First up is Carrie Ratcliff of Virginia. Back around 2003 she visited Dallas and was baptized during one of our Pentecost retreats. She’s been listening to Ole’s Bible study podcasts in the years since then. Beginning in 2009 she started e-mailing Ole occasionally about her wrenching spiritual journey. We’re publishing some of her observations here, and you’re invited to comment on her posts.
By Carrie Ratcliff
I’ve listened to the morning Bible studies for nearly ten years. In December, it will be one year from the day that everything Ole teaches made sense to me. I really can’t remember the exact day and I can’t really describe what happened. It wasn’t an earth-shattering moment. My life didn’t change dramatically. I just knew that I felt resolved. At peace. Content.
One of the most immediate and powerful changes that occurred was in how I see other people. I first noticed my change in perception with my husband. Rather than focus on those nagging thoughts in my head, I started to really see my husband for who he is. I started to understand what Ole means when he says “Christ within.” I could see Christ within my husband. I started to pay more attention to his actions and less attention to his words.
My husband claims to be agnostic. His actions tell me otherwise. I see in my husband someone fully in the process of accepting his death and putting the needs of others before his own. I see a disciple. He might argue that point with me and that’s fine. I know what I see and, having spent most of the last 6 months responding to what I actually see rather than the created version of my husband that my mind might conjure up, I can sincerely say that our marriage has been transformed.
We are actively being knit together into a community of two people who fully accept and love each for who we each are. We still snap and bicker and nag, just like any couple. But we can laugh in the middle of it. We can walk away from an argument holding hands instead of having our backs turned. We confess, repent, and forgive. Every day with my husband is a joy.
This experience of seeing “Christ within” has continued with everyone I meet or encounter. There are always exceptions and every now and again, I resurrect myself. As soon as I become aware of “something getting my attention,” I repent. What happens when something does get my attention is that another element of idolatry is revealed in me. I don’t always see it right away, but I have become aware of patterns and those patterns get my attention.
I pray for the ability to see my idolatry so that I can empty myself of it. The connection is always made (with one exception, which I will describe later) and I can fully repent. Remember being a kid and being so impatient for Christmas morning? Being able to repent of another aspect of myself is a thousand times better than that feeling of waking up and running into the living room to a Christmas tree surrounded by gifts.
Have you heard Ole say, “World, take your best shot”? Ever think he’s insane when he says it? I used to. Now I get it and I share that enthusiastic anticipation of what’s to come, whatever it might be. Because on the other side of every trial, every tribulation, every conflict, is a deeper and more unshakable “knowing” that God is alive and well and in full control of every aspect of the universe, including little ole’ you and me.
I have been called by some Christians a “corporate sellout.” I work for a global corporation in the defense industry. Last December, I wondered if my journey would put my career to bed and I’d find myself working for a church, homeless, or pursuing some other “noble” cause. I made the mistake of putting a Christian face on my line of work.
For a while, I wondered why God wasn’t leading me to a job that would fight hunger, feed the homeless, or heal the sick. Instead, I found myself with a new corporate job, in graduate school, and buying a house. How? Because those are the doors that opened to me. And, with a desire to be obedient, I walked through each of the open doors. What I have found are people and situations that reveal my idolatry. And I see Christ within my co-workers. I see God at work in my office.
Corporations are full of human beings, which means that they are full of opportunities for community. God has no boundaries and neither should we. When we judge a situation to be either “Christian” or “Not Christian” we deny God’s power. My job puts me into some incredibly intense situations. I used to react with fear, doubt, a desire to protect myself, and, at times, with an inflated ego.
God has transformed a “dehumanizing, cold, corporate culture” into church. Whereas I used to go to work willing to steamroller over anyone who got into my way, I now go open to whatever happens and with a desire to serve my neighbor. Whereas I used to be afraid to be myself, I am now no longer my business and I “say what’s there.” Yes, sometimes this creates some conflict for me. As soon as it does, I pray for guidance. And I always get an answer.
Speaking of prayer…every single prayer is answered. Every single prayer. And this brings me to the exception I mentioned earlier. I have “residual idolatry.” I have aspects of myself that are still alive and well; that still react with a knee-jerk reaction when my buttons are pushed.
One idol I still have is my desire to be that thin, young girl I once was. Why can’t I repent of this idol? I do. Over and over and over and over and over and over and over. And over. All I can say about it is that I know, in the flesh, I would put a great deal of effort into weight loss. But I recognize the cause-and-effect thinking and I choose to trust God and that he knows better than I.
I admit to him how I feel about my weight, I repent of my desire to be thin, and I empty. Not permanently, but I will say that my thoughts do not turn to weight loss nearly as much as they used to. By praying for the ability to see my idolatry, God revealed to me that I judged everything I ate, everyone I saw, and every physical aspect of myself. So my prayer was answered. Why haven’t I emptied this aspect of myself? The answer is simple enough. Rebellion.
God has shown me what I need to see. I cannot justify “waiting” for God to “heal me.” All I can do is see my rebellion, confess it, repent of it, and return to peace. If I have to do this a million more times before my physical death finally puts this idol to bed, then that’s what I’ll do. What I won’t do is dwell, analyze, assess, or put forth any effort to change my situation. See it, confess it, repent of it, return to peace. That’s it. What a gift.