According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word “testimony” means, among other things, “a firsthand authentication of a fact; an outward sign…” What I am putting down here today is my story of how I experienced firsthand the forgiveness and the redeeming and transforming power of the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. My changed life is a fact that cannot be denied, so I am, myself, an outward sign–the Lord’s own testimony of His mercy and grace bestowed on the most unlikely of people. It is because of who I once was that I firmly believe there is no one outside His power to save.
To keep this to a readable length and because this is a public forum, I will skip many of the morbid details of my pre-Christ life and focus instead on how He drew me out of them. Perhaps, someday, over a cup of hot tea or coffee, I will tell you more if you are interested, though it doesn’t really matter. That person is dead and gone and I do not like to look back on her much. For now, suffice to say that I came from a broken home; had a crippling emotional imbecility that belied my supposed high IQ; made several poor choices as a young adult including premarital relationships (one with a much older man), alcohol, and occasionally drugs; was always looking for someone to love me but rejecting anyone I found attractive; and allowed my self-imposed guilt to bring me to another city to help a guy with cancer and his mother.
It was at this time at the age of 26, emotionally and physically exhausted, wretched beyond belief, and beginning to weigh either suicide or life as a transient as possible options (both of which were more honestly a desire to flee the mess I’d made of my life)–when I met the man who would become my husband. To kick things off, I slammed a door in his face. But he was persistent. He offered a night’s sleep on his couch and I, worn out beyond belief, eventually gave in.
We were, neither of us, chaste individuals and it was not the couch I slept in that night. We began to “hang out” as the vernacular of the time put it. Just at the time when I had known him for about a month and was convinced that I needed to get away from him, I discovered that I was pregnant. We barely knew each other. I was mortified and considered ending my life, but I never could work up the nerve.
My man knew what to do, however. He moved me (by himself) into his apartment. We decided that once the baby came, I would stay home, but until then I worked and tried to pay off my car and anything else I could. It was then, with this new life growing inside me, that I began to understand that love was not something one seeks and pursues. Love is something one gives. I was crushed by the many missed opportunities to show love to my two sisters, one of which is 13 years my junior and the other who had her own babies when she was hardly more than a babe herself. I did not know it yet, but it was my first real revelation from God, preparing me to understand Himself.
Incidentally, long before this time back in my drinking days, a bar buddy once asked me a funny question. He asked what I thought God was like, and I told him. Then he asked, “But isn’t that just a little too convenient for God to be what we would like him to be?” That question haunted me for years.
It wasn’t until my pregnancy that I began to really wonder about God. Some of the details are fuzzy around this period, partially due to the immense fatigue I walked into pregnancy with, but at some point I started responding to that gentle nudging of the Holy Spirit. We got married, and I was insistent that it be by a preacher and not a justice of the peace. I began to read the Bible, and I prayed as I began, “God if you are real, You are going to have to make me believe this book, because I do not believe a word of it. I want to, but I just don’t.”
Over time, I found I was no longer demanding that He reveal Himself, but I was questioning Him: “Why would you do this, God? Why would you treat these people so, these nations You destroyed?” I wasn’t aware at the time, but I had crossed the line from unbelief to belief. I recall , a little later, speeding through the minor prophets (not that I knew that term at the time) because I simply could not wait to find out about the Messiah I had been reading hints about all over the Old Testament.
By the time I reached the story of the man whose son was possessed of a demon in Mark 9, I had shed many tears, learned the answer to many of my “whys,” and begun to feel a genuine love and longing for this mighty God who would send His own firstborn Son to die in my place–me, who had lived such an utterly disgraceful life. Then I read Mark 9:24 “I do believe! Help my unbelief!” In that man’s plea, I recognized my own first prayer. I also wanted to believe, but at first I couldn’t. And He had answered. He had made me believe.
That was the beginning of my walk with God. I had a lot of growing to do, a lot of refining to endure, a great amount of dying to myself to allow. It took me some time from those first moments of budding belief until I could understand that Christ’s death paid for even my heinous sins, too. I was so full of shame and despair that I at first thought my unworthiness was too great. It wasn’t until I learned, through a series of Scriptures, sermons, and whispers from the Spirit, that it was rather arrogant for me to believe that I was the one human who was beyond my God’s reach. I was able to repent of my twisted pride and accept His gift.
I am still walking with Him, and I am still learning. I am now revolted by the lifestyle I once embraced. I love my husband and would rather find death parting us than divorce. I not only enjoy my children but homeschool them, I teach Sunday school to toddlers, and I love my God and His Word fiercely and passionately. I cherish the time I spend reading my Bible, love to pray, and absolutely relish time out in His creation, especially when I can talk with Him. I have come a long way down the narrow path, but I strongly suspect that I have much more crushing and sifting times ahead of me before I am ready for Eternity. God alone knows how long it will take, but I trust Him implicitly to get the job done. After all, He saved me right out of the very depths and muck of sin. “He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.”
There is so much more. Perhaps in eternity we will be able to share all the details with each other. Perhaps then, without the weight of the sin curse always dragging on our bodies and minds, we can remember in vivid detail every event that displayed God’s glory in our lives and we can marvel at His grace and beauty together. For now, know that He is truly good and worthy of any sacrifice. The joy of knowing Him surpasses the fleeting pleasure of anything this old ball of rock has to offer. If you already know Him, I would love to hear how He first called you!