Today marks 17 years as a born-again Christian. Many fellow Christians have asked me about my born-again experience. They've asked for years, and I've never taken the time to write it down...until now.
Micro, Reader's Digest's Seriously Condensed Version~~I was lost in sin, tho I didn't really and truly understand that beyond mere words. A new friend took the time to not only witness to me Christ's Love that I felt in her home but patiently stayed with me as I got my bearings as a new creature in Christ. I received Jesus on Aug 28, 1994, less than a month before I got married. I've not looked back. I've experienced some highs and lows of being a Christian, and I honestly wouldn't trade a moment of it because it has all contributed to the person I've become. Christ has begun a new work in me, and I want to continue to improve.
Novel Version (and I DO mean "Novel", might wanna grab a cuppa som'n b/f you sit down to read this, lol)
We travelled a great deal as a young family, so settling into a church was not exactly a high priority while growing up. Couple this with parents who witnessed so much hypocrisy in the churches they grew up in that they figured my sister and I were better off not being exposed to such an environment (assuming it was everywhere). Occasionally I'd hear a verse that Mom said was in the Bible, or she'd repeat something her mom (my grandma) said came from the Bible, but I honestly don't remember a time when I actually read those words for myself...not as a youngster, anyway. Kind of ironic b/c I was an avid reader. I was a visual learner. You could tell me anything, but I didn't "get it" until I saw it for myself. The only Bibles I remember at my parents' house were the ones completely stuffed with family commentary...obits, stories, awards, etc. Translation? Look but don't touch. :(
In our travels, we'd find the customary Gideon Bibles along with the Book of Mormons (in some hotels, not all). I would pick them up and try to read them, but it was like reading Shakespeare, something that was not at all appealing to me (at the time). Where were the coloring books, huh? Where were books about butterflies, birds or fishies or treasures?? (lol, little did I realize I could've found these very things in the Bible then had I but known!)
I grow up a little bit, and I run into people who called themselves Christians. Some of them were pretty nice, but unfortunately, others were just as mean as they could be. Also unfortunately, the mean ones were the ones I remembered most. :( I have lost count how many times I "received Salvation" only to feel confused, abandoned and frustrated, not necessarily in that order. Only later did I learn that I experienced a variety of soil in my life! (see Matthew 13 to see what I mean) I've been scared into faith with the fire/brimstone, wrath-of-God messages...but they forgot the HOPE; I've been enticed into faith with "When you become a Christian, EVERYTHING in your life will be honky-dory!"; I've been seduced by "God is Love" messages only to receive a sucker punch in the spirit from professing Christians claiming that God's Love is completely conditional according to my works; I've been intellectually intrigued by "scholarly" Biblical topics like Rapture, Prophesy Revelation, Angels, etc, tho the seeming conflicts were extremely confusing. (I DID, however, always feel as though we just might meet Jesus in our lifetime, no other religious figure...strange, huh?) It seemed like I was supposed to have known everything there was to know about being a Christian right off the bat (I'm a new creature in Christ and all that). I had questions about things I've read in the Bible, and I felt like I was dealt the 5-second rule (moms know what I'm talking about here, lol)..."well, it's in the Bible in blah-blah-blah verse or passage." Okaaaaaay, I have a question ABOUT what I'm reading in the Bible! A bell sometimes goes off in their head that I'm not reading the Bible quite the way they are reading it. Occasionally, someone will slow up and try to explain something to me, but sometimes I left even more confused. When I tried to bring it up another time, I received the cold shoulder or the look down the nose like I was a total idiot. I don't mind not knowing something, but I don't take too kindly to being called or treated like I'm stupid or an idiot. So guess what? I turned my back on Christianity...or so I thought. Looking back now, I turned my back on professing Christians, not Christianity. My heart was indeed hardened.
You know that bullies (typically) hurt other people because they themselves are hurt, right? Well, basically I became a Christian bully. Looking back at this time now, I realize that I became a wrathful scorner, a scoffer, a reviler, and ultimately....a fool.
I spent some time spiritually wandering around...not really looking for anything (I didn't think at the time, anyway).... I've met some people who were Pagans (even witches), hung around them for a little while, learned some things, was fascinated by them, then moved on. Met some Native Americans who talked about their spiritual lives with me. Met some Buddhists who seemed to exemplify peaceful living. At any given point, I could've probably become a member of various religious experiences. All had pieces of truth with which I could identify, but none of them really felt particularly complete for me. It's only later that I can put a finger on what was going on with me at this time...God was allowing me to be an outside observer while removing any desire within me to partake of these seemingly sound ideologies.
In the middle of all of this, I have a few friends who I knew are Christians, and for various occasions I'd get them a Bible as a gift, and a King James Bible, at that! I didn't "seek" to get them KJ Bibles because at the time I wasn't aware of the differences among professing Bibles. Do you see God's Hand in this?? I do now. :)
I went through various phases of "trying" to be a Christian. I didn't like most Christians, but I was smart enough to know that there is something unique and special about their professing faith. I attempted to read the Bible many times. I'd read Scriptures quoted in various places; sometimes I got it, most times I didn't understand. I didn't know it at the time, but I was reading Scriptures through human eyes. The Scriptures basically read no differently than the hundreds of other books I've read, and I was an avid reader with a very vivid imagination. I thought I said Christiany things, did Christiany things, acted the way Christians are supposed to act. Although I'm glad I tried, I had no idea at the time that my human efforts were basically done in spiritual vain.
"If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask Him?" Matthew 7:11
I've spent a couple of years scanning groceries for one particular customer who seemed to seek me out when she shopped. After some time, I got to know her and her two very young children. She commented with amazement that both of her children were very shy and reserved around strangers, but that they seem to really like me and would even look for me when they enter the store. She got to where she was kind of comfortable inviting me to her home.
This was the start of my turning point.
I walked into her home and felt a presence I had NEVER felt before in my whole life. Her home was full of peace, full of joy, full of love...full of home. Her children were obviously happy there. Evidence of her Christian faith was throughout her home, a small token here and there. Her home was truly inviting in every sense of the word.
We had lunch, and we chatted about a variety of things, and then she guided the conversation to Salvation. She wanted to know where I stood as a Christian...or not. Can you say, "Put on the defense armor?" Oooooh, ye-ah, I did. Arms crossed over my chest, attitude, everything. However, as guarded as I felt about the topic of MY personal faith, I found myself actually trying to listen to her. She spoke with me as a fellow human being, not as an object or a poor sucker cornered for preaching.
I didn't get the sense of judgment from her. We talked for a good couple of hours (maybe 2 or 3), and she gradually got the sense that I had plenty of puzzle pieces, but I was unable to fit too many of them truly together. She sensed that I had been hurt by professing Christians, and she picked up that while I "knew" of Jesus, maybe even "believed" Jesus, but because of the actions of so many people in my life, I never came to TRUST Him. She illustrated trust and faith using a chair. If I didn't trust or have faith in that chair's ability to hold me, I would either sit down timidly (belief, but no trust) or not at all. However, if I am to put my trust in that chair's ability to hold me while I sit down, I would confidently sit in that chair without a second thought for security. She explained that Jesus is a FRIEND who supports us like that chair. We can rest on Him.
She also explained the gulf between man and God through sin...the sin beginning with Adam and individual's personal sin. Jesus is the bridge that reconciles man back to God. Jesus is the means by which we are cleansed of our sins. Those sins are removed from our lives when we allow Jesus to enter into our hearts. I've lost count how many times I've been "witnessed at" (trust me, there's a difference between being witnessed "to" and "at.") This time, Jesus was witnessed THROUGH me. Jesus was finally able to breach a stone wall that I didn't even know surrounded my heart. I now understand the passage in Ezekiel 36 where God says he will remove the stony heart and replace it with a fleshly heart. The burden of all that I have gone through in my life suddenly left me. I felt the weight of my world lifted from my heart, my body, and my spirit. I had no idea such a burden oppressed me! I melted from the sudden removal of that weighted burden. I could not dam the flood of tears that poured from my eyes, heart and soul. My friend's sowing occurred finally on "good ground."
Imagine my astonishment as I picked up the Bible to read it that night. I wasn't reading it just to read it. I wasn't even reading it just to acquire knowledge from it. I finally read the Bible as God spoke those words. Amazing words. My spiritual eyes became opened as I wore spiritual glasses for the first time in my life. His Words literally became ALIVE in my own soul. I finally understood what it meant to be "Spirit-filled." That doesn't mean I became "Super Sister Christian" with a big ol' fish or cross plastered on my chest and a white cape draped about my shoulders doing goody-goody things...that's nice and all, but I suddenly understood David's struggles in his life even as a man after God's own heart! I don't believe God expects us to be perfect, especially in the sense of how man would measure perfection, but He wants us to trust Him and His wisdom which is expressed in His Word. I understand that God indeed meets us where we are, and begins again the walk from where I left Him.
I've looked back over my life from time to time, and I've seen the Footprints of God in my life where I never noticed them before, not enough to acknowledge that it was Him, anyway. I've been told, and indeed I've read, that God does not answer a sinner's prayer. Personally, I beg to differ. I only love Him now because He first loved me! He showed mercy when I deserved consequences, He showed me grace at the most amazing times in my life. I genuinely believe that God preserved me from harm where I could easily have destroyed myself in sin. God sought me. I finally received His Son.
I had since married my husband. He is not a believer. Instead, I see myself in him before I finally gave my life to Jesus. I believe it is simply a matter of time before he becomes a believer, too. We've had struggles from being unequally-yoked, make no mistake about that. However, when I do my part as the wife of the family unit, I see the Lord's hand upon my husband's life for my sake. It took me a few years to understand the concept of submission. I was one of those women who balked at the idea of "obeying the husband" and that was even taken out of our wedding vows. Now I understand that I'm not submitting to my husband as an invitation for being a doormat, but when I do my part, God has a very interesting way of turning my husband according to His will which complements His will for me to obey him. Submission can indeed work in a marriage. Our strengths complement each other's weaknesses, proving to create a strong single unit...just as I believe God invisioned for us.
We have since had two sons, both of them being raised with Biblical training, and I take them to church with me. I do my best to bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. It has been rough going at times because my husband does not understand my convictions, but I do believe that God has His hands on my children (AND my husband!), just as He had his hands on me. No matter what tests my boys go through, they are developing testimony. No matter what trials may lay before them, I expect them to become triumphant! If they are ever victims of anything, they will eventually obtain victory.