Don’t give your life to Jesus and then lose your soul

Mel_Maureen_MississippiRiver_2012

Mel & Maureen – Mississippi River – 2012

I remember that warm summer night in 1978, sitting on the bluffs of the Mississippi River, where I gave my heart to Jesus. I had always believed in God, but had long rejected the religion of my youth.

So, I sought after my counterfeit affections, awash in my prodigal world of “drugs, sex, and rock and roll.”

I was actually pretty happy with my life. As least, as I understood the idea of happiness at the time.

The conversation was with my future wife, Maureen. I was home visiting my mother in Iowa. She was living in my hometown. I was playing with a band and we had met at a party after one of my gigs. I was almost instantly infatuated and love struck!

But there was something else going on, especially, on that night. She kept talking about Jesus. And she was so different than the “Jesus freaks” I had talked to since the early 70’s (that’s a whole other story!).

She talked about Jesus like she actually knew Him.

I realized I was missing something. So, I wanted to know Him too.

Right there…no altar call, no “sinner’s prayer”…just a beautiful moonlit night, is where I decided to give my life to Jesus. And He took me up on the invitation. And, right there, I threw away my counterfeit high for the Most High!

I was radically infected with Jesus! I would be found driving down the road in my old boxy Ford station wagon, screaming out the words to “Amazing Grace” while crying and laughing at the same time. I was a sight! It was like my whole world went from black and white to color. I couldn’t get enough of this Jesus…and my future wife. 🙂

And this blissful encounter went on for months, including the only angelic visitation I have ever seen with my natural eyes. And the longer story involved me staying the whole summer, moving back from Texas, getting to know Maureen and enjoying my new life.

Then, it happened.

We started getting involved in a church, going to Bible studies, learning about what’s wrong with us and with the world.

Then instead of basking in Gods’ love and grace, it became about sin-management and behavior modification.

I learned who to stay away from, to fear this wicked world, to watch out for false teachers, cults, the government, wrong movies, evil music, and that God knew all my secret sins and was generally NOT happy with me. At least, that’s how I understood it.

And slowly, almost methodically, the innocent childlike joy went away.

Looking back now, I realized that I went from being the prodigal son to the elder brother!

I traded my rebellion for religion. I had lost even the level of joy and happiness I had as a sinner. Actually, I secretly wished I could still do a lot of the things I used to do, and I resented God for taking these “fun” things away.

Oh, I knew a LOT about the Bible because I studied it incessantly. I was discipled by the best, I was trained, I read all the books, watched Christian TV…then later, found talk radio, where I could hear about what was wrong with everything and stay angry…

But I knew nothing about the Father’s heart…or about how to open my own heart to love and intimacy.

Like the Grinch who stole Christmas, my heart grew very small.

I had lost my soul.

The rich vibrant tones of my life became this religious pallor. My world of color turned to a pale hue of black and white.

I became rigid, stoic and Spock-like. I traded the wild wonder of God’s love and freedom for a world that I could control…one guided by human limitations and reason. Doctrine and the Word of God became my god instead of the God of the Word.

The absurd irony was, I called myself “Spirit-filled,” I spoke in tongues, prophesied, and did all the “stuff.” But I often used it to prove my worth, or to look down on those who didn’t believe in or do such things.

More concisely, I was a  self-righteous and judgmental hypocrite. Honestly, my heart was more like a Charismatic Pharisee than a Charismatic Jesus.

Then the worst thing imaginable happened. I became a leader! I was now “ordained” to drill others to march to the tune of this awful, empty, religious life. Now, I was in the business of hatching spiritual progenies into this “church of the poison mind!”

Can we say, horrid.

Okay, maybe I’m being a bit harsh on my pointy-headed self here. But, compared to what I should’ve been, maybe not…

But then, something truly wonderful happened!

My life came to a resounding crash as Summer came to a close in 2001.  Yes, I had my own personal 9/11.

By this time I had become cynical, unfaithful, full of shame and self-loathing, mad at God, my marriage was over, my previously very successful business was failing, and we were losing our very nice home we built in the country and were going bankrupt. There was nothing in my life that was working…except this glorious crash.

I think my theme song at the time might’ve been Bob Dylan’s, “Everything is broken.”

Now I know it was my foolishness and God’s mercy that had just blown up my world. But little did I suspect that I was about to encounter this God of love like I had never know before!

I think the Message Bible says it well… “You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you. (Matt.5:4 MSG)

I was about to be introduced to a ridiculously loving Father that I had never known in my natural life. And He took my brokenness and began a slow process of healing my heart and giving me His.

I got my soul back.

I can tell you now that I have never loved God more than I do now. My whole world was turned upside down. Or, should I say, turned right-side-up.

I love again! Yay! I love my wife more than ever…Yay! I love people…even the worst of them. Hallelujah!

I’m far from perfect, but I can feel His pulsating grace constantly flooding and overflowing my heart. I’m not afraid of or mad at the world anymore. For His love has conquered my fear.

I’m free.

I have joy again!

My world is in brilliant color now!

My Bible is living and breathing, my spirit is soaring in the heavenlies with my Father (more on those adventures another time.)

I hope and pray that my story will encourage someone. Don’t give your life to Jesus and then lose your soul.

Open your heart to Him. He is not far away. He will teach you how to rest in the overflow of His heart. He will restore your soul.

You are loved much!
Mel

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About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 36 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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28 Responses to Don’t give your life to Jesus and then lose your soul

  1. marklhen says:

    Transformation happens!!! Thank God.

  2. marklhen says:

    I thought I recognized that pic. Great overlook. And great time with great friends.

  3. Michael says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Mel. I love how you were “all-in” from the start. And I hope there’s more coming on that visitation you spoke of. Cheers!

    • melwild says:

      Thanks Michael. I’ve always been a person who has to be “all-in” or nothing. I think that’s what I learned from all of this. Being half-hearted is being half-alive, and that doesn’t work for me.

      And I will talk more about the visitation and other adventures when I get a chance. But that’s nothing compared to life in my Father’s embrace. 🙂

      Appreciate your comments, as always.

  4. Lisa says:

    Beautiful. I remember realizing that I was trading my black and white world for full blazing Kodachrome…and loving it. Life–even the parts we can’t see–is so much more beautiful in glorious color!

    • melwild says:

      Absolutely! And it’s not something you can ever adequately describe with words. It sounds so over the top when you say it, but that’s not even the half!

      Thanks for sharing here. Blessings.

  5. That is awesome, a real encouragement!!

  6. Thanks for the thoughts Mel. I had a similar experience when I fell in love with Jesus. After the “courtship” I started to trade relationship for religion for awhile. Then one day I had someone in women’s ministry tell me that I didn’t fit the mold of what a Christian looked like (not talking appearance her)….and it woke me up…I don’t want to be a label (a Christian). I want to be a follower of Jesus; I want a living Saviour in my life….Jesus came so that would could live life, and live it abundantly. I do not want to live up to man’s standards and rules, I just what to live up to What Jesus would have me do…if we love, people will know we belong to Him, as they will know us by our fruits…not our judgements. Amen brother, I saw amen and amen!

  7. Heidi Viars says:

    this brought me to tears, Mel … just read it to my husband (for breakfast and before heading to church) … your words were a blessing to us! Keep bathing in His grace … searching and yearning … longing and following … hoping and sharing!!! He is using it 🙂 Be blessed this Lord’s Day!

  8. Andy Oldham says:

    Beautiful testimony! Thanks for sharing! By the way I have a daughter and two grandsons that live in Oskaloosa, IA. God bless!

  9. Ben Kilen says:

    wow I had my own personal 911 back in December 2012. I literally lost everything I have not regained everything back but this one thing that matters the most. My identity and Christ Romans 8:1 says now the decisive conclusion is this in Christ, every bit of condemning evidence against us is cancelled.

    2 Corinthians 3:18 says the days of window shopping are over! In him everything is on build. Engaging with wonder at the blueprint likeness of God displayed in human form, we suddenly realize that we are looking at ourselves! Every feed your image is mirrored ups! this is the most radical transformation engineered by the spirit of the lord, we are lead from an inferior mindset to the revealed endorsements all of our authentic identity. Mankind is His glory!

    my sons are no longer held as a debit against me. When I look into a mirror is Christ looking back at me at that moment at that time not in the future or the past but I see him and me now that this very present moment. My identity is his I was made in His likeness in His image. He is my Identity. He defines me! This is what has radically changed my relationship with Him. I can come to him and not worry about not meeting some standard of holiness. He has only one viewvof all mankind. . RIGHTEOUSS AND HOLY FOREVER!

    Mel you weren’t all that bad during the late late 80’s you played a part in my walk.

    • melwild says:

      Thanks for sharing this, Ben. It takes time to recover from life’s train wrecks, but you’ve held on to the important part. Your identity doesn’t change, and being in the Father’s embrace and reflecting Christ is what matters. And there’s always grace and new beginnings with God. And the new beginnings put us in a new place with Him than before.

      As I mentioned, I probably was a little hard on myself, and I did have some rich experiences with Christ, including those days when I got to know you and your family. Those days are precious to me, and I appreciate hearing that I was an influence in your life. I never want to discount that. 🙂

      But you know how it is. Whenever God does such a transforming work in your life, it seems like you weren’t even saved before! At least, by comparison. So, even though there were many good things I could point to, I realized afterward that, with all my good experiences and knowledge, I was still living like a religious orphan. I loved Jesus but didn’t really know the Father. And I didn’t know who I was in Him at the time. That’s when my life really changed. And I realized that I had bought into all the popular evangelical Christian phariseeism, being against everything, being angry, and all the things I mentioned. Toward the end, before the crash, I had gotten pretty bitter, cynical, unloving and mad at God. So my heart gradually grew smaller and smaller.

      But He still loves us the same in these times and is gracious to us, even in all our foolishness. And He fixed all that for me by crashing His planes into my “high places,” toppling them to the ground, and He replaced them with Himself instead. Hallelujah! 🙂

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  11. N. says:

    Love how your wife lead you to Christ….very sweet 🙂 did you know instantly that you were gonna marry her, that she was the one?

    • Mel Wild says:

      Actually, I asked her to marry me on our second date! Which was not like me at all. She said no, of course. But she relented after about a year. LOL! So, yes, I was smitten. She was definitely the one.

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  14. Steve Clark says:

    Mel, Steve Clark from Marquette, Iowa here. I wish I had known you better years ago after you came to Christ. When we hung around the same group of rowdy friends back in ‘the olden days’ I guess neither of us could see the future. When asked to describe my life before coming to Christ, I would always say ‘sex and drugs and rock and roll’. The experience I have gone thru with the denomination I first started at, you describe to a tee! Thanks for performing our wedding (Sep 6 2006), and by the way, I had no idea at the time that you were such a spirit-filled guy, or how much I have always needed God’s unconditional Love and Grace. The picture of you and Maureen shown for this post, taken from Pike’s Peak State Park in McGregor, Iowa, shows the island where we were married! God bless you! (Take me to the river, to that promised land. You are such a heavenly sight, for just one mortal man. Wait for me baby, and I’ll be there with you, Take me to the river and I’ll spend my time with you.) (From the song “Take Me To the River” by Mel Wild)

    • Mel Wild says:

      Hey Steve! Good to hear from you! Welcome to my blog world! I hope all is well with you.

      Yeah, a LOT has happened since 2006, I was just beginning to understand the Kingdom of the Father’s unconditional love in a new way. 2001 was when my “Christian” life totally shifted. By the way, I’m just finishing up on a book about my “shift” and should have it out shortly. This particular story is in it with a lot of others, mostly after coming to Christ. And thanks for bringing an old song of mine. Still a favorite of the ones I wrote. 🙂 Blessings.

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