The book that I am reading right now has small little assignments on occasion. Things called “Take Aways”. The first Take Away in this book was to “write your story”. There were really no other instructions other than that. My story? My story of what? Why I want to read this book? A description of my life today? Then it hit me. The author wanted me to write about my life story as a Christian. How it happened and what it means to me. He said that if we have never written out our story, that we would be amazed at the impact that it would have on us. He said “something special occurs when we write out our thoughts and experiences”.
I knew right away that I was not going to actually write my story, but type it. And then I thought, why not just turn my story into a blog? I’ll tell you, I was hesitant. There are things in here that many people who are reading this don’t know about me. It’s me opening up and being vulnerable. Some of those close to me know this story, or slight variations of it. Others who are close to me have never heard this story. But here it is. I am taking the stand. Giving my testimony.
I grew up in a loving home. I had two fantastic, loving ,supportive parents and a sister whom I generally got along with, aside from the normal sisterly spats that any sisters experience growing up. I had everything that I needed and we were able to go on family vacations on a regular basis, but we weren’t what one would consider an affluent family. As children, my sister and I were able to participate in whatever sport we wanted, we were both involved in the band from a young age, and our parents encouraged us to get involved in things. I’m glad they did.
What I don’t remember very well from my childhood is ever really learning about God. I do remember being dropped off at Sunday School with my sister, but never really going to “big church” since my parents didn’t regularly attend. I knew there was a God and I believed in Him, but I wasn’t ever taught (or perhaps I just didn’t pay attention in Sunday School) about really having a relationship with Him and what it meant to be a Christian.
I grew up, as most non-believers probably do, thinking that being a good person would get me into heaven. And I considered myself a good person. I mean, I was nice to my parents, I got along with my sister, I had some great friends, I was generally a likeable person, I had no real enemies, I wasn’t mean to people, I didn’t drink or smoke while I was growing up, I never really got into trouble – I was the average good kid. I graduated high school still not really knowing much about God and happily living out my life as a “good person”.
Then I attended Baylor University, which is a private Baptist university. To this day, I still don’t understand why I really ended up there. I knew I wanted to be in Texas, and it was sort of process of elimination that I needed up there. It was small enough for me to not feel like I was just a number and large enough that it still felt like a proper college. I won’t get into some of the interesting aspects of that school when it comes to religion, but suffice it to say that I was exposed to a lot more about what it meant to be a Christian and lived with a group of Christian gals, even went to Bible studies and the occasional church service with them. But, I was content being a “good person”, still not understanding what it really meant to be a believer.
I graduated college, started work, and moved to Houston where my parents had moved while my sister and I were in college. Now all four of us were in Houston after living for 17 years in Albuquerque, New Mexico. We were happily transplanted into the fourth largest city in the country, and Houston was a great place to start my career.
Concurrently with all of this happening, I married and settled down in the heart of Houston. To make a long and somewhat painful story quite short, it was an unhealthy marriage from the start. I don’t know what it was (ok, I really do know what it was – but I’ll spare everyone the gory details), but I do know that neither of us were Christians. And I’ll tell you, someone can believe that there is a God, even go to church, and still not be a Christian.
I know every religion has it’s variations on this basic concept, but generally speaking, someone has to acknowledge that Jesus Christ died on the cross for them and their sins – that God sacrificed His Son for them, then brought Him back from the dead. And the acceptance of that, and the prayer made during that acceptance, and the belief coming from the depths of your heart and your soul – that acknowledgment, and that acknowledgment alone, makes you a Christian. Makes you a believer. Saves you from a life in hell. Provides you with the promise of everlasting life in the kingdom of heaven.
So, needless to say, after my divorce, my life was in a bit of turmoil. I was re-settling in the same city that I had been living and (happily) adjusting to single life. But the circumstances of what happened in my marriage were still weighing on my mind and on my heart. Knowing what had happened, and feeling somehow guilty for that, kept me a prisoner.
Not long before this, probably about a year, my sister had started going to church at Second Baptist in Houston. Second Baptist is what most would consider a “mega church”, and mega it is. She grew up in the same home as me, but clearly had a different journey since we went to different universities, had different friends, and chose vastly different careers. But she became a Christian, and I saw a change in her. And that made me curious.
As mentioned above, after the divorce I was a happier person, but still struggled with why certain things had to happen in life, why they had to happen to me, and certainly struggled with the label of “divorced” that I would have with me for the rest of my life. Now when I was filling out forms, I couldn’t check the “single – never been married” box.
Now I know that a majority of marriages today end in divorce, but trust me, when it’s YOU going through it, statistics don’t matter. Nobody wants that. It’s failure. And the general nature of humans is that we don’t like to fail when it’s a conscious choice that we made.
So I really began thinking about God. I had always believed that things happened for a reason, and I struggled with this one. I remember trying to make sense of it all, then having the realization that maybe it was never under my control. Through talking with my sister, I realized that I didn’t have to go through this alone. That God was always there for me and that I didn’t have to make decisions without some sort of help or guidance. I remember thinking to myself, “How did I ever make a big decision before in my life? How did I bear the stress of having to do that on my own? How have I not realized up until now that I can pray about these things, and that God will give me answers and help me get through anything that life puts me through?” It was such an important revelation for me. The belief that everything that happens in my life does in fact have a reason, even if I don’t understand it at the time.
If you read Luke 8:22-25, it serves as a reminder that Jesus is in control of everything, we just need to have faith that He will take care of us. And He often puts us through things to test our faith.
I began going to church with my sister at Second Baptist and something started pulling at my heart. I couldn’t wait to get back to church every Sunday. I couldn’t wait to get there and listen to the promise that was spoken to me out of the Bible. Second Baptist is an amazing church for people seeking to know God and wanting to learn more about becoming a Christian. It was just what I needed.
I was so hungry for information about God and to hear people’s experiences. These were real people with real lives and real examples of God working in their lives. They weren’t freaks. They were neighbors, friends, co-workers, parents – everyone you could imagine. They were normal, everyday Americans and foreigners who all had one thing in common – they believed in God and in Jesus Christ, and they had independently made that choice using the freedom that we are given in America to do so. I wanted it so badly! But I still didn’t feel like I was “qualified” enough to make that decision. I needed to know a bit more.
The way it works at Second, and likely most, if not all Baptist churches, is that an invitation is given at the end of each service – an invitation for people to join the church from other churches, or to accept Jesus Christ in your life for the first time and become a member of the church. So I would sit there each service with my sister, knowing deep down that I wanted to do it, but not feeling quite ready yet. I would watch people walk down the aisles of this massive worship center week after week and stand in front of everyone there as evidence of their decision. It was a powerful moment during each service.
And then one Sunday (March 17, 2002 to be exact), I could contain it no longer. During that service, something stirred in me and I could hardly wait to walk down those aisles. When the invitation came, I looked at my sister with tears in my eyes and said that I was ready to walk down those aisles. She went with me, and on that day, I prayed the prayer that has saved me. I accepted Jesus Christ into my life and into my heart, and became a brand new person. That was my Christian birthday! I was baptized the following Sunday with my parents, sister, best friend, and others in town to witness it. And it has been the best decision that I have ever made in my life.
So friends, I speak this testimony to you for no other reason than I just felt that I needed to do it. I have never been on the witness stand before.
I love my God more each and every day and am in constant awe and wonder because of how He works in my life and in the lives of others around me.
There is one thing that I want to leave you with, and that is this: You are not alone in this world. When you go through tough times and you think that your world is crumbling apart, or you’re just confused about the meaning or direction of your life, there is a plan behind all of it. The plan for me was to bring me to Jesus Christ. And it worked! Only believers go to heaven. And I’m so glad that I’m among that group.