- - Wednesday, May 11, 2016

I consider it a personal privilege to be invited to share with fellow travelers a little of my own spiritual journey. Like most of us, I’m just one person struggling to relate faith to life … but I am grateful to be asked to speak from the heart, about the difference Jesus Christ has made in my life.

My grandmother, Mom Cathey, who lived within two weeks of her 100th birthday, was my role model. I remember many Sunday afternoons with other neighborhood children in her home — the lemonade and cookies, I think that’s what enticed us; the Bible games; listening to Mom Cathey, as she read from her Bible, now one of my most cherished possessions. She practiced what she preached and lived her life for others. In a tragic accident, Mom lost a son at the hands of a drunk driver. The insurance policy on his life built a hospital wing in a far-off church mission in Pakistan. Although Mom was not at all a wealthy woman, anything she could spare went to ministers at home and missions abroad. And when it became necessary, in her 90s, to go into a nursing home, she welcomed the opportunity. I can still hear her saying, “Elizabeth, there might be some people there who don’t know the Lord, and I can read the Bible to them.”

I can’t remember an unkind word escaping Mom’s lips in all the years I knew her, or an ungracious deed marring her path. My grandmother was an almost perfect role model. And I wanted to be like her. From an early age, I had an active church life. But, as we move along, how often in our busy lives, something becomes a barrier to total commitment of one’s life to the Lord! In some cases, it may be money, power or prestige.

In my case, my career became of paramount importance. I worked very hard to excel, to achieve. I was really competing against myself, not others. My goal was to do my best, which is all fine and well. But, I was inclined to be a perfectionist. And it’s very hard to try to control everything, surmount every difficulty, foresee every problem, realize every opportunity. My career began crowding out what Mom Cathey had taught me were life’s most important priorities.

I prayed about it, and I believe, no faster than I was ready, God led me to people and circumstances that made a real difference in my life. I found a tremendously sensitive, caring pastor who helped me see what joy there can be when Christ is the center of life and all else flows from that center.

“If anyone would come after me,” Jesus tells us, “he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the Gospel will save it.”

Hard words to swallow when you’re busy doing your own thing, but the most compelling logic I’ve ever heard. For if Christ is who he says he is — our Savior, the central figure in all of history who gives meaning to a world of confusing, conflicting priorities — then I had to realize Christ could not be compartmentalized.

Often I find myself faced with tasks demanding wisdom and courage far beyond my own. And not just in the big decisions … I am constantly in need of God’s grace to perform life’s routine duties with the love for others, the peace, the joy inherent in God’s call. I’ve had to learn that dependence is a good thing. That when I’ve used up my own resources, when I can’t control things and make them come out my way, when I’m willing to trust God with the outcome, when I’m weak — then, I am strong. Then I’m in the best position to feel the power of Christ rest upon me, encourage me, replenish my energy and deepen my faith. Power from God, not from me.

Total commitment to Christ is a high and difficult calling. And one that I will struggle with the rest of my days. But I know that for me, it’s the only life worth living, the only life worthy of our Lord. And each one of us has a unique assignment in this world given to us by our sovereign God — to love and to serve those within our own sphere of influence. We’ve been blessed to be a blessing; we’ve received that we might give.

Elizabeth Dole is a former U.S. Senator from North Carolina. She served as secretary of transportation and secretary of labor prior to serving as president of the American Red Cross. In 2012, she established the Elizabeth Dole Foundation to support the caregivers of our nation’s wounded warriors.

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