I first came to the Lord at the age of five, while living in Germany with my family. After the pastor of the Assembly of God church we were going to gave an altar call, I knew God was calling me up there, so I went. The pastor then rebuked the rest of the church, “Here is this little child who is basically without sin other than she was born into it, and she knows to be up here. Yet, here all of you sinners continue to sit in the pews.” Yikes! Can you imagine a pastor rebuking the church like that nowadays? My parents didn’t know why I went up there, but I knew. Did I fully understand the salvation message? Probably not. However, I did feel Him calling me up there and I felt His presence and I know without a doubt that this was the day I got saved. This was the day a seed was planted deep into my heart and salvation stirred my spirit and directed my life. However, this was not when I fell in love with the Lord.
From then on, I was raised in church. Actually, since I was a military brat, I was raised in many churches, of various denominations. I was baptized as a baby in the Lutheran church, saved at the age of 5 in an Assembly of God church (ironically while in Martin Luther’s Germany), confirmed as a Lutheran in 8th grade, convicted and condemned as a teenager in Baptist and Pentecostal churches. This was when I began to run from the Lord. In all of these different denominations and churches, the Lord had been misrepresented to me. His representatives (including my own family) tended to be judgmental, critical, condemning and hypocritical. Where was all this love talked about in the Bible? I began to rebel and party. Yet, through all of this partying, I still felt the Lord with me and would often leave the party to go into a nearby field to pray to Him. Then I joined the Marine Corps, and continued my life apart from Christ. Thank the Lord that He never forsakes us even when we forsake Him!
When I finally rededicated my life to Christ, it was through a neighbor in CA who showed love. This wonderful lady didn’t flinch at my potty mouth (yes, I had quite a potty mouth…and admittedly, sometimes still do) and didn’t judge my actions (I could always tell when I was being judged by others). I began going to a Charismatic/Pentecostal church with her. This was when I rededicated my life to Him and began seeking Him with my whole heart. Still, this wasn’t when I fell in love with Him.
Then one night in the wee hours of the morning, the phone rings. It is never good news when the phone rings in the middle of the night. It was my mother calling to tell me my dad had been killed in an accident. My world was turned upside down. On top of that, I had just given birth to my third child and we were getting ready to move from California to South Carolina. These three life events, by themselves, are considered to be major stress factors that can cause major depression in a person’s life . Needless to say, to have all three happen at once seemed too much for me to bear.
Although I didn’t fully realize it then, this sent me spiraling downward into a deep pit that I found extremely difficult to climb out of. In many ways, I became a basket case. I had nowhere else to turn but up. God held me and sustained me. I was completely dependent upon Him and learned to praise Him, and I praised Him with every fiber of my being. The only place I could abide/dwell/live was in His presence. In a couple of ways, God brought me back to my initial roots of my Germany salvation experience: first, by taking me back to an Assembly of God church; second, I often found myself bowed down at the altar…alone.
THIS was when I fell madly and deeply in love with Him; when I gave up everything (dignity, sleep, material things, entertainment, etc.) just to be near Him, to hear His voice, to obey Him, to enter His presence. Even though I gave up a lot during this time, I gained oh so much more. I began to pray detailed prophetic prayers over people. Revelation after revelation along with wisdom and knowledge were supernaturally given to me. I was able to minister in parabolic ways that met people where they were at. God’s love and empathy for others began to flood my soul. I devoured His Word, woke in the middle of the night to pray for strangers, for loved ones, for the country. I obeyed Him immediately when He told me to do something. Again, without fully realizing it then, these were special intimate times with the Lord that helped shape and mold me into the non-conforming Christian I am today.
I wish I could say I’ve remained in this place throughout the years. I can’t. The fact is that I have failed Him and fallen away from Him numerous times. Still, through all of my sins and mistakes and backsliding (as the Baptists say), He has continued to be faithful in loving me and in drawing me back into His loving arms. I love Him because He first loved me. Thank you, Jesus!!
Testimony still a work in progress….
Sidebar: God has given me insight into the church as a whole, by allowing me to be a part of so many different denominations. I now realize the church is filled with imperfect beings that often hurt one another. Being Catholic, Protestant, Baptist, Pentecostal, Christian, doesn’t mean one has reached perfection; it is simple recognition and admission of how imperfect we are and how much in need of a Savior.
Each of those separate parts of the church body helped shape and mold who I am today. Going through confirmation classes in the Lutheran church gave me my deep desire of studying the Word thoroughly. The Baptists provoked a strong evangelical passion inside of me to share the gospel message. I found the freedom of Christ along with the baptism and gifts of the Holy Spirit within the Charismatic/Pentecostal churches.