If you're unfamiliar with the term “testimony”, it basically means, “How all of my life decisions and events have pointed me to Jesus.” :)
Every time I tell someone my testimony it never ceases to amaze me how God has watched over me and somehow made the mess my life was (is) something beautiful. He does that with all of us, if we let Him.
By no means am I saying you have to have a somewhat sordid past like I do to have a beautiful testimony. I remember being at a Sara Groves concert a few years back and she gave her testimony. She said she asked Jesus into her heart at the age of 4 and had never really strayed or rebelled. She'd loved and followed Jesus her whole life. Now THAT, my friends, is a beautiful thing! If you listen to her music, you'll find a deep understanding of God and faith-inspiring lyrics that come from a lifetime of knowing the Savior and loving Him.
My point is, no two stories are alike and whether or not you've loved the Lord all of your life, had to go through some stuff like I did before you realized He was there waiting for you all along (Luke 15:11-32), or if you haven't found Him yet, (keep looking – He’s waiting!) I hope my story is a blessing to you.
I grew up with a knowledge of God and thankfully, accepted Christ at a young age. Although I couldn’t tell you the exact time I first accepted Jesus as my Savior. You read that right—I asked Jesus into my heart several times as a child. I was afraid that I had lost my salvation so I prayed more than once, just to make sure I was saved. Of course, I now know that it doesn’t work like that.
The churches I grew up in were Bible-believing and taught the Gospel, and for that I’m thankful. But they were also very legalistic. There were so many RULES! Rules like, girls should always wear skirts, don’t listen to music that used drums, no card-playing, and no dancing, no going to the theater, etc. At first it was easy to follow those rules. It was an easy way to “set ourselves apart.” Again, I now know that it’s not what’s on the outside that sets us apart, but it’s what is in our hearts.
Don’t get me wrong—it wasn’t all bad. Like I said, the church did preach the Gospel (the Good News of Jesus!) and was great at evangelism, but it was quite off balance in terms of how to live out the Christian life. I ended up with a lot of head knowledge about the Bible but most of it never reached my heart.
I wouldn't have articulated it this way at the time, but looking back I had a sense that God was always right behind me, just waiting for me to screw up and break the rules. Doesn’t really sound like a fun way to live, does it? Always living in fear that you’re going to make God angry?
Around the age of 10, playing dress-up at my Grandma's house.
That’s something I still struggle with, to be honest. I’m constantly trying to remember that no matter what I’ve done, or will do, God loves me.
We love because He first loved us. ~ 1 John 4:19
..But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ~ Romans 5:8
So, through most of my years as a Christian growing up, all I really learned how to do was to follow the rules. Unfortunately, that's never been my forte. I wasn't born with the “do it because it's the right thing to do” kind of personality. (Incidentally, I married someone who is like that which has been so helpful to me.) I'm more of a “do it because I want to” kind of girl.
Here I am about 12, holding my baby cousin.
It was hard to keep on the “straight and narrow” when my heart really wasn't in it. Even thought I asked Jesus to be my Savior at a very young age, I was never really taught how to develop and grow in relationship with Him. A real, living, breathing relationship with Jesus is the only thing that can get me (and you) through this life.
My parents took my brother and I out of public school when I was in 8th grade and after that I was home schooled which also helped to instill more Truth in me. (Even though I HATED being homeschooled.)
At Bible camp around the age of 15, I think? Remember when flannels were cool? I had about 20 of them.
I won't go into too much more detail about my childhood, but suffice it to say that it was not a happy one and at the age of 17 I ran away from home and moved in with my boyfriend. My decision to leave home is not one I really regret, but I do regret moving in with said boyfriend.
It turned out that things were not a huge improvement with my boyfriend. He was very jealous and very controlling.
At Bible camp the following year. Apparently, "it was a girl thing." Gotta love the 90's.
So I left home and moved in with him, which was pretty much the worst thing we could have done. We already had a pretty rocky relationship before that and living together made it unbearable.
To try and sum it up, that relationship ended up being one crazy ride. There was more drama than a soap opera. We were constantly breaking up and getting back together. Alcohol was a major factor in the relationship’s demise and we were both so immature and just not ready for any of things life was throwing at us.
More than that, we weren’t living for the Lord at all, so there was pretty much no hope. But I hope he is happy now (and following the Lord) and I’d like to think he's a different person these days, as am I.
I ended up finally getting the courage and breaking it off when I was 19 years old. During the last part of that insane relationship, I met the boy who would later become my husband.
Stay tuned for more! Read Part 2