A Breath of Fresh Air
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A Touch of Romance
A Woman's World
A Word in Season
Acting Up
Cyber Walk
Faith Seekers
Golden Apples
Heaven Bound
Just Between Men
Ripe for the Harvest
Take it to Heart
Teen Truth
The Joy of Family
The Parents'
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The Rhythm of Life
The Treehouse
Through Their Eyes
'Tis the Season
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Freedom … to Love Others
By Diane Exner

By the age of 29, I had gone through a divorce, was living with a man unmarried, and couldn't trust a soul. I was running from the past, but with no destination – I was just running nowhere. Only 'surface' conversations were allowed, and I'd shut you down faster than you could say, 'Jack Rabbit', if asked about anything intimate.

My story is quite common among many women I talk to. They’ve been hurt by various forms of abuse – physical, sexual, emotional or relational – and find ways of coping to get them through these traumatic experiences. Once surviving their ordeal, they perfect the coping mechanisms that brought them through and, in a lot of cases, shutdown inside.

Sound familiar?

Thankfully the story doesn't end there. It's just the beginning. To start 1996, my live-in boyfriend, Jay, had decided that we should start going to church. So, we went 'church shopping.' We opened the Calgary yellow pages, made a list of ten churches to attend, and at the end of ten weeks would evaluate our experience and go from there. We knew nothing about the plans God had for us, nor anything about a personal relationship.

We made it as far as the second church on the list. God met us there and invited us to stay. On our second visit, a salvation message was given by the Senior Pastor, Pastor Fenn. He talked about this guy named Jesus who loved me and wanted to wash away all my past hurts and sins. He said that I could start a new life in Christ, and that Jesus would heal all my wounds.

My heart was breaking inside. I was on the verge of tears.

"Could it be?" A quiet voice stirred within. My spirit felt like it was waking up.

"Don't be absurd. You can't seriously think you'd be forgiven for all those things you've done, do you?" Another voice argued.

"Wait. Listen." The new voice seemed to be getting stronger. "He's talking about love, hope and a new beginning."

"No, you listen. I know from past experience that listening to people that make these kinds of promises, always ends in hurt. You are better off just tuning this preacher out girlfriend."

"Shut up!" The new voice screamed. Then quietly added, "Diane, listen with your heart this time. I have a feeling it'll be different."

I concentrated as best I could on what Pastor Fenn was saying. In a peculiar way, his words comforted me. There was a Presence in that place that was so inviting. I couldn't explain it. I'd never 'felt' it before.

Before I knew it, the tears flowed down my face like a rushing river, and when the pastor extended an invitation to come meet Jesus in person, I didn't walk; I ran to the front. I wanted that love. If Jesus had already paid for my life with His blood anyway, He could have it.

At that altar I went through an experience I can barely explain, even to this day. I cried until I could hardly breathe, constantly blowing my nose in a useless attempt to stop the flow that was coming from my nostrils. My makeup was a mess and I felt sure that the only one who could even remotely love me at that moment, would have been Jesus.

The grime and the filth seemed to wash away as I cried. When I was finished dumping the garbage onto the altar through my tears, a woman came to pray with me. She comforted me with her words. She told me Jesus loved me and had a plan for my life; a good plan.

As she spoke and prayed, I felt a wave of love wash over me, like I had never known. All the horrible hurts, wounding words and lived lies melted away. Each tear that fell wiped away more filth. I felt … free!

That day was the beginning of a new life's journey for me. Within three months of that day, Jay and I were married and baptized, publicly confessing our desires to be disciples and followers of Jesus Christ. That nasty voice of Mistrust was silenced. The new voice was the Spirit within, encouraging me to become the Child of God I was meant to be.

That was nine years ago. The decision to accept God's love is something I'll never be able to repay. It was a free gift from Jesus to me, and anyone else who will accept his offer of salvation. That decision put me on an adventurous journey of faith, hope and love, resulting in a new found freedom that I didn't even know existed.

Jesus loved me so much that He paid the ultimate price of death on a cross to set me free from the chains that had held me in bondage to my past. It's a gift I can't repay. I can, however, honor Him with the life I lead today. Walking in the freedom He has given me and setting others free with my testimony, are just a couple of ways I can do this.

Today I have many opportunities to speak and pray with women who have been through a lot of the same circumstances that I have experienced. By telling them about my own experiences, and being able to relate to their pain, I have been able to share the love that Jesus has for them as well.

As long as I am able, I will tell the world of the love and freedom I have found through my loving Savior, Jesus Christ. He has shown me many times that God's Word is Truth, and the Truth will set me free. I was a captive and He set me free. Now it is my turn, and my honor, to share the same Good News with any who will listen … but especially with those women who have suffered the same hurts and heartaches as I have. He has given me freedom to love others, as He first loved me.

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men (and women – Diane's paraphrase) will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." (John 13:34-35 NIV)
Diane Exner is a published freelance Canadian writer, who takes every opportunity to use her talents to glorify God and to encourage others. You can contact Diane through her website at http://www.exner-express.com. Come climb aboard the ‘Exner Express’!
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