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“My name is Taletha, and I serve on the ministry team at IMPACT195 and work as a receptionist at Rock Church. I want to take the next few moments to share with you how God has shown me the path to security in Him, gladness and rest.
In Psalm 16.8-9 it says ‘I have set the Lord always before me; Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will rest in hope.’
I first heard the gospel when I was 16 years old. I had gone with some friends of mine to see the musical ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ and by intermission I was riveted. I didn’t want anyone to tell me how it ended because I had never seen the show before. In fact, I had never heard of that ‘story’ before. By the end of the show I was in tears and disbelief. ‘How could they kill Him? He didn’t do anything? Really? He rose from the dead and was alive again?’ What I had thought was a good show turned out to be God’s way of reaching my heart.
Shortly after, my friends invited me to their church to play a role in a musical they were putting on. I went, I auditioned, I made it and I loved it. And although I wasn’t sure about ‘this Jesus thing’, after the show was over, I kept going back to their church.
It took me three years, two churches, tons of questions and a family continuously praying for me for me to finally say the prayer to accept Jesus into my life and into my heart. My faithful friends, who had been there since the beginning of my adventure, cried as I repeated the words my leader said in a small room after service. I was excited for what was to come.
My adventure with Jesus started out great, like a bride and groom departing for their honeymoon. I got involved, I did outreaches, I shared my faith; I was even part of a leadership team that started a college-age service that out-grew the room it had started in. I prayed fervently, I felt the presence of the Lord, and then…I got involved with the wrong crowd. It wasn’t the people you were warned about staying away from when you were little. It wasn’t the trouble-makers, the slackers or the partiers; it was my fellow church-goers.
It’s said that small compromise leads to big disasters. And in the midst of ‘learning how to be Christian’ and following the ‘rules’, I followed suit instead and was greatly misled. My questions of, ‘is this ok?’ were answered by ‘as long as no one finds out’ and I soon saw my friends living double lives.
I was confused. I was convicted; I thought to myself, ‘how is it possible to listen to and learn something on Sunday and then do the exact opposite right after?’ I hated it. It didn’t sit well with me nor did it make sense, but for some reason I couldn’t walk away.
For college I decided to go to a Christian university away from where I had been and the life that was slowly unraveling around me. But when I got there it wasn’t much better than what I had already experienced. Again I saw what was learned in class and chapel was not necessarily the blueprint to the lifestyle being lived out. It was still college, there was still rebellion, and there was still pushing the limits, but with biblical undertones and some self-righteousness thrown in. And then came Hollywood.
I had danced for most of my life and so when a friend said she could hook me up with her promoter, I jumped at the chance. All of a sudden I found myself on the set of an Usher music video, surrounded by dancers and film crew in the middle of the night in the heart of downtown L.A. During the shoot I was approached by another casting agent and found myself on the set of a reoccurring TV show filming four to five days a week. I was having a great time, making great contacts, having great experiences, making decent money, but all the while my grades were slipping and I was growing farther and farther away from Jesus.
Moving back home to Santa Cruz a couple years later did not come easy, but it felt like the right thing to do. In actuality, it led to absolute heartache. While home, I experienced something very traumatic and it felt like there was no one to turn to in my faith. I decided in my heart, ‘I’m done’ and I walked away. I walked away from Christianity; I walked away from God.
It took five more years and a move to San Diego before I returned to Jesus.
I found a church with a dance group and thought that must be a pretty awesome church. One night at dance class, the bible study portion of our session gripped my heart. The ministry leader talked about Ephesians and about how my identity was in God and how He saw me and that my value didn’t have to equate to what other people thought of me. The leader explained how valuable I was, so much so that God was willing to pay the price of His son for me. They talked about how much God cared about me.
It changed my life. It saved my life.
The leader of the bible study came up to talk to me that night and ask who I was. We found out we lived in the same area and he invited me over saying there were always BBQs going on and people over. I took him up on it and went to hang out. What I experienced was something different than I had ever experienced up to that point – people were talking about God outside of church. People talking about what God was doing in their lives, what they were learning, and what He was saying. I just sat back, listened and observed. This was new.
One night when we went to church the pastor said as a side note to his main message that he had been walking with the Lord for a while, strayed for a few years, and then came back. I thought, ‘that’s exactly like me.’ He said at the end of his message if anyone wanted to rededicate their lives to Jesus to say this prayer with him. That night I truly gave my life back to the Lord, and in return He gave mine back to me.
Looking back, God had taught me an important lesson. My faith was my own and was my choice. How I walked it out and how sold out I was or was not was my choice. It did not depend on how others, and others representing the church, chose to live their lives. I was determined to take what I learned on Sundays, and what I learned through the Bible, and really live it out. The whole next year I studied at a Christian discipleship school and was part of the first graduating group of IMPACT195.
IMPACT195 was an incredible season with God! And God showed me that whatever I did with my life it had to involve being able to talk about Him and help others. He brought gladness to my heart. He showed me rest. My identity was in how He viewed me and what Jesus did for me and that kind of identity is about as secure as it comes.
I now live for Him. And the best part of it is seeing the fruit of His work in others’ lives and getting to play a part in it.
There was a season during my internship at IMPACT195 where I was a nanny for a wonderful family. During that time my car decided to break down to an unfixable state. It made things difficult but I figured out a way to get to where I needed to be. I could have let that circumstance shape my mood, but my faith told me that God was greater and that was the attitude I took to work.
I had amazing conversations with the family about God’s faithfulness and goodness. I lived out being content where God had me! I did not waiver. One day the mom shared with me how my faith and attitude inspired her to really look at what she had in her life and her own relationship with God. She started reading her bible more, we talked more about our faith, and we prayed together. It was such a blessing to see that because I had not let my circumstances change my relationship with God, and someone else’s life was positively turned more towards Him.
I want to encourage you. Maybe as you are reading this, you can remember a time when you were hurt by someone in the church. Maybe you’ve struggled with acceptance and value and are not completely confident what your identity is in. Maybe your soul longs for rest and you’ve wrestled with a heart devoid of gladness.
Jesus can help you.
I know it. He can help you the way He helped me. Tonight when you put your head on your pillow, say a prayer to Him and ask Him to reveal Himself to you. I am confident He will respond.