Six women serve on the Women’s Ministry Team of our church. Throughout the coming year, our goal is to introduce you to some of us in a deeper way. We want you to catch a glimpse of how God has been at work in our lives. My name is Virginia Cook and here is my testimony.
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
Found: “True” Love
I grew up in a family with parents who loved me the only way they knew how to love. I call it “dysfunctional” love; but it was the only love I knew. My mother was still searching for “true” love and she thought going to the Catholic Church would be where she would find it. My father had no desire for “true” love. There were no other Christians in my family, none that I was aware of; and so the foundation of my life was based on this dysfunctional love, and it left me fearful and insecure. My father was in the military and so I grew up moving around a lot. This meant always having to make new friends everywhere I went. I was very sensitive when growing up, and my peers took advantage of this by picking on me; which added to the fear and insecurity I already felt about myself. It brought distrust in every relationship I would ever have; and in order to protect myself from anymore hurt, I put up a wall around my heart.
There was always a void in my life, and so throughout my growing up years I was always looking for that “true” love; sometimes in the wrong places. There was an occasional glimpse of that “true” love in my life; but I didn’t recognize it at those times. When I was in 9th grade a friend of mine invited me to her church. I was challenged to memorize John 3:16 and Psalm 23. It didn’t reach my heart at that time. My mother was saved right after I graduated from high school. She had found “true” love. She would always say to me that she was praying for me. I appreciate that now, but at that time it was annoying. She attended EFC of Oroville; and when Joe and I were engaged to be married, she and the ladies of the church arranged our wedding there. I now see how much love was put into our special day. Last, but not least, I know God loved me because when He transferred Joe and I, He placed us in a home with a church right behind our house. As Joe always said, “That ‘stupid’ bell would ring every Sunday morning”. We finally decided to walk into the doors of the church where I would start to hear about this “true” love.
Eight months after attending church, I trusted Christ as my Savior. I began serving in the church in different ministries. But because I lacked trust in my relationships, my relationship with God took a lot of work. It was always hit and miss and I still relied on myself more than Him. It wasn’t until I got involved in Awana that I understood there was more to Christianity than just serving in the church. There was a relationship involved with a God who loved me very much and that my relationship with Him was based on faith in what Christ had done for me and not on my works. Ephesians 2:8-9 – For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is a gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast & Titus 3:5 – Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy, he saved us. I couldn’t grasp the meaning of this kind of unconditional love. This wasn’t a concept I grew up with. The kind of love I knew ended up in rejection, making me feel I wasn’t good enough. In order to understand and receive His kind of love, God was going to have to break down the walls of protection that I had put up in my life. It took years of abiding with Him through prayer and studying his word. As I watched Him work in my life, slowly but surely He was taking the lies that I believed and replacing them with His truth. I saw in the many times when I had turned from Him and then came back and asked for forgiveness, He was still there; He had never given up on me. Hebrews 13:5b – For he Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you." It also replaced the lie that I wasn’t good enough, into the truth that He loved me unconditionally and His love wasn’t based on any merit of mine, but on all that Christ had done for me. Romans 5:8 – But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. He had to knock down the walls of distrust that I had with my brothers and sisters in Christ. I always thought they had motives behind their kindness. All these things put hindrances in my service, or prevented me from serving God and others at all. The fear of rejection kept me from serving with my heart; I served out of obligation. 2 Timothy 1:7 – For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” & Proverbs 29:25 – The fear of man brings a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD shall be safe.
Now today because of the transforming truths of His Word, I understand that my Christian life is based on “true” love, Agape love. Do I still sometimes struggle? Of course, but now I have the truth of His Word to stand on. In His love I serve Him and I serve others. I also have the Blessed Hope that one day He will return; and I will spend eternity in heaven with Him.
Matthew 22:37 & 39 – Jesus said to him, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind”. (39) “And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
1 John 4:10 – In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the Propitiation for our sins.