My name is Robin.
I am a wife and a mother and a daughter. I am a pastor’s wife and a foreign missionary. But all of that describes either my job or my relationship to others. Who am I really? And how did I find the answer to that question beyond all doubt?
My story started in my preschool years at the foot of my mother’s bed. I don’t remember much about it—how the conversation started or what led us to prayer. I just remember peeking at the footboard of the bed while she led me in the most significant prayer a human being will ever pray.
Dear God, I know I have done wrong. I know that I have earned punishment for wrong, but I know that you sent your only son Jesus to take the punishment in my place. Please come into my heart. Please remove the sin and make me like new again. In Jesus name, Amen.
That wasn’t even really the beginning though. It was more like the beginning of the beginning, because without a doubt I was made new in that moment. But while my Sunday mornings were spent in Sunday school, my Monday through Saturdays were spent in a home plagued with conflict and pain. It would take another encounter before my relationship with Jesus became active and alive.
I am the oldest of four children. In the ever-spiraling turmoil of family relationships, I became “the good one.” I was the babysitter, the helper, the peacemaker, the getter-of-good-grades and the stayer-out-of-trouble. It was an identity I easily assumed and I embraced it.
I embraced it so much that somewhere along the way, that identity, “the good girl,” became my primary source of validation. I believed a lie and held tightly to the insecurity that they loved me because they thought I was good. But I knew I wasn’t really that good and when they found out, they wouldn’t love me anymore. The lie began to define me. Being good meant I was loved. I was only one mistake away from total rejection.
By the time I was in high-school, the conflict at home had reached intolerable levels for everyone and my parents divorced. About that time, my mother changed churches and sent me to summer camp with the youth group. I was not happy with the arrangement since I am also an introvert by nature and the thought of a week with a hundred strangers was not appealing. But she insisted and I was the good girl, so I went with little protest.
Maturity has brought with it the hindsight to know that God’s hand has never left me. He knew me. He knew all my pain. He even knew the lie I believed. He met me at that camp and for the first time in my life, I knew I had been in His presence.
I don’t remember the message. I don’t remember why I went forward to pray. All I knew was that I needed to acknowledge in a very personal way before God that I had done wrong. I needed to confess that I was NOT the good girl I had made myself to be. I needed to acknowledge that Jesus had suffered and died to take the punishment for MY wrongdoing in MY place, and I needed to realize that I was worth that kind of love. When I did that, God was there to meet me.
I stayed at the altar for at least an hour. People—teenagers and adults alike–who had been strangers to me hours before, sat with me while I wept. They prayed for me. They cried with me. And when I got up, I was not the same person. Second Corinthians 5:17 says “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come.” I was made new. The weight of the pain of an unhappy childhood and everything that had happened to me was washed away in that hour. The shame and regret I had buried for everything I had ever done wrong was lanced like an infection and cleaned out. In that moment, I knew who I was. I am handmade by the Creator of the universe. I was known before I was even born. I am loved enough to die for. I am created to love Him.
It was a triumphant moment and it was the moment in which I began a living relationship with God. If someone loved me enough to suffer and die for me, how could I then turn my back and refuse to follow Him? I was made new. It was the beginning of who I am today.
As the months and years slipped by following that summer evening at camp, the Lord opened one door after another and I walked through them. I met and married an amazing man who is a daily example to me of God’s love. We were blessed with two beautiful children. Together we followed the Lord’s direction into full-time ministry: first as youth pastors, then as children’s pastors, then as children’s missionaries.
Along the way, have been some valleys and dark places too. We have been on the receiving end of wrongful termination from a ministry position. We have been challenged with making a cross-cultural transition and then losing everything we owned. We carry images in our minds of our children with automatic weapons pointed at them during a robbery and we have faced sickness, loss, death, and war. But through every dark place my foot has ever set, the Lord was there shining a light of hope.
Through the times when I couldn’t carry myself anymore, He lifted me up and carried me. When I was terrified, He brought inexplicable peace. Everything I have ever endured since that day when I first let Him into my life has only served to draw me closer to Him. Without Christ, my life would have gone down a completely different path– the natural result of the conflicts of my childhood. I know this because the outcome for my siblings without Christ was much different. And though it hasn’t always been easy, I would much rather have spent my life following my Savior along a difficult road than to have gone down any other path alone.
The lyrics of a popular worship song say, “You make me new, you are making me new”. These words resonate with me every time I hear the song. I was first made new when I prayed at the foot of my mother’s bed. I was completely transformed that day at camp. And I am still being made new.
Yes, I have scars from childhood, but I don’t carry them around with me like old baggage. They don’t hurt anymore. Yes, I still have pain from some of the more recent events. And yes, even on some days the old insecurities resurface. But I choose to recognize that suffering brings me closer to Christ, and I choose to allow Jesus to take the pain and heal me.
So I still claim the promise of hope in Christ, knowing that my debts are paid and my mistakes are erased. I refuse to believe the lie that I am only loved when I am good. Instead I choose to remember that I am eternally and monumentally loved by God, who is so merciful that He allowed His beloved son to die in my place to make me new.
That is who I am.
“And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, and perseverance, character, and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God poured out his love into our hearts.” Romans 5:3-5