Sunday, August 2, 2009
The beginning of my spiritual journey - my testimony
Baptized thrice; confirmed twice - finally it took!
I accepted the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal Savior, asking Him to come into my heart and forgive me of my sins, in June 1971. Before that, I had been on a spiritual journey, beginning before I was born. My birthmother and my birth aunt prayed for me before my birth. They prayed that I would be adopted by a good family who would teach me to love God, and that I would become a Christian.
My adoptive family was Presbyterian. They took me to Sunday School, and I was baptized at the age of eight months. I attended Sunday School and church, and learned my catechism. I became a member at the age of 12. During the course of these years, I was taught to love God and His Son, Jesus Christ, and to obey His commandments, and to do unto others as I would have them do unto me. I had some questions, and some misunderstandings along the way. When I was very little, I thought the Garden of Eden was a flowerbed in front of God’s house. I wondered exactly who, or what was the Holy Ghost we sang about in the hymns. I wondered what the first chapter of John had to do with the story of the birth of Christ.
At school, public school, in the 1950s, we were allowed to have prayers, and to hear the Bible read. I had some Christian teachers who did this. My first grade teacher read to us from Psalms, especially the 100th and the 23rd. She gave me a New Testament when I finished first grade, which I still have. My fourth grade teacher had us recite the Lord’s Prayer, and on Mondays, had us stand up if we had gone to church the previous day.
When I was in high school, my best friend was Episcopalian. The youth group at the Presbyterian church had dwindled down to a very few, and it wasn’t as much “fun” as it had been before the older kids finished high school. I started going to church with my friend, first at night, then in the mornings, too. (There were some cute boys there!) Mother told me I had to decide to be an active member wherever I went, whether to return to the Presbyterian Church, or to join the Episcopal Church. I decided to join the Episcopal Church. I learned another catechism, and was confirmed at the age of 16. In this catechism, I learned that the first duty of man is to glorify God. I didn’t understand this principle; I thought that we should want to glorify God, not that it should be a “duty.” My prayers at this time were selfish prayers, mostly for God to bless what I wanted, and to stay out of trouble with my mother. I didn’t feel like my prayers reached higher than the ceiling. I did not feel close to God; I didn’t “love” Him, but if asked, I would have said I did.
I attended a Southern Baptist college. I attended the Episcopal Church in the town, and in the spring of my freshman year I met a student at the military institute, who was Baptist. We fell in love and decided to marry when we both had graduated. Also, during my freshman year, I began to seek answers to spiritual questions, namely why my prayers seemed to go no higher than the ceiling. I noticed that some of my classmates became extremely upset with our religion professor who taught that the Old Testament stories, particularly creation, were founded on myths and stories told by shepherds around their campfires. At that time, I didn’t understand why it was such a big deal.
When my husband and I married, I joined the Baptist church and was baptized, as it was very important to both of us that we join and attend church together. I continued in my spiritual state of half-hearted seeking for three years, until I found myself in a Sunday School class of women who genuinely cared about the Word of God and the Gospel, and the necessity to be born again, to be saved. Being a church member, even a regular attendee of church and Sunday School was not enough. I wondered about this class; had I fallen in with a bunch of fanatics? Would they start pestering me, and asking uncomfortable questions? However, I remained, and continued going. Soon, the teacher announced that she would begin a Bible study class in her home on the book of Revelation. Having never studied that book, and finding it incomprehensible, I decided to go to these meetings, too.
It was in this study of Revelation, in 1971, that the Word of God began to be opened to me, and I began to understand the spiritual truths to be found, and began to apply it to my heart. I became convicted of my need for the Savior, of my need to confess my sins and turn to Him for forgiveness. Until that time, I had thought of myself as “good.” I knew I was not perfect, but I needed to know that Christ died for all of my sins, that there was nothing I could do to save myself. Christ did it all; all I can do is trust Him. This was a very hard step for me, and I struggled with it for several days. Then, one day while I was driving, on the car radio I heard a beautiful version of Amazing Grace sung by Judy Collins, and I gave my heart to Him that day on the highway! Such peace and joy came over me that day that it was indescribable!
You can hear it here:
Amazing Grace, sung by Judy Collins
I didn’t tell many people at that time – just my husband and my parents. A few months later our church was having a revival. I sat in the pew before services began, praying that many would come to know Christ. God spoke to me then, not audibly, but in my heart, and told me that I needed to respond to the invitation! I was scared – what would people think? I had been a member of this church for a few years now, and volunteered in the preschool department. Would the parents think that I was not fit to keep their children? What would the pastor think? He had baptized me just a few years ago. The Lord told me not to worry about other people; He was the One I had to obey. So, I went forward, weeping. The pastor was surprised, but accepting. The next week I was baptized again, for the third and last time, and the first time as a believer.
This was only the beginning of my journey. The Lord has guided and directed me throughout my life, and He still does. Just the other day, He convicted me of a long-ago sin from my childhood. I confessed it, and restored a friendship. I feel His presence when I worship Him, and when I am in trouble or difficulty. He is the Lord of my life, and my Savior!
I certainly do not intend to imply that the Presbyterian or the Episcopal churches are or were lacking in any way. The teachings were there - that Jesus Christ died for our sins - but it was me that was lacking in understanding. I just did not grasp the truth of the gospel, and did not apply it to myself until after I had been a member of a Baptist church for about three years.