In order to understand my journey to Christ, I think it’s important to first give you a glimpse of my background.
My early childhood started off on shaky ground. My parents divorced when I was very young, and my dad got custody of both my younger sister and I shortly after he finished Army basic training. He was a young single father still trying to figure out life himself while trying to earn a living and raise two little girls. We did not have a lot of money and my sister and I were often left alone to fend for ourselves, because babysitters cost too much. I found myself playing the role of mom to my younger sister, and growing up a whole lot quicker than other kids my age. During early childhood, we went to church on the occasional holiday or were bussed to Sunday School with a cousin, but there was no commitment to a church. There were no deep discussions of God, no Bible studies, and no prayer in our home. It’s not that we didn’t believe there was a God, it just wasn’t a topic of discussion at all.
And yet, even at a young age, I found myself contemplating my life. Who was I? Where did I come from? Why was I here? The answers didn’t come in some epiphany, but I believe God was already working in my heart to lead me towards Him.
My teen years continued to be unstable. We had very little money, moved around a lot, and while I considered myself to be a “good” person, I didn’t feel worthy of my life. What did I have to share with the world? What did I have to offer? I had nothing….no gifts, no talents, and no treasures. I was not articulate or particularly smart. I found myself on a quest to figure out who I was and how I fit into to the world, but not necessarily in the best ways. I had my fair share of rebellion, hanging with the wrong groups and certainly a few regrets over stupid decisions made solely because I wanted to fit in. I made some decisions knowing I shouldn’t and knowing that guilt and shame would follow, but my self-confidence was non-existent at this point in my life and I just went with the crowd.
Soon after high school, I joined the Army and would go to church on Sundays mainly just to get out of cleaning the barracks, ironing my uniform or polishing my boots. It was a wonderful time to just sit and be still, but I was also listening. By this time, I had determined that I believed in God, almost as if I had always known this to be true. While I now believed in a Creator, I still didn’t understand the true power of Christ or the impact He could have on my life once I gave Him the reins.
I met my wonderful husband in the Army and was hooked. He grew up in a church and soon after we got married, we started attending church on a regular basis. I had no problem with going to church every Sunday, but something was still missing. I listened and reflected on the sermons each week. I wanted what God was offering. I think God’s message to me was finally starting to hit home.
We attended a good old-fashioned Southern Baptist church at this point. The church where you were offered the opportunity to accept Christ in your life on a weekly basis. And I did that….every week. That’s right, every time I had the chance, I prayed that prayer with earnestness. The problem is that I didn’t ever believe it actually took. I was waiting for the ground to shake, the fire to settle on my shoulders or the Holy Spirit to tell me it had arrived. It didn’t happen. I continued to pray THE prayer every week, because I still didn’t feel worthy of God’s love. How could He possibly love a no good, no talent, sinner like myself? What could I give him? Yes, I had heard God’s love has no conditions and no limitations, but I couldn’t bring myself to believe it. Maybe if I prayed harder next week!
I will never forget the day that I finally got it. I was talking to my Dad about my sister. My sister had found herself in more trouble than any one person should in the course of her young life. She had caused our Dad a lot of heartache, sleepless nights and despair. I gave him my fair share of trouble as well, but this particular conversation was about my sister ending up in jail. My father was angry, frustrated, and heartbroken. And yet, I realized over the course of our conversation that regardless of what my sister or I ever did, our Dad loved us unconditionally and always would. That no matter what the circumstances, he was going to love us where we were. I suddenly had a thought so loud, it’s as if the Holy Spirit shouted in my ear to be sure I heard and understood the message. If your earthly father can love you and your sister so unconditionally, how much greater is God’s love for you?!! It was the moment I had been waiting for. I finally knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was a child of God and that He loved me, no matter what. There was no fire and the earth didn’t shake, but it was close. I prayed for salvation one more time after that and never looked back.
If I had to boil it all down, the message of my testimony would be this. We are all broken and we all face struggles, believers and non-believers alike. But even on the bleakest days, we all are loved and precious to God. His love is unconditional, and no one is worthless or undeserving.
I believe God has shown me love, even when I felt unlovable, through His gentle guidance and people He has put in my path along the way. I now have a heart to show that same love to others on a daily basis. You never know when you are talking to someone who feels unwanted, unloved and undeserving. It doesn’t always show on the outside. Sometimes just a simple act of kindness, a smile or a gentle word goes a long, long way.
“Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”1 John 4:11