My name is Lacy DiSabatino. I am 28 years old, born and raised in Cincinnati, married for two years, and I have been living my own personal brand of false Christianity for as long as I can remember. Does that sound like an intro to some sort of addicts’ anonymous meeting? Well, it feels quite like it, too.
Over the past 15 years, I have woven in and out of churches, and in and out of my belief in Christ. I had fallen into using religion to treat God somewhat like a genie who would grant me peace if I just rubbed the lamp in all the right ways: volunteering, prayer, study, love (whatever that meant). I felt the need to be saved. But savior was the only significant role that I was willing to recognize for Jesus. In some ways, I thought I was on track. Though occasionally I would become aware that I never fully believed. That is, I guess I never really believed His promise that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. I felt somewhat smothered by Him.
This is pretty much where I stood when recently my husband and I, trekking along completely unaware of the shallowness of our faith, were introduced to some people who were hosting a Story-Formed Life training in their home. Having no idea what we were getting ourselves into, we agreed to participate. Week by week we felt like our eyes were pealed open to the true nature of God and the wholeness of His story. Each meeting we were completely shaken by all of our misunderstandings and we were hungry as we felt a growing freedom in the truth. This continued until the week that focused on Christ’s Lordship and the cost of following Him.
A few years ago I read a book in which the author, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, wrote a great deal about Christ’s call to us and our obedience in response. As an illustration, he used the story of Christ’s call to Peter to leave everything, and specifically his life as a fisherman, and follow Him. Had Peter not obeyed, he may have been a dutiful fisherman, and throughout life he may have even had some religious experiences, but he would have never known God. That could only be truly achieved by abandoning all in response to the call of the Son: “Although Peter cannot achieve his own conversion, he can leave his nets.”
The words had not resonated at all before. But as Christ’s call to recognize Him as Lord became clear to me through SFL, I was completely broken by the fact that I, for the past fifteen years, have been sitting on the deck of the ship, clenching my nets come hell or high water. I saw God, I heard his call, I would receive Jesus as savior, but I would not receive Him as Lord. I did not understand that the two could not be separated. Sitting in SFL, talking about Christ as my Lord, processing the cost of following Him, it was as though, for the first time, I looked down at my mangled hands and actually saw the ropes of my nets tangled in my fingers and drenched in my own blood from all of the years and energy I had spent incessantly wringing them through my hands. I had been holding on for dear life, but a life not even worth living. It was a life that left an unbearable weight upon my shoulders—a weight that had been suffocating me by varying degrees for as long as I could remember. I looked down at my hands and realized that I had been keeping myself in this bondage. He was calling me, and I just wouldn’t let go.
In that week of SFL, I knew I was being asked to drop the net. One might think that this understanding would result in relief (and eventually it would), but in that moment looking at my hands, I realized everything that I was being asked to surrender in order to experience His promises. Everything. That is what He wanted. Everything. All of these years, I had wrought and toiled of my own will—my dreams for a career, my idea of what my marriage should be, my connection to my believing and non-believing friends and family. That was the hardest part, I think. The people. Those who I loved so dearly. If His call to me meant separation from them, temporary or eternal, was I still willing to accept? I saw each of their faces calling me, haunting me for days. The verse, “If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be My disciple,” had always seemed a contradiction to His instructions to honor our parents and spouses. Now it was painfully clear that that was not the case. No, it was simply the nature and intensity of His call made plain.
And so for days I wept. I wept over the years wasted, and I wept over the control that I would forfeit in whatever time was left ahead of me. I wept because I was finally aware that God was so huge and so holy, and I was not. I wept because letting go of the ropes hurt. But I would never know my Savior, I would never know my Lord, I would never understand His promises, until I let go. And so, while tears still streaked my face and my heart ached, I felt a call to respond. I realized that, while my intentions in baptism 13 years ago may have been in some ways honorable, they had not been a response to His true calling. And had I known what His true calling was, I am certain I would have been unwilling to obey then. Now, despite my tears and fear, I was for the first time ready to obey my Master. I had glimpsed the nature of His call. While the fear of responding was overwhelming, it was nothing compared to the fear that my eyes would again be closed to the ropes in my hands, and that I might forever toil away seeking unattainable peace, never knowing Him. As this clarity set in, I called together a group of friends to baptize me at East Fork Lake. I knew I had to take a step in obedience to drop the ropes despite the cost.
I do not want to overlook the many lovely truths about Christ’s character. He is, as I had always known, our Savior. He does call us to see that He is pure love, and to reflect that love into the world in all of the most beautiful ways. But as I’ve already noted, I had always somewhat known all of that to be true. What I had failed to see before is that He is also our Lord. Whether I obey and call Him Master or not, His character is not changed—only my chance to experience His freedom.