A Heart of Flesh

Posted by admin in November 19th, 2009
Published in faith

Hey! This is Part 2 of one of those two part thingies I do. Part 1 is A Heart of Stone. You might want to read that one first. You know…so it all makes sense.

So, for reasons I couldn’t explain or understand back then, after I broke into the doc’s car I went home and dug through rubble to find my childhood Bible. Yeah, I had looked up the verse he’d prescribed when I was in his office a year ago, but for some reason (maybe I was nostalgic then too) I wanted to read it again. His words kept shouting and replaying, “You’re a good girl Teri. You’re a good girl.” But I knew the truth. I knew I wasn’t.

The folded up prescription was tucked away in the navy blue leather-bound Bible. I had to thumb through all the Sunday school stickered pages to find it. I stopped thumbing for a second just to look at praying Jesus in the Garden, the little sheep and then I noticed one of the stickers was of Jesus carrying a little lamb around His neck. I touched it softly with my fingers. Tears fell onto the page. Finally, I found the prescription where the infirmary doctor had written I John 1:9 and under dosage he’d prescribed it four times daily. What a dork! What a weirdo he was.

I found the passage easily enough. I’d always won first place in my Sunday school’s Bible drills. They called them “Sword Drills” back in the day. This is where children compete to find Books in the Bible. The teacher calls out a Book, the kids scramble to find it and the first one to do so raises his/her hand and shouts, “Found it!”

There it was. I had marked it with a pencil the year before, “If we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

My heart literally was in pain. My body was aching and that little five-year-old girl deep inside me was asking, “Where am I? What’s happened to me?” My university had kicked me out (which is no small task when you consider that I was at Southwest Texas State University—a school very lenient in both its academic life as well as its student code). My employer, Safeway 707 in San Marcos, had put me on probation. Not for stealing, but because my till kept coming up over! That’s right…over! My manager explained that this meant I was a) not giving customers their cash back when they wrote a check for over the amount of purchase or b) I was short changing folks. Either way, ripped off customers weren’t usually repeat customers. She warned me, “One more time of till overage Teresa and you’ll be takin’ some unpaid time off.”

My bank had finally dropped me. I’d written too many bad checks and even though I always made them right and paid all the fees, they were tired of messing with me. My school was tired of me; my work was tired of me; my landlord was tired of me; my parents were sick and tired of me; my friends were tired of me and let’s face it… I was tired of me!

I sat there on my bedroom floor and read the Scripture again and again. “Oh Jesus, is this true? I want it to be true. I’m so exhausted and I’ve lost my way.”

It was just weeks before my 21st birthday and sitting on that bedroom floor I began to take inventory of my crappy, burned out, loser life. Everything was in ruins. Seriously. Everything. I got up off the floor and placed a collect call to my sister in Oklahoma City. Cindy was the only family member talking to me these days. She accepted the call and I just started bawling. She couldn’t understand me and she kept asking me to calm down and tell her what was wrong. I was heaving and sobbing and completely unintelligible. Finally, I settled down enough to talk.

“My life is so screwed up Cindy! I’m so screwed up.” Her life wasn’t so great either, but she did have at least an appearance of having it all together. She had a good job, was married, owned a home and my parents adored her. She was always the responsible one.

“When did I get so off track? Remember when we were kids and Mom and Dad always had us in church? Remember how we loved to hear preaching and we loved our Sunday school teachers? Where did it all go wrong?” I asked her.

I heard her sigh, there was a long silence and then she said, “I don’t know. My life is pretty screwed up too. Why don’t I send you a ticket and you come up here to visit me and Mike for your birthday? We’ll pay your way and when you’re here, let’s try to figure some of this stuff out together. Okay? Ya want to?”

I did. She did. I went.

After all, my till did indeed come up over once again. Three times and you’re out! I was on unpaid leave.

I’d been warned and still it happened. Of course showing up at work stoned out of my mind didn’t help me keep track of things very well. In fact, I remember one day being so out of it that I was putting groceries into a paper sack and trying to make everything fit squarely into the bag. I was high out of my head and when I looked up, the customers, the local vet and his wife, were just sorta staring at me pathetically and sad like. Dr. Dullnig and his wife Teresa came in to the store each week for groceries. I knew them, kinda, and it embarrassed me that I’d spaced out there for a minute and forgot where I was and what I was supposed to be doing. I snapped out of it as best I could and tried to act normal. But it was too late. They knew the signs of a druggie. They were on to me.

I arrived in Oklahoma City the day before my birthday. Cindy and Mike met me at the airport and as we drove to their home in Midwest City Cindy broke the news to me. It was Memorial Day weekend and Mom wanted to stay the night as she and Dad were meeting up for the weekend. (As always, he was living in one place and she another—not separated, but it was his work to contract out and go where the jobs were). My Mom, who was living in Wichita, wasn’t interested in speaking to me. I had screwed up pretty badly and both she and Dad believed in “tough love.” Her policy toward me was: Don’t call us. We’ll call you. And it’d been that way for over a year. Can’t blame them. I had done some pretty awful stuff.

“So, she’s coming through town and I invited her to spend the night with us and go with us to dinner to celebrate your 21st birthday!” Always the peacemaker, Cindy was trying to mend her family.

I cussed and then said, “Great! She’ll start in on me. She always does.”

Mom came the next day and there was a definite chill in the air. We had a real way of ticking each other off. Neither of us knew how to stop. It had become a habit and I was obviously no good at stopping habits.

We all went to dinner and before dinner was even over my Mom and I got into it—big time. Back at Cindy and Mike’s house we all retreated to our corners of the ring. Cindy and Mike went to their room, Mom took the guestroom for the night and I had the couch. It was my 21st birthday, it was nine o’clock at night and we’d all gone to bed. What a celebration.

I lay there on my sister’s sofa as moonlight poured in through the living room window. I couldn’t sleep. I was desperate for dope, and filled with rage toward my Mom. It’s a scary thing to be alone in a semi-dark room with thoughts. It’s dangerous too. I began replaying the conversations Cindy and I’d had over the past two days. We talked about our childhood and our faith and God. We talked about struggles and battles and fears and sadness and heartbreak and how our lives hadn’t turned out the way we’d expected. The way we’d wanted. We both were lost and couldn’t find our way back home.

I lay there on that sofa with the back of my hand resting on my forehead. Where had it all gone wrong? How had I ended up like this? I was raised in a Christian home. My folks went to church every time the doors were opened. I’d accepted Jesus as my personal Savior and was baptized at the ripe old age of five. I knew right from wrong. And yet, here I was living a garbage heap of a life and the stench of it all had become more than I could stand.

It started as just a weary whisper. Just a whisper and not that complex. “Jesus help me.” I repeated that a couple of times and then, “I’ve screwed up so badly. My life’s a mess. If You want me, if You still want me, here I am. If you can do anything with this pile of garbage I’m Yours. I need You desperately. I’m desperate. Jesus, please…help me.”

And honestly, I don’t care what your theology is or what you think happens or doesn’t happen today in this dispensation, but my God came to me. Boom! Just like that. He came to me in power and fire and might. He poured out His cleansing power and Holy Ghost on me and I thought I was gonna die!

The fire started somewhere in my feet and it moved up to my head, back down again and up again and I was on fire. It was a good fire though, but a little scary too. My heart, which was pure stone, was burning hottest of all and I had no idea what was happening to me.

I cried out, “Jesus, thank you! Thank you Jesus! Thank you!”

And whatever it was that was happening to me was taking my breath away. I began confessing my sins—each and every one of them. And with each confession came a new lightness, a new freedom. The next one and more freedom; the next and more light; the next and I thought my heart was going to burst.

“Thank you Jesus! Thank you!”

And there, lying on my sister’s sofa in Midwest City, Oklahoma, I saw His face. His beautiful, lovely, peace-filled face. He looked just like the Jesus on my Sunday school stickers—brown eyed and bearded with long brown flowing hair. And His eyes were filled with love. I looked into those eyes and I was free. Completely and absolutely free. I was forgiven. I was clean.

A song started from deep within me and I opened my mouth to let it out and a melody I had never heard before and words I didn’t even understand came flowing out of my mouth. And I sang and sang and sang. Didn’t know what I was singing but I knew I liked it. The song was leading me home. Finally, and I have no idea what the time frame was, I asked the Lord to stop because my body just couldn’t take anymore. It was too powerful and very overwhelming.

When things finally settled down I felt different. Cravings were gone. The pit in my stomach was gone. I felt lighter, free, new. I got up off the sofa and went to the back guest room, a little shaky, to tell my Mom what had happened.

She was asleep. “Mom,” I gently touched her arm. “Mom. Wake up.” She woke up and asked me what I wanted.

“Mom, something just happened to me and I don’t know what it was.”

She sat up in bed and turned on the night stand lamp. “What do ya mean?” She was still a little sleepy.

“Listen to this,” I said and I started singing just like I had sung on the sofa.

“What is this?” I asked her.

“I don’t know, but I think it’s speaking in tongues,” she answered.

I put my hand up to my mouth, “Oh no! We don’t believe in that!” I was devastated. I’d been raised and saved in an independent, fundamental Bible Baptist church and we did not believe in tongues. Tongues were of the devil.

“Well,” my Mom rubbed her eyes, “if it’ll get you out of the mess you’re in, I’ll take it! Anything beats how you’re livin’ now.”

“Mom, I love you and I’m sorry…for all of it. I’m sorry,” the words came easily and I really, really meant them.

“I love you too Teri. Let God do His work in you,” she said.

And with that I went back to the living room, lay down on that sofa and slept like a baby—peacefully, comfortably, happily resting in my Father’s arms. The struggle was over, the battle had been won. Jesus was indeed victor.

The next day Cindy asked me what’d happened ‘cause she’d heard me singing in the night. I told her. I told her everything. My Dad showed up later that afternoon and needed to bum a cigarette. I’d thrown mine away. The thought of them made me nauseous. God had cured me of a two-and-a-half-pack-a-day habit. Sorry Dad. Don’t smoke anymore. It was then, sitting at my sister’s table that he looked at me, strangely and kind of staring, “When did your eye color change?” he asked. “Your eyes look funny.”

“Funny?” I asked.

“Not funny. Different. You look different.”

And I did. If the eyes are truly the window to the soul, my soul had had a major overhaul. In one moment, in one instant God had delivered me from drugs, cigarettes, lying, sexual sin and He had healed my heart of stone. I was a new girl free and happy and clean. I was so clean.

After that I hungered for the Bible and I’d read it for hours each day. You see, God had cut out all the bitterness and ugliness and He had taken my old heart of stone, which was solid rock, and He had given me a heart of flesh that was able to love again, feel again, to do what the human heart was created to do—worship God.

There’s so much to tell and this blog just shouldn’t be this long. So let me wrap this up…I flew back to Texas. My boyfriend picked me up at the airport. I was wearing the same clothes, I had my usual makeup and hair, I hadn’t altered my physical appearance and yet when I got off the plane my boyfriend asked me, “What the hell happened to you?” I was seriously different.

I started working again. I told my employer about stealing money. She helped me set up a plan to pay the store back a little each week out of my check. Safeway 707 customers noticed a difference in their grocery store clerk too. In fact, Dr. Dullnig and his wife Teresa noticed it right off. “Teri, you look wonderful. What happened to you?!?”

“Well, I don’t know how to explain it, but God has touched my life. I’m free. I’m absolutely and totally free and clean!” I was almost shouting it.

“We can tell! Praise God. We’ve been praying for you for months now and it’s great to see God has answered prayers,” they were practically weeping. They both came around the counter and gave me hugs. It was pretty emotional. It was glorious.

They left the store and about an hour later Dr. Dullnig came back carrying a small package. “My wife and I wanted to give you this. We just felt God told us to share this with you.”

It was Don Richardson’s The Peace Child. I started reading it as soon as I got off work and I couldn’t put it down. I stayed up all night until I’d finished it. It’s a missionary story. After reading it I gave my life to missions. It was the main thing God used to call me to be a missionary. I told the Dullnigs that. They were happy.

But honestly, how on earth could I be anything but a missionary? How could I be anything else? How could I keep this wonderful and good news to myself? God had set me free. I had found the cure to the cancer of the human soul and to keep that life-giving message all to myself and not share it would’ve been horrific. Immoral actually. Just plain wrong.

So now, almost 30 years later I still want to shout it from the housetops. I want to tell everyone I meet that Jesus set me free. He’s my Deliverer, my Savior, my Healer, my Lord and King.

And for those who question doctrinally if the Holy Spirit is still poured out on believers today? I can only say, like the blind guy healed by Jesus in the Temple, “I was blind and now I see.” I know what happened to me was real and I know that God pouring out His Holy Spirit on me empowered me to live a Christian life—something I had never been able to do before. Call it what you will—sanctification, Baptism of the Holy Spirit, second act of grace, a Damascus Road experience—that night on my sister’s sofa forever changed my life. I never did drugs again. I never smoked again. And I became celibate and remained so until I married. I was blind and now I see. I was in bondage and now I’m free. I was weak and now I am strong because of God’s grace in filling me with His Holy Spirit. And because of this I’m compelled to tell anyone and everyone who’ll listen that Jesus is the only hope for the ills suffered by the human race.

He did it for me and He can do it for anyone who asks. There is no struggle, no bondage, no darkness, no fear, no sin, no brokenness, no pit too great for Him. He is able. And all these years later I can truly say I know my Redeemer lives. Praise His name forever! Peace.

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws” (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

6 users Responded In This Post

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290. texas sister said,
November 19th, 2009 at 10:01 pm

These blogs should always be so long and how i pray that they will go out and accomplish what He wants with the words you share.

291. Texas cuzzin Linda said,
November 19th, 2009 at 10:37 pm

Praise to God and blessings on you for pouring out your heart. I love you, dear cousin.

293. Cuzzin J'Lynn said,
November 20th, 2009 at 1:14 pm

You mean so much to me. Thank you again. What a life-changing and healing story.

294. jamie said,
November 20th, 2009 at 2:22 pm

Teri, your life is such a gift. I’ve enjoyed reading these the past two days. Your story is a glorious testimony of His Goodness and Mercy and Love. I love you.

295. BBQ Girlfriend said,
November 21st, 2009 at 7:39 am

Thank you Teri . . . this was worth the wait.

298. Laura Savage-Rains said,
November 24th, 2009 at 9:20 am

I’m just so proud to call you Friend! Thanks for your openness. It really DOES make a difference!

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