Running Away From My Calling

"God has a better plan for each of us when we open our hearts to Him." by Lieutenant Matilde Esparza

Have you ever heard God calling you, but, instead of listening, you ran away? It happened to me many times. The first time I ran away from God was at the age of 16, when I first had the opportunity to meet the Lord. He was calling me to “the best of life” by following his path. However, the stubbornness of my youth and the desire to enjoy life made me run away. My life was unhappy and very dark because I exchanged the activities of a young 17-year-old girl for a life full of emotional problems. Coming from a broken family, I ran the race to find the perfect loving and caring family for my children. Instead, I felt unloved, trapped, alone, and hurt by the person who was supposed to love me. I still remember the many times that I found myself crying, trying to find a solution to my problems. I sought for help with friends, relatives, and counselors from my children’s school. Nobody could help me, and my situation became more and more unbearable. I was a victim of domestic violence. Ten years passed, then I heard about a job opening at The Salvation Army Anaheim Temple Corps. I applied, got hired and worked for 12 years. God was calling me again, and I was finally back at his home but far away from His presence. I was still running from Him.

Jonah 1:3 says:

“But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish.”

Jonah did not want to obey God and evangelize to the city of Nineveh. He fled from the Lord’s purpose for his life because he had not been consecrated to God. God spoke to him many times, begging him to evangelize to the lost city. But Jonah said “NO” to God and ran from the presence of the Lord. I can relate to Jonah’s story because I ran from the presence of God. Even though I returned, my heart still wanted to be free. I said no to God many times and I could not find peace, respect, joy, or happiness. I never found love from others or myself. Jonah’s story continues in verse 1:4 saying, “Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up.” God was calling Jonah and telling him, “Come back to me, do what I tell you, or you will never have peace.” Just like the story of Jonah, God sent a furious wind into my life, something that made me hit bottom. Something I thought would never happen to me. I found myself in a situation that I could not find the way out of, but just like Jonah, God was calling me not only to come back but to obey Him.

Four years after I arrived at the Corps, I decided to give God a chance. One day, I opened my heart to Him and asked, “God, if you really exist, take the people away who hurt me.” God listened and things began to change. God not only gave me the opportunity to work in the Salvation Army Anaheim Temple, to support my family for many years, but I also learned a different way of living with my family. Although it was not perfect, not a “complete” family, with a mom, dad, and children, it was my new family with God, a mother, and children. My new family began to have a different life with respect, peace, and hope. God filled the emptiness that existed in my heart. I found true love in Him because God’s love is unconditional and forever. Now I understand that I was never alone and God was always with me. Even during the storm of loneliness, pain, and captivity, God was with me and blessed me with a new opportunity because He had a victorious plan for my life. My life as a single mom was not easy. There were many times when I could not find the solution to solve my problems, but I let God come into my life just at the moment when I needed Him the most, and my children were able to learn a different way of life. God gave me the opportunity to transform myself into a brave woman, a woman full of faith, who keeps going forward no matter the circumstances. God provides us with everything– family, friends and a new family in Christ. He always supported us by His grace and with His purpose for my life. I received His salvation, the most beautiful gift I ever received. 

Ten years ago, during a Latino Family Camp, there was a call to Officership. The process took a long time, but I had to wait, learn, change, prepare and heal my broken heart. Now here I am, called by God to share the love, hope and freedom that He has for many mothers and children whose lives have perhaps been impacted by domestic violence and other struggles. God has a better plan for each of us when we open our hearts to Him.

While I enjoy running for exercise, and hope one day to complete a full marathon, I am no longer running from God. My greatest goal is to complete the race as a servant of God. By His Grace, God gave me love, peace, dignity and respect, when I surrendered to Him the hard, dark, and miserable race of sin. He allowed me to run the race of His service found in Acts 20:24: “However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.”

Lieutenant Matilde Esparza completed training and was commissioned as a Salvation Army officer in the Western Territory in June 2021. 

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