People often ask me how I’m able to do what I do. And this the long, but simple response to that question.
All I can do in life, in response to Jesus’ love, is to love Jesus more than I love myself. That’s all any of us can do. More than you love your reputation. More than you love comfort. More than you love your family, or your spouse. And that sounds like a great thing to say, but an extremely difficult thing to do. But let me just say – it isn’t as difficult as it sounds when you love Jesus.
When I was born, as far as I know, I did not love Jesus. My parents did of course, and maybe even my sister. But I was completely ignorant of who Jesus was, or what He did for me. As well as I should have been. I was a newborn. But it is true that I had a head start on people. My parents loved Jesus more than they loved me. In fact, I can tell you of a specific time that I learned this.
We had a guest speaker come to our church, and he was conducting some amazing, Holy Spirit filled meetings. It was probably one of my first experiences with the sweetness of His love. I remember just feeling so happy and content – like nothing could ever get better. I certainly did not understand that what I felt was the wholeness of the Holy Spirit, but that is what that was. And after a meeting one night, I went to my Daddy. I have always been a Daddy’s girl, and since I wanted to feel spoiled, I went to Daddy. I went, and sat myself on his lap, and leaned against his chest. The safest place I knew. And the conversation that took place shortly after is eternally stamped on my heart. I asked my dad a question – thinking I knew the answer. “Daddy, if the house was on fire, and there was a Bible in it, and I was in it, which would you save?” I honestly don’t know if I would have had the strength that my father did that night, because he said softly but very surely, “If it was the last Bible on earth, I would save it, and then you of course.” I’m sure he said more after that to reassure me he wouldn’t leave me stranded in a burning building, but that answer is all I specifically remember. That is what was stamped onto my heart. My dad loved Jesus, and the Bible more than me. I don’t even know if he remembers that night. And maybe for some other kids, they would have needed years of therapy for that. But now, as I write this, I know something as surely as I know I have ten toes. God ordained that conversation. It shaped me not into an insecure little girl, but one that was secure in the knowledge that her parents followed God with their whole heart. And for me, that is what I needed to know in that moment. Not whether my dad would save me – I always knew he would. But that he would put Jesus before me.
I come from a line of rich, Christian, spiritual heritage. But sometimes, if people could have heard the cowardly, or angry, or jealous thoughts in my head, they may have thought twice before saying that I would love and serve Jesus full time. And I don’t just say that to “sound humble”, but to prove a point.
As I grew, I started understanding Jesus more and more. And let me make one thing abundantly clear. Especially for those who might be Christian home kids that have struggled with this in the past as well. I never remember accepting Jesus into my heart. I don’t mean I’ve never prayed the sinner’s prayer, I’ve been to church enough years to have prayed it probably literally hundreds of times. But I mean, the first time, conversion experience. I don’t remember mine. Take that as you will. It could be a great thing, it could be a sad thing for some. But I have come to accept it in my life. I’ll never know that feeling of being washed clean, and being flooded by the Holy Spirit for the first time. And for those of you that do, I hope you understand what a blessing that actually is. I have a set of blessings that is true, you will never know either, but both are blessings in and of themselves.
But as a child, and unfortunately my mother would be more than willing to attest to this, I was quite the little devil child. Not in the cute, pulling pranks kind of way, but more in the making your mom pull out her hair kind of way. I don’t know why or how I got such a horrible temper, but I do know, that as a ten year old, I did not know how to control it. I would explode on a moments’ notice. (Mostly I remember getting that way when having to do math – thank you school.) But I’m sure there were other triggers too. All I really know is that if I ever have children, I hope they don’t take after me in that way. My poor mother had to deal with more than she should have had to.
I remember specifically one fight with my mom. Maybe I was about 12? And I think it may have been the beginning of the end. We were yelling at each other. Probably more me than her. And as usual, I was saying things I regretted. And I hated myself for that. I hated that I was hurting my mom, I hated that I couldn’t stop the words pouring out of my mouth. I hated that every time I got frustrated, this was my answer, and that I always threatened to run away, knowing I never could. I was half way out of the house, and I remember yelling at my mom, “I hate this! I hate that I have a temper!” (Remember, I’m was just spewing hateful things out of my mouth almost seconds before) And this is another one of those stamped moments in my heart. I don’t think I realized until right now, but I think this might have been the first miracle I ever witnessed in my own life. But as I shouted that at my mom, she shouted back “Well, pray about it! God can take it away!” And I was like, “I have! It hasn’t helped!” And even though I probably had in passing, that was the first time it really occurred to me that He actually might, if I asked sincerely. All I really ever thought when I had my temper tantrums was how much I wanted a punching bag. So after that fight, I prayed. Not some Holy Spirit filled, amazing, prayer warrior child prayer. I don’t even remember the words. But I can almost guarantee it was said through a clenched jaw. Some simple, “Please just take this away if You can. Amen.” – type prayer. But He did. Not right away, but He did. And He taught me something monumental that day. He cares.
I hope that you see that I was, and am, in no way perfect, or even special. If you wanted to see special, you need to look at my brother or sister. I loved them both from the bottom of my heart, especially when I was in my “angel mood” as my mom called it. I’ve always been so proud of them, and that I was their sister. And God blessed me with a unique and close relationship with both of them. As I grow older and realize how unusual that is, I realize how blessed I am. As a teenager, my brother grew closer and closer to God, and as his big sister, I couldn’t have been more proud. I would often say, and genuinely mean, “He is the type of preacher or famous Christian that you read about his childhood and think it’s impossible for that to be true!” He collected versions of the Bible, he had a prayer life stronger than mine, and his level of intimacy with God at the time seemed unachievable to me. I really thought “I’m going to be related to some famous Christian evangelist, or something!” And I truly was so unbelievably proud of him.
And my sister! I don’t even think words could ever do justice to either one of them! Ever since she was little, she’s always managed to be the star of everywhere we go. It probably helped that she was the blonde haired blue eyed beauty in an Asian country, but… She has this natural ability to just command authority and attention when she walks into a room. Not only does she have an amazing musical talent (as well as does my brother!), but she is a natural born leader. That is a gift that God has given her. She can lead worship, she could lead a group of people towards most any goal, and everyone wanted to be her. Including me. Her heart of worship is one that is a gift to strive for. And I was so proud to be that little sister that had such a cool older sister. Even if she didn’t want to always wear matching clothes.
I was so proud of them both. But simultaneously I was so jealous. Please understand how normal I am. I just wanted to stand out too. It’s not that I didn’t want that heart of worship, or the prayer life that they had, but I was just jealous of normal things. I wanted to be the star of the party. I wanted to be that famous Christian. It’s embarrassing to admit such normal things, but it’s so true. I don’t have the “routinely” dark past/ testimony. I’ve never done drugs, never been drunk, I’ve never slept with anyone… But these little deep, hidden feelings I’ve had, and know that others have had too, are sometimes the most private, and what the enemy keeps against us for years. I didn’t want to be Holy – I just wanted to be known as Holy. Not to say that I didn’t truly want the real holiness and righteousness, but…
As you grow in Christ, I think this is actually one of the biggest lies of the enemy. He mixes all of your feelings together, gets the mean, and tries to convince you that that is who you are. You are not. We are sinful beings to begin with. We will have moments of sin, moments of scathing truth to our real nature. But that does not define who we are. The moments that we are in His presence, and basking in His love, soaking in His truth, and earnestly yearning for more of Him – that is undeniably us too. Each of their own, and separate. They are both us, but the mean of the entire sum is not the “real” us. But satan will try to convince us, he tried to convince me that if at times I just wanted attention, and the spotlight, then surely, when I was worshiping Him with my whole heart, then that heart of worship was tainted with the thoughts of before. And oh, I can’t tell you how many times I let that thought enter into my heart so unfiltered. And I let it change the way I worshiped Him. Instead of boldly approaching the throne, I all of a sudden came ashamed. Came apologetically, came with my head down, and asked for permission to be with Him. How this must have saddened Him. Don’t misunderstand me. When we have those worldly and fleshly thoughts, we need to repent. We need to be cleansed of it. Purged of it. But once we do, it does not need to mix with the new. Each time we repent, we are a new creation. Not an average of all of our thoughts.
Then there was school. Ah… This has entered into my “testimony” many times. And I have yet to nail it. I went to school the first day (mind you I was in 5th grade) in an elementary school I had never gone to before, naturally assuming I would be the star of the class. Am I embarrassed to admit this? Yes. It’s not the image of humble Hannah I’d like to portray. But it’s also the truth. I was the white girl, the American – surely that would win me some points. And maybe it did, and would have continued to if I had been able to seize the moments’ momentum like my sister surely did. But no, I was much too intimidated. My life’s grand schemes were much more grand in my mind than in actuality. I was so intimidated. So I waited for them to make the first move, and the second, and the third, and the fourth… What most people don’t know about this part of my life even if I’ve shared about it, is that for the first few days, my new classmates really did make an effort to get to know me. But I did not seize it. I stayed shy. I stayed back. I don’t really have a great, philosophical, psychological reason for why I acted the way I did, I just did. And that lead to me being made fun of. Not because I was the only white girl. That only came later as a result. An object that they picked out after they decided to make fun of me. And I am truly embarrassed to admit this. Because by admitting this, I am admitting to a few things. One, that I was definitely partly to blame for the beginning of the resulting bullying, (I would like to add, that I am in no way excusing bullying or casting blame on the children getting bullied. I am a huge advocate for bullied kids because I have been there, and there is no excuse for someone to bully another!) and two, for portraying my classmates as monsters and always omitting this part of my story. Because you see, I am a liar. And not just in the “I am a sinner” way. Do I still lie? Yes. Far less, but let’s be honest… We all do. Because we are not perfect.
Most of my lies, if not all, have been to save face. And I realize that this probably is a very common truth, and most people probably do this too. But I’m exposing the truth, and I’m taking away satan’s authority to blackmail me with this, by exposing my own sinful nature. I can’t even think of specific examples, but when questioned about something I was supposed to do, but didn’t – I lied. When asked if I finished something, but didn’t – I lied as to why. When asked for a good story – I embellished. Why? To look good. Is it that simple? Yes! A hundred times, yes! Because that’s who I am. A sinner.
People look at me and think I’m some sort of special person to be able to serve God. But I am here to tell you, anyone can. All God asks of us is to love Him. And that is all I did. My answer to go to NY, my answer to go to the Philippines, and ultimately my answer to go to Japan, is all only a result of my love for Him. I did not wake up one day and suddenly feel inspired to follow Him across the world. It came in small steps. It came in me merely obeying Him when He asked me to repent of my lying. It came in my love responding to His telling me to admit the truth to someone about my raw thoughts even though it cost me my “humble” reputation. It came when I gave a hug to a person I knew needed it, or when I gave my hymn book to someone who came to the service late, or when I picked wild flowers for my mom, or when I listened to Him when he told me to forgive the kids that tortured me, or when He asked me to wake up in the morning and to simply spend time with Him. All those things added up to me packing my bags and leaving for the unknown.
So many times people think that you have to take such giant steps to somehow prove that you love God. You don’t need to prove anything to God. You have nothing to prove to Him. He proved love at the cross. He proved anything that needed to be proven on the cross when He took every little embarrassing truth, and dirty little secret for you. When he looked at all those imperfections and said He didn’t see them. When he caught you cheating, and instead of condemning you, He turned everyone’s eye on Himself, and He said “Forgiven” So in response to that, what do we do? Do we deny that kind of love any attention? Or do you wake up in the morning and acknowledge the one and only person willing to take the blame for every single thing you did? Do you take for granted that even your own family would not take the fall for you like He did, but He does? Or do you love Him in return?
That is it. That is all that He asks – Love me. How is it that we can owe people “favors” for tiny little things, but we don’t even owe Jesus the time of day for all the little secrets He is willing to keep, forget, and erase for us. He has not asked you to go to another country. He has only asked you to love Him. So love Him. With all of who you are, worship Him. With all of who you are, adore Him. With all of who you are, believe Him. With all of who you are, trust Him. With all of who you are, take joy in Him. With all of who you are, love Him. The rest, I assure you will follow. In response to the ever growing love, you will obey. But first, just love.