Ten years ago today, I became a Christian. In honor of this occasion, I thought I would share my testimony with my readers. If you read my Xanga, then this might be familiar to you, but I thought it worth duplicating over here, some two years later.
I wasn’t too fond of God as a child, which is funny because I was raised in the Catholic church and we were there every week. God scared me, quite frankly. I just knew He was this very stern, white-bearded man looking down on everything I did with a frown, and when I messed up I dreaded having to go to the priest and say a billion Hail Marys to make up for hitting my brother or calling him names or whatever other horrendous act I’d committed. (I suppose it wasn’t a billion Hail Marys, probably closer to 10 or so.) Church was boring to me, God was scary, and I was pretty much a good kid, so I didn’t give God a whole lot of thought.
When I was ten my family went to see the passion play at Bellevue, and I was stunned by what I saw. I remember seeing Jesus hanging on that cross and being overwhelmed–overwhelmed by the pain He clearly experienced,by the feeling that I might like to know this Jesus person. I hadn’t heard too much about Him, or if I had, I hadn’t been paying attention. (The latter is probably true: I went to Parish Religious Education every Wednesday and learned everything under the sun about Catholicism and saints and the prayers we prayed and all that stuff, and I even had to do homework, but not much of it stuck. No wonder I didn’t like church.) Anyway, that night the music minister talked about having a relationship with Jesus, and I thought that sounded pretty good and would keep me out of hell, and when my mom leaned over and asked me if I wanted to “receive Jesus in my heart” I thought, Why not?
But I didn’t get it. Soon after that we stopped going to a Catholic church and joined a Baptist one, and I remember going to youth group and it all seemed so exciting and new, and I ate it up. I finally had my own Bible, and I read it a lot, and highlighted what I thought sounded important, even thought I didn’t understand a lot of it. I just watched the other kids and did what they did, and figured that was enough. Occasionally during the service when the pastor would give the invitation and talk about a personal relationship with Jesus, I would wonder if I had that. I prayed some (“Please, God, let ____ like me! I want a boyfriend!)” and wrote in a journal and did everything the other kids did, though, so I thought I was covered. I’d prayed “the prayer,” after all, and I was such a good kid. I didn’t get into nearly as much trouble as my brother did, and I was definitely the teacher’s pet every year, so how could I not be okay?
It was not until the summer after my freshman year in high school that I began having serious doubts about my salvation. I became really concerned about it, lying in bed and wondering if God was there, wondering why I still felt empty, wondering what to do about it. Everyone thought I was already a Christian, so what would they say if all of sudden I said I wasn’t? They would call me a liar and laugh at me and I wouldn’t have any friends. These irrational thoughts had kept me quiet for many years, but during youth camp that summer I felt that I would burst if I didn’t confront this weight on my soul. So one night I talked to an older girl there and told her about my doubts, and she asked me if I remembered praying to God to save me, and I thought about it and that night at Bellevue, and I remember my mom asking me, but I don’t remember what I did after that. I didn’t feel as though I meant it. I didn’t tell this to the girl, though. I was ashamed. That night as I was trying to go to sleep I asked God not to let me sleep if I wasn’t His. I told Him I had to know, and He was the only person who could tell me. I don’t remember sleeping much that night.
The next morning I went to breakfast feeling sick, knowing I needed Jesus but scared of what people would say. Then we met with our small groups to have a devotional time. I have no idea what it said, only that the beginning involved reading Jonah 1. I didn’t get very far into it before I started crying. I sat there, thinking that I didn’t want to miss out on Jesus just for the sake of having people like me and knowing that I’d rather spend eternity with Him than a lifetime without Him. So I told my group leader, and we talked about it, and I told him that I wasn’t good and that I was a liar, and that I needed Jesus. He was so encouraging and excited, and we went back to the group and he filled them in on why the strange girl was crying over Jonah, and then he asked if anyone else wanted to know Jesus, and three other people confessed to having similar stories to mine, and we all prayed to become Christians together. (If anyone knows Ron Cooney, tell him I still remember him and how he helped me!)
I can’t tell you the relief and joy I felt after that. I knew I wasn’t alone, I knew that God wasn’t scary (at least not in the monster-scary sense), and I knew He loved me enough to keep chasing me. And wouldn’t you know it, none of my friends got mad at me or called me a liar. They celebrated with me, and it was amazing. HE is amazing.
But the story doesn’t end there. It’s still being written, and every day He writes a new chapter. There have been some very sad chapters (a long, hard battle with depression) and some very happy chapters (being accepted to Union and getting a scholarship, getting into grad school, falling in love and getting married) and some adventure-packed chapters (traveling to Honduras and Kenya and Thailand, falling in the Ocoee River), but even though each chapter is different, the Author is the same, and that’s enough for me.