Changed Lives

Lee Anne Millinger, Elder, First Presbyterian Church, Pontiac

When I look at how God has worked in my life, I am overwhelmed by His grace and faithfulness - even when I was faithless. He never let me go, and He never stopped trying to draw me closer to Him.

Lee Anne MillingerI accepted Christ as my Savior when I was a teen-ager, and for many years I grew in my faith. I studied the Scriptures and prayed, went to conferences and led small-group Bible studies. In other words, I did everything I was told a Christian young woman ought to do. But I didn't seem to fit into that mold of the "perfect Christian." Sometimes following the rules seemed more important than loving other people and getting to know Jesus better. I rejected what I saw as intolerance and pride in the Christians that I knew. I began to hang out more with a wilder crowd - one that drank and smoked pot.

About that same time, in my last year of college, I got very sick. I was diagnosed with acute kidney failure. I spent three weeks in the hospital immediately after my college graduation, trying to get my kidney function under control. Although I know now that God was with me all the time, I felt then that He had abandoned me - perhaps because I had forgotten Him. I was afraid to ask Him for help because I knew I didn't deserve it. Over the next two years, I moved to Michigan, got married and continued to battle kidney disease.

I was losing the battle, too. Despite my best efforts to follow the doctors' orders to take my medicine and watch my diet, I was getting worse. My weight dropped to an emaciated 99 pounds. My choices were simple - start hemodialysis or get a kidney transplant. I chose the transplant. I received a new kidney in October 1980, and my health has been excellent ever since. So even then God was taking care of me, even though I was not making Him the center of my life.

I began attending this church when my daughter was born 13 years ago. I was attracted by the people's warmth and friendliness, the Sunday school and the beautiful music during worship. We attended regularly, but most of the time church was just another part of the "busyness" of our lives - not a real connection with the Lord. I was like a shallow-rooted plant, subject to the whims of circumstance and temptation.

Ordinary pressures became difficult to bear because I wasn't making Jesus the Lord of my life. My mother suffered a seriously debilitating stroke. I moved her to a Michigan nursing home so I could be close to her, visiting her twice a week to supervise her care. I lost my job when the Detroit newspaper unions went on strike in 1995. My marriage, which was already strained, seemed dry and lifeless to me. Instead of trying to make it work, I left my husband, started dating another man, and filed for divorce. I thought a change in marriage partners would make my life better, instead of trusting Christ with my problems. I quit going to church for a while because I was just too ashamed to face my friends.

But God wasn't giving up on me so easily. My journey back started with a simple phone call from one of my friends, a deacon here at church - "We miss you. How about coming to church on Sunday?" She probably never realized how God used her to remind me that I was accepted and forgiven.

It took a while, but God gradually brought me to the point where I had to admit that I'd made a mess of my life. My relationship with my boyfriend had become stormy and destructive; it was tearing me apart and alienating me from my daughter. I had to get out. In tears I turned to God at last for forgiveness and the strength to turn my life around. It felt like a joyous homecoming, like coming back to my true self and to the only One who could really satisfy all of my deepest needs.

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