(The story of Bethany Stein written by Mary Alysse Dodds)
I was 16 and laying on a bed in Mongolia, too weak to walk or stand. I was vomiting, I couldn’t see, I thought I was going to die.
“You need to live for me completely, or not at all,” God said. “Chose one.” It wasn’t very specific, but I knew exactly what he meant.
In my early teens I loved to dance, so when my soccer friends introduced me to “Hoedown Throwdown” I asked my mom if it was a sin to download. But when I got an iTouch for my 14th birthday, I stopped asking. I started watching movies and listening to music that my parents didn’t allow.
It was sin most people would consider insignificant, but I knew I was hiding things from God and from my parents.
“If you love me, Beth. You’ll obey me.”
I didn’t feel love, but I asked God to help me love him more. I fasted music and movies, but I didn’t have a chance to delete anything.
In China, my cousin found “Girlfriend” by Avril Lavign on my iPod. He called me out on it. My guilt and embarrassment got me again. Even though I’d stopped listening to music, I realized I needed to be completely open and confess to the people who would keep me accountable. If I wouldn’t do something in front of parents or my grandma, I shouldn’t do it at all.
God showed me every decision I make, is either living for God or living for myself. If I truly believed that every sin equally condemned me to hell, wouldn’t I live differently? If I truly loved God, wouldn’t I be just as angry when something blasphemed him as I am when someone was mean to my brother?
So I came home and made it a point to be open and honest with everyone. I told my mom that I’d cheated in math and about my iPod problems. I sought out and tried to clear the air with Christians I had hated for hurting my brother and non-Christian friends.
I went to college and had to study the Bible for assignments. God reignited my childhood passion when I couldn’t put the Bible down to do chores and school. I wanted to share Jesus at work, but I knew I couldn’t unless I was totally following God. If I was hiding something, no matter how hard I tried on my own sin would come out.
I needed God’s help. I had to go back and tell my parents everything before I could give my friends advice when they were hiding things from their parents. So I trusted God. I pressed in and was diligent in making those decisions every day to be completely open. It was not easy. But the longer I did it, the more I saw sin for what it was and God for who he is.
I didn’t do terrible things, but I had the twisted mindset of a sinner. I was in a prison I put myself in. Like that song by NF, “I never knew what prison was until I learned what freedom means.”
I saw the changes God made in me. I no longer wanted to get away from my parents. I no longer felt guilty when I was around my sister. My insecurity and my self-righteousness were completely destroyed by just being open and honest with people.
I started to trust in God, and not just believe in him. Then I really wanted to spend time with God. I felt desired by God, and my guilt no longer pushed me away. I trust God. I love him more than any human being on this entire planet. I want to love God and be as defensive of him as I am of my brother.
Bethany Stein is the owner of Once Upon a Dream House cleaning service, a Bible2School site director, and a volunteer at Cornerstone Youth Ministries. She’s a tenacious friend, joyful presence, spontaneous adventurer, and hopeless over-committer. She loves to worship, and her passion for Jesus is contagious.