Recently Michael and I became members of a new church. As part of the process, we needed to write out our testimonies of how we became Christians. I really enjoyed revisiting this topic, and as testimonies are made to be shared, I’d like to share mine here. :)
Growing up, I was a “nominal” Christian – a Christian in name only – having a “sort of” belief in Jesus. I had the facts straight; I knew that Jesus died for my sins so that I could be saved from Hell. I wanted to “be good” and as a child would often pray for God to help me be good. When I was nine years old, I was baptized. For many years, I had trouble determining whether my baptism “counted,” because I did have genuine belief (understanding), yet I was not actively living my life for God. It wasn’t until my adulthood that I realized that I likely was not genuinely converted as a child.
Throughout my teen and college years, I was a typical kid. By the world’s standards, I was not horribly disobedient and did not get into much trouble, but looking back, I realize God was not part of my regular thoughts, and definitely not part of my daily decisions and plans. In truth, I seldom ever picked up a Bible, and when I did, I wasn’t very interested in what it said. I still tried somewhat to “be good,” but this was more for the purpose of appearing well to other people, rather than for the purpose of following Christ and pleasing God.
When my husband and I married in 1995, we wanted to do things “right.” We started going to church regularly. For me, this was the first time in my life that I was a regular church attendee. At this point in time, I was trying to check off the boxes that I thought were needed to be a “good Christian.” We attended regularly, even started to attend Sunday School classes. There was no sin that I felt was blatant or horrible, and I felt that I was a decently good person – a good wife, church attender, homemaker, etc. I kept those roles juggled and felt like we were doing all right.
In 1998, we had our first baby. This was a time that God began to move in ways which made me reconsider my life, my “goodness,” my capabilities, and my salvation. Having a child, for the first time caused me to consider that I wasn’t enough… that my responsibilities to raise this child were monumental. Up until then, I never felt I had much to lose by making silly mistakes in my life, but now, I felt my precious daughter’s soul could be on the line if I messed up this whole parenting thing. I desperately wanted my baby daughter to be a genuine follower of Christ; I wanted her to be saved. And I felt incapable of knowing where to start.
At this point in time, I still thought I was a Christian, and I don’t know; maybe the Holy Spirit had indeed already begun to convert me and change me. But I proved to be a slow learner if that was the case, so I can’t be sure whether that is true. At any rate, I could not bear the thought of my child ever turning away from Jesus, and I began praying for her salvation from the start. I knew I needed to learn more about Jesus and the Bible so that I could disciple her. We continued our regular church attendance, but I began listening more closely to the messages and taking notes. I started listening to sermons on Christian radio, and I was hooked. I began reading children’s bibles to my little girl. For me, this was the first time I really read with interest any bible on my own.
My husband and I began making other changes in our lives around this time. I can not speak for him, but by then I genuinely wanted God to be pleased with me, and I began to try to “clean house” to remove things that I thought were dishonoring to him. While I never had been much of a drinker (alcohol), I made a choice to not drink it at all from there on out. I didn’t consider alcohol a sin, but I did know that for me, the only purpose it served was appeasing peer pressure and wanting to fit in, which were not godly reasons for making decisions. I also stopped listening to secular music, and as I had never really heard Christian music outside of hymns at church, began searching for Christian music that my family could enjoy. We switched completely from secular to Christian music almost overnight.
I can not give a specific date of my conversion, and have often wished that I had a momentous experience like Paul in the Bible did, that could make that date of salvation clear to me. However, I believe that at this time (around 1998-2000) I was genuinely converted. I understood, as I always had, that Jesus died to save sinners, but now I had a new and real awareness of how keenly that fact applied to me! I became deeply aware of the sin that was in my life and was amazed by how much there was to clean up – and how much I had to learn.
I began to see that I could not please God just because I wasn’t an adulterer or murderer; indeed I was guilty of a sin far worse; I was guilty of idolatry – putting the desire to please people before God, and putting my own selfishness, pride, and desire to be in control before God. God had never been first in my life; I had claimed that spot for far too long. I realized how utterly incapable I was of living a life pleasing to Christ on my own. I did not deserve eternal life by any inherent goodness of my own. I was completely dependent on Jesus for my salvation. For the first time in my life, I really understood this and wasn’t just parroting back facts that I knew.
In around 2002-2003, God did another work in me that changed my life dramatically. It was at this time that I made a conscious decision to completely surrender my life to Christ. Once again, God used my role as a mother to bring me to this decision.
At this point in time, we had three children, and my oldest was nearing school age. By that time, I had begun to be intentional with my life, to include God in my decisions rather than just “going with the flow.” There was something missing, though. While I included God in my decisions, in some ways I viewed him to be a counselor whose opinion I would consider, but then make the decisions myself.
As I said, I’m a slow learner.
We had an important decision to make. The decision in question was how we would educate our children. In some ways, I felt a nudge to homeschool, but in other ways I was desperately fearful of how our family and friends would react. I was also concerned with whether I was up to the task. I began to pray about it and ask God what I should do. Surprisingly, God did not seem to answer. Then I felt a conviction; a question. If God told me what I should do, would I do what he said? In other words, was I just asking his advice and opinion, or was I resolved to obey Him? I thought long and hard about this question, and then I prayed again. I promised God that if he told me what he wanted me to do, I would do it.
Again, God did not seem to answer my question. There was another question weighing on my heart. Did this promise to obey the Lord extend only to my daughter’s education, or was I willing to give him everything? My whole life?
This one was hard! But the Lord was working. I thought a little longer and a little harder about this question. Once I made that promise, it would change everything. There would be no turning back, and who knew what He might ask of me? But I knew I needed Him. And if I could trust him with my eternal soul, couldn’t I trust him with my life on earth?
Then I knelt down and prayed again. I promised, “God, I promise that from here on out, my whole life is yours. Whatever you ask of me, not just with my children’s education, but with everything, I’ll do it.” And God became Lord over my whole life.
Since that time, God has asked me to do some things that I would have never imagined. He’s called me to homeschool and be “different” when my nature is to want acceptance and to be like everyone else. He’s called me to trust him completely with my family size, when my “control freak” nature wanted to make those decisions myself, when my insecurity wanted to stop while we were ahead, and while my people-pleasing nature feared being looked on as weird. Through giving him my family, he’s given me ten precious living children plus a sweet one waiting for me in Heaven. I couldn’t imagine life without a single one of them, and I experienced that God really does know infinitely better than me!
He’s convicted us to make many other decisions to take me outside my comfort zone into territory, and he’s faithfully led me through it all. He’s called me to transparency when I would rather be seen by the world as “perfect.” He’s called me to pour into others when my introverted nature would rather be alone. He’s called us to leave our home in Pennsylvania and start a new life in Texas, when I would want to remain comfortable where I was.
Although I may not have made all those choices on my own, God has proven Himself to bless me so much more than I could have ever imagined if I had continued to go my own way. I am truly overwhelmed by his goodness. Trusting him grows easier each time I obey and see what he does.
As I mentioned in that first paragraph, for much of my life I was confused about when my conversion actually took place. However as I grew older and began to see the bigger picture, I did come to a belief that I was not a follower of Christ at nine years old when I was baptized. A few months after moving to Texas, I became powerfully convicted of this fact. Yet, we still had not found a church home. One November morning last year (2014) I asked my husband if he would baptize me. I felt I had gone too long without taking that step of baptism since my conversion, and I did not want to wait another day. It was an odd sight indeed, but on the last day of November, with our nine children present, my husband baptized me in the hot tub of our swimming pool. Untraditional though it may be, I do believe that God was pleased by it.