I grew up in and around the Church. As a young child, I was taught the books of the Bible, I knew about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. I was aware of “spiritual vocabulary”; words like sin, sacrifice, faith, Calvary (not cavalry– it’s a pet peeve of mine when those two words are confused.) But despite all those things, I never really came to Christ and “got” the Gospel until I was 19 years old.
Story time! :
Throughout junior high and high school, my family became really inconsistent in church attendance. I viewed church-going as something good people do, when it’s convenient, if they like the pastor, if there’s not something else going on. Whether it was my parent’s intent or not, that’s how I saw their faith; something that was there on Sundays when it was convenient, but never really changed or affected the way they lived Monday through Saturday, and I lost interest in faith or, what felt like really hypocritical showmanship.
In early high school, I struggled with self-esteem issues, and chose some really detrimental and unhealthy relationships. I sunk into a depression even my closest friends were surprised to learn about after the fact. I had even contemplated suicide. But what ultimately drew me back to Christ was the deep and gut-wrenching realization that I was not in control of anything in my life. It did not matter what I said, how I acted, how fit I was, how I dressed… none of it could lead me to fulfillment.
After a measly 6 months of marriage, my husband informed me of his decision to enlist in the Marine Corps. I will never forget the conversation we had in the car coming home from college classes one day when I was trying (in the worst, most controlling, and nagging way) to express my concern and hesitance over the decision when in frustration my husband said, “It’s done, it’s not your decision to make!”
The silence that followed ate me up inside.
I couldn’t figure out why he wanted to leave and give up the life we had planned and only started living a few short months before. I couldn’t see how my persistent need to control and manipulate every little thing was pushing him away.
It was then on my knees that I surrendered my life to Christ. I didn’t do it perfectly- thank the Lord for the process of sanctification. But at that point in my life, I accepted responsibility for my behavior, for my sin, and I crawled feebly to the feet of Jesus, begging Him to protect my marriage, my husband, and to change me from this shrew of a woman into a godly, gentle, respectable wife.
My husband did a delayed enlistment, so his leave date loomed over me an inevitable cloud of discouragement and worry. After he finally left, I remember going out and buying a Bible, a little blue NIV Bible, and I remember thinking, “Okay God, this is it- you’re going to have to take over. I need you to speak to me because I clearly have no idea what I’m doing and I don’t know where to begin in actually following You.”
He started me in the book of James. The conviction cut like a knife. I had a lot of repenting to do. Fortunately, and especially as I look back on my life up to this point, The Lord had surrounded me with godly people. There may have only been one or two individuals at any given moment, but when I consider those people of faith now, I see that God placed them there to keep me from absolutely going off the deep end in sin. Why he sought to protect me is a miracle in and of itself. But I thank God for those people, a godly remnant, in my life who maintained a Christian presence of godly influence even at my lowest points.
From James, I went to Revelation. I’m one of those people who doesn’t necessarily like surprises- I read the end of the Book early on…and guess what? Knowing that we as believers ultimately win in Christ- that plunged me even deeper. I wanted to know Christ more. I was falling in love with my Savior, while at the same time, learning how to love my husband from a distance. God used my husband’s time away to re-order the things I should have taken care of before I even thought of becoming someone’s wife. He began to create a gentle and quiet spirit in me that I hadn’t known or wanted before. God started sanding off my rough edges, and leading me in discipleship. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my brother-in-law at this time for answering questions I had, encouraging me to go to church, and just being someone I could trust while I truthfully really struggled more than I ever had with choosing godliness. It’s true that anointing brings opposition and Satan did his darnedest to keep me from giving my life to Christ.
It was another year or so before I actually felt comfortable talking to my husband about faith and he with me; I thank God that He worked in us individually and apart to put us on the same page spiritually. God used my husband’s enlistment as an incredible and irreplaceable period of sanctification. If you had asked me 10 years ago if I thought I’d be married to a seminary student with 3 kids and teaching a junior high girls’ Sunday school class each week, I probably would’ve laughed at you and mocked you in haughty derision.
At that time, I devoured God’s Word. I could not get enough. Ravi Zacharias was a huge resource for encouragement in Christian apologetics, and helping me to process and understand why I believe what I felt God convicting me of then. I’ve rebound that NIV Bible twice, the second time was actually after my border collie, Anna, neurotically ate the binding.
I’ve since come to favor other translations of the Bible (HCSB is my favorite) and reading God’s Word is still central to my daily life. Perhaps not to the same extent it was before I had children, when I could spend 3 hours at a time at my kitchen table or on the porch with a cup of black coffee and just dig in for deep and intentional study. But it is still my vitality- my lifeline- and I shudder to think of where I would be without God and His grace.
I say all that in part to tell my story and to show God’s grace and faithfulness to pull anyone out of the miry depths of sin and despair. But also to call all believers to read God’s Word. It is impossible to live a godly life if you do not know God’s expectations. Just like it was impossible for me to be a good wife to my husband without knowing what being a good wife was (either by God’s expectation, or my husband’s). I cannot fathom believers who have been professing Christians longer than I have been alive who still have not read the Bible in its entirety. Particularly in our culture where the Bible is so readily accessible in so many different formats, translations, etc…
Full disclosure-I haven’t done it cover to cover from Genesis to Revelation yet (this is my 2nd attempt to do so, and it’s proving more fruitful than last time), but I’ve made it through the Pentateuch, the entire New Testament 4 times through, the poetry books, and at least most of the history and prophets (I’m still not certain I ever finished Jeremiah). My current struggle is experiencing pride and inwardly feeling condescending toward people older than me with less biblical knowledge. I see in myself the tendency toward pride at almost every turn, and it’s revolting. But my conviction is great, and I repent of that sin. And my priority is to read through the entire Bible, cover to cover in a year’s time. I began in late 2018, and I have 28 books (of 66) left to finish. Because I WANT to know God’s Word. I want Him to be able to speak to me through His inspired words, and I have a desire and insatiable longing to more fully know the One who saved me from the destructive lifestyle and mindset I was living all those years ago.
If nothing else, I hope this encourages you to dig in to the Bible; to submit your will to the will of God and to accept His best for you. To be frank, this started out as a completely different post, but God changed my heart and prompted me to share this testimony today, for reasons I can’t explain, and attribute only to the working of the Holy Spirit. And so I’ll leave you with the words of Jesus from Matthew 11:28-30,
Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.
Matthew 11:28-30, HCSB
Come, Lord Jesus.