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Posts Tagged ‘personal testimony’

My apologies to those who have already waded through the multiple chapter version of my story.  While I began this blog with the intent of showing how God delivered us from false religion posing as truth, the greatest part of my story is when Jesus saved me.  It’s not about how I got smart and chose God, but how He saved and worked change in my life before I even knew I needed Him.  This version of the testimony will soon be in a small booklet along with stories of other women saved and changed by God’s grace.

Found by Love

Many people, realize it or not, are looking for a kind of love they have never found.  We demand it from family and friends, and no one seems able to live up to our expectations.   Broken relationships litter our lives as we continue to want the warm fuzzy feeling that doesn’t fade with time.  In our failed search, we may try to numb the craving with work, chemical addictions, sex, shopping, food… the list is endless.  Just the fact that we desire this elusive love is evidence enough that it must exist somewhere.  So many promises, so much disappointment.

But even my search for love was selfish, seeking it for what it could do for me.  In spite of this, Love found me.

My life started fairly normally, born to a middle-class family which attained the standard two children and a house in the suburbs. Normal, except my father was a pastor in a Christian cult. I knew from a young age we were different and considered our way of life superior to those who went to other churches. We believed other Christians would eventually be required to accept our teachings to be saved.

My first memory of recognizing the deep love of Jesus came during a series of evangelistic meetings my father held. He showed a film series on the life of Christ which had come from a mainstream Christian source. Through the films I fell in love with Jesus and was very touched by his love, compassion, and suffering. The crucifixion affected me in particular. I wasn’t old enough to understand theology, but I could perceive a great love, and a purely good man who didn’t deserve the cruelty.

My parents enrolled me in our local denomination’s school, but after my first year, my father was moved to mountain community with a tiny struggling church. My mother home schooled my brother and I for the two years we lived there, on a forested three acres. Except for our church, we had no other interaction in the community. The mountain range we could see at the end of our long driveway became a comfort to me. When everything else began to disintegrate, the mountains never moved.

One winter night, after a mid-week prayer meeting, the destructive fire smoldering under the surface of my parents’ marriage ignited an explosion. They fought for hours. Everyone cried. I told them I loved them both, and I just wanted a whole, happy home. This blew over for a time, but I remember this first outward expression of their serious problems. My mother then began to confide in me often about her discontent and sadness. When she spoke of separation and divorce, I assured her we would be okay.

During this time I felt an urge to be baptized. I had been taught even as a small child that we should never claim to be “saved”. We spoke only of someone being “converted”. In our world this meant someone had studied our 27 church doctrines, agreed with them, and been baptized. I’m not sure what motivated my request for baptism, but I believe it was a desire to be good and do the right thing. I wanted to be acceptable to God, but did not understand there was no work I could do to earn His attention and love. Nor had my own incurable, selfish inclination to sin been revealed to me. I believed if I tried hard enough, I could succeed at being a good Christian as defined by my church. I didn’t see the symbol of death in the baptism which shows we can’t fix ourselves. We must agree to die with Christ, and be raised to His Life.

The final crucible came for my parent’s marriage, and it failed under the pressure. They could no longer maintain the facade, and my mother decided on divorce. I cried alone one day several months later when I sensed the void of a missing parent, but this was the only time I remember allowing myself to grieve. My job was clear – stay strong and be there for them.

As my parent’s relationship dissolved, a simultaneous upheaval was taking place in our denomination. My father was not able to stay in the ministry as a divorced man, but he was already in the process of questioning some of the foundational, distinctive doctrines of the church, as many pastors in the organization were doing at the time. Their founding prophet had come under scrutiny and found to be a fraud, and many people’s eyes were being opened to the truth-twisting teachings of the church.

Doubt about everyone and everything began to creep into my soul. I reacted with an attitude of anger and rebellion toward my church, which at the time meant I was also angry at God. Even though my mother had enrolled us in their church school where we attended for the next eight years, I did not accept the prophet or believe we were the end-time “remnant church” as they taught. But rather than seek God and the truth of His word, I turned to the world.

My senior year I went to live with my father and attended public school for the first time. Moving from a religious sub-culture in a big city to a small town where everyone had grown up together, I didn’t fit in, or even try to. But I soothed my loneliness with male companionship, as I had learned to do as early as the 2nd grade. Only now, boys wanted much more than to hold hands. I made good grades, worked more than one job, paid for all my car expenses and clothing, and appeared mature and responsible. But I was not able to completely hide the inner reality which eventually expressed itself in a lifestyle of promiscuity, alcohol, and drugs.

After one year in college, I landed in Texas, married to a man I had met at the end of my senior year. We partied a lot, but so did everyone else we knew. I never thought past the moment at hand. Being with someone who would love me and be there for me controlled every decision I made, although this is only seen in retrospect.

God blessed me that first year with a beautiful baby girl (the one bright spot in my early adult life), and shortly after she was born I began working in a fast-food restaurant to supplement our income because my husband rarely worked. We survived with public assistance and the help of his parents.

I began to attend a support group when I became aware my husband had moved from the young, immature party scene to that of alcoholism. Contrary to what he and his family claimed, he was most certainly an addict. I needed this confirmation, and knowing I wasn’t the only one struggling with this helped tremendously. They also explained how my reactions and attempts to control him were adding to the problem.

During the traumatic time of dealing with the monster of addiction, my husband and I were involved in a serious motorcycle accident which could have killed us both. This event marked a turning point for me. Not only did it give me plenty of time to evaluate the life I had nearly lost, but I also became aware of a loud inner hunger for a deeper meaning in life. Men had failed to fill my needs and I wanted answers to the purpose of my existence and help for life’s pain. But I still directed my spiritual search away from the Bible and Christianity.

One day I was in a health-food store searching for a supplement that would help my multiple-fractured leg heal faster. The recovery process dragged on much longer than expected, trapping me at a time when I wanted to be free to leave my husband, my dismal job, and the depressing, small Texas town. A sweet, grandmother-type behind the counter asked if I needed any help. She expressed genuine concern for me as she looked past my obvious physical injuries and perceived my inner pain. I found her so easy to talk to. She offered suggestions for my emotional well-being as well as physical health, and invited me to attend a weekly meeting of like-minded people, a New Age study group.

I became instantly attracted to their teachings and quickly dove into pursuing this new path to knowledge. Occasionally something would directly confront my previous understanding of God as the Creator, Christ, and sin – but I would dismiss it as my past primitive understandings. I began to meditate regularly and believed I could directly alter my life through positive thoughts and affirmations. Good and evil were explained has higher and lower frequencies of energy, and I desired communication with higher spiritual guides. I learned of channeling and other psychic phenomenon, experimenting with them myself.

But this enlightenment was not helping my marriage. In spite of my search for healing and wisdom, I still refused to seek the only One who could heal and love me as I craved. Even though my Alanon support group talked of a higher power, it remained an abstract idea. The pain of living with a man who continued to put drugs and alcohol before his family became too much for me, especially when I saw our alcohol-related accident had changed nothing in his life. As soon as he was physically able, he returned to the same friends doing exactly as he had always done. We divorced when our daughter was only about a year old.

My husband had been a huge disappointment, but my selfishness had hurt him as well. My love for him was motivated out of my emotional need which sought to control him for its own interests.  This counterfeit “love” became hostile instead of nurturing when the needs were left unmet. Our failure to love one another as God intends left our daughter with a broken beginning and no remembrance of a home with both of her parents. I hoped she would not be able to miss what she never had, but the divorce affected her deeply as she grew up.

After our divorce, I felt a need to ask him to forgive me as I realized more and more how much I had hurt him too.  We reconciled and remained friends for a time, until he re-married.

As was my custom, I quickly found myself in another relationship.  As an old friendship turned into romance,  I tied the knot again about a year later .  I know most believed this would be a short-lived, rebound marriage.  But in spite of myself and my hastiness, God gifted me with a loving, responsible man.  About a year after we married, He blessed me further with a precious baby boy.

When my son was just a few weeks old, overwhelming thankfulness kept welling up in me. I knew I couldn’t take credit for the blessings in my life and certainly had not “manifested” them with my mind or words. I had not turned to God before in my hard times because they were the obvious consequences of my bad choices. I couldn’t imagine a God who would have anything good to say, or give any help to someone like me. But when He did anyway, without my asking, my cold heart began to melt. I had a deep desire to worship and thank the Source of the blessings in my life, but how could I ever turn back to simple-minded Christians and go to a church?!

Not long after I began to experience this longing, we received an invitation to visit a church with a friend. I had many fears and objections, although I had started to pick up my Bible from time to time. One Sunday, at the end of the service, the pastor stopped to dwell for a moment on the simple gospel. I heard the truth about turning away from sin, and forgiveness through what Jesus had done by willingly laying down His life.  My mind was flooded with a picture of Jesus and my own guilt before God swallowed me up for a moment as I realized He was very real. I had turned my back on Him, playing the spiritual whore, and I could not think of any acceptable excuse for this. Deep down I realized I had always known the error of my chosen path. This was my unveiling, seeing myself in the light of the purity of Jesus – seeing the true nature of my sin. But He beckoned me with the same love that had drawn me there in the first place. He was not condemning but offering me Life. I came to Jesus that day, in tears and in thankfulness. The weight of guilt and shame lifted away and I was humbled by the truth that this forgiveness could never be earned or deserved.

This experience was so much deeper than the words someone preached, but the words moved with the Holy Spirit to open my eyes.  Just as Paul said in Romans, the gospel of Christ is the power of God for salvation.

As of this writing, seventeen years have passed, and He has not failed my husband and I through any trial.  He has not failed to give correction as well as provision. He is the faithful Father all broken human children crave. I have made many, many mistakes, misunderstood many things, and continue to do so. Yet He is always there leading, guiding, blessing, pruning, and drawing me into a closer relationship with Him.

He has come to the broken places from the past, the lost child feeling forgotten and rejected, and become the Parent that never abandons or sees me as the object to fill his own empty needs, because He is wholeness.  He has healed the feelings of worthlessness and despair.  Not all in one day.. but as these places are reached in the journey.  And it continues.  (I am not blaming my parents, but all human parents fall short, including me!)

He has allowed pain and suffering because it provides opportunities for growth the blessings alone cannot give. In Spirit and Word He continues to come near, heal, and reveal. I am forever thankful for how He pursued me with His love and life in Him is new every day as I learn to love and know Him more.

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1,2

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