her that the only way to really worship God is in truth and through the spirit. As many Christians can testify, once we invite God’s spirit into our souls, it becomes a well of living water, quenching our emotional and spiritual thirst and satisfying our quest for love, meaning, and well-being.
Cars break down, clothes go out of fashion, properties require maintenance, and stocks rise and fall. Satisfaction achieved through material wealth is fleeting at best. If fame and fortune were really the ticket to happiness, rock and movie stars would not be seeking to escape their empty and shallow lives through drugs and alcohol.
Granted, this is a material world we live in, so acquiring the necessities of life is essential to a well-balanced existence. But many individuals fall into the common trap of taking a good or necessary thing too far, allowing it to obstruct their ability to acquire the peace and happiness they actually seek.
Materialism is one of the biggest problems of modern society. As the Bible states, “The love of money is the root of all evil.” (1 Timothy 6:10). Because material things temporarily satisfy our physical needs, like the water from the Samaritan well, many are lured into the false belief that temporal things will completely satisfy their quest for well-being. But it never lasts. Just as the Samaritan woman had to return to the well every day, material things will never fully satisfy our thirst.
Let us not waste our lives endlessly pursuing things that cannot satisfy and will leave us wanting more. Instead, let us turn to God, who will become a well of living water inside us that will fill our souls with love, perspective, understanding, peace, and satisfaction.
We are puppets on a string, jerked around by other people. “No way,” you say. “Nobody controls me. I am the master of my fate.” Really? Be honest. What happens when someone pushes your buttons? Think of the last time you were upset or did something you regretted. What triggered those feelings or your behavior? Was it something that someone else said or did? Now reconsider how much of your life, thoughts, feelings, and activity are a reaction to what other people say or do.
We often try to assert our independence claiming, “Of course I react to other people and the changing circumstances of my life. Everyone does. But I control my reaction.” Are you so sure? Why did you react the way you did? Why did it even matter what someone else said or did? Why did it upset you? Was it because you were not respected? Did you feel embarrassed, abandoned, rejected, or betrayed? Was someone trying to control or manipulate you? If so, then you are not as independent as you think. The genesis of these feelings is our separation from God, and our ultimate independence is only found in and through our union with God through his grace. Let me explain.
One of the biggest obstacles to enjoying life is our reticence to acknowledge how much our lives are actually controlled by fear. In reality, much of our behavior revolves around our subconscious insecurities. Until we recognize these fears and confront them, they will remain the undercurrent in our lives that carries us down paths of frustration and sorrow. Much of our anxiety is a byproduct of our separation from God and the loss of feeling His love, which creates core uncertainties and fears.
Every child born into this world is full of joy and a sense of wonderment about life. Their natural state is to be happy. Sure, they are miserable at times, but once their basic needs are met, it usually does not take much time before they are smiling and beaming with joy. However, because they are born into a world full of evil, over time, they may lose this zest for life and become hardened by their disappointments. This creates basic insecurities that influence their behavior. So, as they grow up, sin enters their hearts, and they taste the bitter that they may know to prize the sweet. From their experiences, they learn to distinguish good from evil and exercise their free will more wisely.
However, living in this world of pain and sorrow, over time, all of us become prisoners of our insecurities and the dysfunctional behavior that naturally follows. It becomes the natural state of all mankind. However, this is not our true innate identity or our ultimate destiny. God has devised a plan for our escape. Christ has come to heal the brokenhearted and set the captive free. (Luke 4:17-21). Even our vulnerability created by our separation from God, serves as the catalyst to facilitate our conversion into a new creature in Christ.
Weakness comes from our separation from the Almighty. Humility and faith in God open the door for us to enter back into His presence and feel His love, which empowers us to overcome our weaknesses and, in the process, become stronger. All fear is associated with loss. Feeling fear is tied to a concern of losing something. Even the fear of success is associated with a fear of losing something else in the process, such as friends or esteem because of potential future failure (loss) based on higher expectations.
Our innate fear of abandonment and rejection comes from not having the love and attention we need while young and from disappointments in other close relationships. The fear of losing esteem (whether self-esteem or being valued by others) is evidenced by our concern about not measuring up and not being valued. A fear of not being valued is often more acute in those who have been put down or pressured to excel. A fear of losing control or not being in charge of things often occurs when one subconsciously feels that the lack of love in their childhood resulted from their inability to control their environment.
We all experience varying degrees of these three primal fears that influence our actions. These subconscious fears are the genesis of most of the dysfunctional and inappropriate behavior that keeps us from realizing our divine destiny as a son or daughter of God. We need to sever these emotional puppeteer strings so we can discover our true identity and realize our full potential.
As we analyze the deeper reasons why we become upset, we can usually tie it to one of these three primal fears. If we repeat this exercise whenever we get upset, we will soon see patterns in our behavior and the source of our feelings and actions. Identifying the real reason we become upset helps us learn how to better handle life’s challenges.
Reconnecting with God eviscerates these obstacles, liberating us to live a more fulfilling life free from the effects of sin. The primary obstacle keeping us from seeking God’s will is fear. The reason the unprofitable servant in the parable of the talents failed to do anything was because he was afraid. (Matthew 25:14-30). Fear is debilitating while faith is invigorating. Our acceptance of God’s grace creates the faith necessary to overcome our fear, which then frees us to realize our divine destiny.
The fear of losing love can lead to a fear of loss of control, so some individuals and religions gravitate to a more works-based theology because they want more control of their destiny. Taken to an extreme, it destroys trust and faith in God, which is the solution. On the other hand, people who suffer from the of fear rejection tends to gravitate to a grace-based theology, which taken to an extreme, destroys personal responsibility. Reality is found in a marriage of both grace and works where they function in harmony. Finding this balance helps us overcome our three innate fears so we can experience greater joy and security in this tumultuous life.
Married life was great! Even though we did not have much money, we made do. We rented a small apartment. Our furniture consisted of a bed and two old buckets we turned upside down to use as chairs to sit on while we ate our meals, which Jean placed on an old worn-out card table. Over time, we accumulated more furniture when we had a good month. Jean would pack us a sack lunch to eat while we both worked at our small insurance agency. Sometimes she didn’t have time to make the sandwiches beforehand, so we used a letter opener to spread peanut butter on slices of bread she brought as we rushed out the door.
We lived on a budget of $800 per month, but one month, we only had enough money in the business to take out $500. Our rent was $350 per month, so Jean sacrificed to stretch the balance of the money until the next monthly commission payment. That month, we only had enough money to purchase a pound of hamburger, a chicken, some cheese, and beans, but we were happy.
Jean became pregnant right away, and our first precious little girl was born ten months after our wedding. The business flourished, and we were able to purchase our first home. This was during an economic crisis of stagflation, so our mortgage was at 18 percent interest. We loved our little old house and set about fixing it up.
One Saturday, we invited our secretary and her husband over for dinner at six o’clock. I was an ambitious hard worker who didn’t waste time, so I planned on laying a new floor in the kitchen before they arrived. I moved the stove out into the entryway early in the morning and started laying the floor. As most people know, home improvement projects always take more time than planned. As the afternoon wore on, Jean kindly mentioned several times that she didn’t think I had time to finish, and we should put the stove back so she could cook the meal she had planned. I would look up at the clock on the wall and say that we still had enough time.
Eventually, she put her foot down and insisted that I stop because our guests would arrive in half an hour. I pointed to the clock and said that we still had two and a half hours before they arrived. Jean smiled and informed me that the time on the clock was wrong. Sure enough, she was right, so I immediately rushed putting the tools and materials away and cleaning up, but before I could move the stove out of the entryway, our guests arrived. Boy, were they shocked to see a stove greeting them when I opened the front door! The husband was kind enough to help me move and reinstall the stove, and then we played board games while we waited for Jean’s dinner to cook. We all laughed about this experience for years, but more important, you get an idea of how gracious and patient Jean was with me.
One of our insurance clients had a solar company that was taking off as a result of the favorable tax credits the government offered at the time, and they suggested that I help sell their product. With the help of a friend I met in Ecuador as a fellow missionary, we devised a marketing plan to use accountants to help us sell the solar panels. We named our new corporation, Grant, Brent and Company and bought our first computer to help automate our marketing effort. The venture exploded, so we bought our next big computer. Realize that this was before IBM introduced personal computers with Microsoft DOS software. We paid $40,000 (over $120,000 in 2022 dollars) to buy a computer the size of a dishwasher with a great big forty megabit hard drive the size of a circular serving tray, four dumb screens, a dot matrix printer, and a letter-quality printer. Even though this equipment seems like a joke today, it was instrumental in helping us automate our business. Direct mail marketing to tax professionals became a breeze. We wrote dozens of standardized responses to frequently asked questions so we would simply check the boxes on our list that applied, and our secretary quickly printed out responsive letters. We ended up selling over $10 million ($30 million in 2022 dollars) of solar equipment that year.
Life was good. Jean was expecting again; we didn’t have money problems; Jean’s mother, who had been disabled by a stroke a few years earlier, lived with us; and I was teaching religion classes to teenagers every morning before their first period high school classes began.
Then Jean went into labor two months before her delivery date. The hospital was unable to stop the labor, and our first awesome son was born and rushed to the neonatal intensive care unit at San Diego’s Children’s Hospital. At that time, this was right at the point of gestation at which infants had a chance to survive a premature birth. It was devastating to watch little Jeff struggle to breathe. His chest would collapse with each breath as if there was nothing in it. His whole arm was as long as my little finger. But he was a fighter, and the nurses put a picture of a rabbit on roller skates on his incubator because he was progressing so fast. It still took several weeks before we were able to bring him home.
A few days after Jeff’s birth, I was visiting with the chief financial officer of the firm that produced and installed all the solar equipment we had sold. I was shocked when he mentioned that they had sold $40 million dollars’ worth of equipment. I was their insurance agent and major sales arm, so I knew approximately how much equipment they had produced, which was a lot less. My partner and I discussed this disturbing development and consulted legal counsel. We sent the solar company a letter mentioning our concern that they had not produced all the equipment they had sold and demanded that they deliver to us within ten days all the equipment purchased by our customers. The deadline came, and the solar company filed bankruptcy. I did not want to add to the stress of our son’s life-and-death struggle, so I chose to not yet tell Jean about this developing financial disaster.
Two weeks after our son’s premature birth, Jean’s mother died of heart failure. Our life was turned upside down in an instant. We didn’t know if our son would live, Jean’s mother was dead, and I didn’t feel comfortable telling my wife that not only was our financial security in jeopardy, but we also may have been involved in a large fraud.
After her mother’s funeral, I told Jean what was happening with the solar company. It was a great relief to feel her support and move forward as a team to deal with life’s challenges. Life is like riding waves. Sometimes you are up, and sometimes you are down. The key is to learn how to hang on and enjoy the ride. When you are down and feel all alone, it is good to remember that life is dynamic, and your situation will change. Even though going through such hard times seems unbearable, when we look back, we realize that those are the times we learned some of our most important life lessons.
The doctors warned us that if our son survived, he would probably have serious mental disabilities. As it turned out, he not only survived but is highly intelligent. He has become one of the youngest partners at a prestigious patent law firm. We have been blessed with five other children, each of whom is an equally amazing individual. The four owners of the solar company were convicted of felonies, including tax fraud for backdating contracts. Fortunately, my partner and I were able to show authorities that we returned and did not process backdated purchase orders received from our salesmen. I am so glad that we were honest and did not fall prey to the temptation to make a quick buck by turning a blind eye to deceit.
Unfortunately, the owners of the solar company didn’t initially realize that it would cost more to produce and install the solar panels they sold than they had planned. Instead of immediately stopping, they decided to try to fix the problem by selling more panels without manufacturing all of them in hopes of buying time so they could cut costs down the road. When anyone checked on the inventory, they swapped out the serial numbers to avoid discovery of the fraud. I knew these individuals quite well and believe that they did not start out planning to defraud people. But they had not learned the life lesson to stop digging when you are in a hole, so they found themselves in prison.
I loved JELL-O as a young child. We didn’t have much money, so treats were a rarity. Consequently, JELL-O became an affordable luxury we looked forward to. I liked cherry flavor the best, but lime and raspberry were close seconds. I didn’t much care for lemon flavor, but strawberry was OK.
One day my mother taught me how to make JELL-O. She showed me how to measure two cups of water from the faucet and pour it into a pot that we put on the stove. We turned the burner on under the pot and waited for the water to boil. In order for the JELL-O mix to properly dissolve, the water couldn’t just be hot; it actually had to boil.
It always seemed to take forever for the water to boil. That is when my mother taught me the old saying “A watched pot never boils.” It really seemed true to me. Sometimes I would stand on a chair and watch the water in the pot as little tiny bubbles would form along the edges. Nothing seemed to happen, and then out of nowhere—usually when I looked away for just a moment—it started to boil.
We then poured the boiling water into a pan of whatever shape we wanted, where we would then stir in the JELL-O mix until it dissolved and then add a couple of cups of cold water. We then put it into the refrigerator to cool, where its very nature was changed from a runny liquid without form into a glistening, malleable yet resilient shape of the mold we had chosen. Sometimes we would even mix in some fruit, but regardless of the variations, the transformation was always fascinating. I looked forward to helping my mom make JELL-O almost as much as eating it.
Sometimes, as I watch others start to turn to Christ to solve their problems, I am reminded of these childhood experiences in my mother’s kitchen making JELL-O. All too often, I see individuals give up before their conversion occurs. On other occasions, I watch and wonder when this individual will finally get a clue, and just when I think it may never happen, he changes, just like a struggling caterpillar transforms into a beautiful butterfly.
I empathize with those who are frustrated because they feel that they are trying to turn to God, but nothing seems to happen. I can read the struggle in their faces. They seem to be saying, “God promises that if we seek, we will find Him; yet nothing seems to change. It seems to work for others, then why not for me? Maybe I’m just worthless, and not one who He has chosen to save? Why should I even try? Nothing ever works out anyway.” These are damnable thoughts.
God wants to save all of us. We are all His children. He loves each of us. Our loving Heavenly Father wants to convert all of us into beings who can experience ultimate joy. Don’t give up and throw the hot water out of the pot just before it boils. It does work. But it may require more than you currently realize. It is well worth the effort, though. God will not let any of your anguish go to waste. Instead, he will raise you up and make something strong yet beautiful out of every tear you shed. So, hang in there.
God wants to make JELL-O, and not lukewarm water, which the Lord spews out of his mouth. (Revelations 3:15-16). Too often we give up when we start to feel the heat. It is human nature to delay our conversion by avoiding the uncomfortable heat of facing our sins, character flaws, and the emotional injuries from our childhood that often form the foundation of our wrongdoing. Instead, many of us just dabble in religion. We want the promised blessings, but we do not want to make a complete commitment. It is as if we put our water pot on low heat.
Consequently, we suffer through life, dealing with its ups and downs without God’s full help and without truly being converted. We still react to the same old buttons that people push, and, in actuality, nothing really changes that much. Maybe, over time, there will be enough accumulated effect of the simmering heat that the water may eventually boil, but usually not, and even if it does, we miss out on a lot of blessings in the meantime.
I have found that if we want water to boil, it is much better to turn the heat on the stove all the way up to its highest setting. The key to conversion is opening up and completely submitting to God. How much we suffer, how hard we work, or how long we struggle does not make a big difference. The power of conversion lies with God, not ourselves.
However, we hold the key to unlock God’s power. He will immerse us in his love and power only to the extent that we are willing to accept it. God describes His power as a refining fire that burns away all our impurities. (Isaiah 48:10). We must be willing to submit and bear enough heat that we can be converted. We need to seek Him with enough intensity and purpose that the help he gives us to change will actually stick and not just be a passing phase. God realizes that, for many of us, it is “easy come, easy go.”
Once the conditions are right and we are really willing to let God have his way with us, He will then change our nature, just as liquid water converts to steam, and a hot JELL-O solution solidifies into the shape of the mold we select. God will transform us into the person He wants us to become, the very best version of ourselves.
Because the key to conversion is our willingness to submit to God, not how long we suffer, it makes more sense to let go and submit to God’s will immediately instead of prolonging the process.
I do feel it is important to point out, however, that even though our nature may not change all at once, if we look for it, we can see God’s influence in our life, giving us hope and encouragement along the way. I can personally testify to the veracity of the Savior’s promise: “Seek and you will find, knock and it will be opened to you; for everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Matt 7:7–8).
Faith is the key. Even if we only have enough faith to desire to believe, that is enough to start, and the Lord will do the rest if we let Him. If we open up and give even just a speck of space in our heart to God, even if it is as small as a mustard seed, God will begin to expand our soul and fill us with his love. (Matthew 17:20). But we must be willing to make room for him in our heart as he fills us with his love. This requires us to let go of other things in our heart that compete with Him. In order for us to be completely converted, we must develop enough faith that eventually, we are willing to sacrifice everything. God is patient and will help us develop this faith over time if we let Him.
God is a jealous god not because He needs our adoration, but because He knows that if we love anything more than Him, He cannot fully convert us into a being capable of receiving all that He has. Consequently, we must face our core emotional issues in order to give them over to God. This usually is terrifying. In fact, facing our core emotional fears and turning them over to God is the boiling or conversion point we need to reach. We resist doing this because of the pain these memories evoke. We doubt that God will actually heal our soul and remove the pain. We let fear control us because we are unsure of the outcome and what we will turn into afterward.
However, when truly dealing in faith, we don’t have a preconceived outcome in mind. Instead, we simply decide to trust in God and do what we know is right, regardless of the outcome. Like the watched pot that never boils, sometimes we must learn to wait in faith for the promise of the Father.
In ancient times, God required his people to offer their choicest animal to Him as a sacrifice. The sacrifice consisted of killing and then burning on an altar this animal that was dear to them. Today, God asks us to offer to Him a broken heart and a contrite spirit. (Psalms 51:17). To accomplish this, we need to sacrifice on God’s alter our emotional issues that are as dear to us as the unblemished animals were to God’s ancient people. We need to identify the emotional issues that we cater to more than to the will of God, then kill them and ask the Lord to completely obliterate them and convert their very nature, just as fire destroys and converts the nature of what is burned to ash and smoke. As we make room for Him in our heart, He fills us with His love, healing our soul and casting out our fears. This is the way God heals us of the emotional black holes that pull us down.
If we are really willing to let go and completely destroy those things that hold us back from God, He will then convert our very nature, and we will discover our true self, liberated from all that holds us down. Abraham is a great example. Even though Abraham had seen and spoken with God on more than one occasion, he still had issues that he needed to deal with in order to be fully converted into the “Father of the Faithful,” the being God wanted him to become.
When Abraham was younger, his father tried to sacrifice him to a pagan god, and he escaped through the intervention of God. When Abraham was over a hundred years old, God asked him to sacrifice his son, Isaac, to God. For decades, God worked with and prepared Abraham for this great test, which God knew he would pass. I believe Abraham needed to deal with the emotional scars from his youth, so this great test was very personal to Abraham. When Abraham was ready, God asked him to face those issues. Through faith and trusting in God, Abraham attempted to sacrifice his own son, at which point an angel stopped him.
Abraham learned something about himself that day. I believe he learned to forgive his own father for his evil attempt to sacrifice Abraham years before. Through this process, God was able to heal Abraham of the lingering emotional pains he still had not fully resolved. Abraham learned that he really loved and trusted God with all his heart. Abraham was then better able to understand and internalize God’s sacrifice of His own son because of His great love for each of us.
In order for us to truly repent and be converted, we must learn how to forgive those who have offended us. We need to internalize the reality of the infinite scope of the atonement. If we fail to forgive others, it is as if we deny God’s atonement. It reflects our own faulty opinion that Christ’s atonement is not infinite, but limited. If it is limited, then our own salvation is at risk. Hence, we still need to develop more faith so that God can convert and save us. As we accept Christ, the love he gives us empowers us to forgive. Consequently, love and faith are intertwined and build each other.
Once we totally submit to God, we reach our boiling point, and our nature begins to change. God then gives us his spirit, and just like the JELL-O mix, it makes us sweeter and adds more flavor to our life. He takes us out of the heat and gives us time for our conversion to set.
The knowledge that God accepts us brings peace to our soul and builds our faith, empowering us to endure life’s challenges. Our very nature changes. We are no longer like a liquid with no subtance, flowing from one thing to the next. God can then form us into whatever shape or thing He wants us to be.
What a wonderful blessing it is to know that God promises to convert us into His child to be a joint heir with Christ. (Romans 8:17). For our citizenship is in heaven, and we eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself. (Philippians 3:21).