DeeDee over at “Coulda Been Worse” is having a “Stand Up and Testify Carnival”, and I have been led to participate. It all began with this post. Who would have thought that a testimony carnival would come from a photo of DeeDee and Brad Pitt playing poker, but the Lord does work in mysterious ways…
In this case, He has been all over it. I have always been afraid to share my testimony. For one reason, I was raised that what is between you and God is personal and private. You don’t talk about it. Well, that is just flat not scriptural. God wants us to talk about it. Not only that, He commands us to share our testimonies. How else can we share Christ with others, and tell what He has done for us if we don’t tell them our testimony.
Second, I was always afraid for people to know my sins, because I didn’t want them to think badly of me. I mean, I don’t want to be reminded of my sins, why would I want to confess them to someone else? Well, my friend, that is called pride. And it is a sin. We cannot allow God to lift us up if we are first not willing to humble ourselves before Him.
I was first convinced sharing my testimony while doing the “Stepping Up” Bible Study by Beth Moore. The more I got into the word the more I wanted to get into it. Then, I went straight into the study, “Breaking Free.” Guess what it is about? Yep, letting go of your bondage and sharing what God has done for you. That means giving your testimony. I have been “mentally” preparing my testimony for months. I thought, perhaps God would have me share my testimony at a singles retreat or Thursday night Bible Study. Then, the “Brad Pitt” post came, and I was convinced to participate in this carnival.
I don’t mind telling you that the thought of sharing my testimony still scares me to death. I don’t know why it should, because God has truly changed my life, and I do want to share that. But, it’s talking about what he changed me from that scares me. I mean, there will be strangers reading this post as well as family and friends. Some of my family and friends don’t even know some of these things about me. What if they don’t like me anymore? What if I lose their respect? What if they no longer think I am nice? What if they laugh at me? Or worse, what if they don’t forgive me?
So, I have prayed about this post for over a week. (Really for months if you count when I was first convinced) Praying about this has literally put me on my face before God, and it has taken me over a week to write it. I know this will be a long post, and I apologize ahead of time. My prayer is that at the end of this someone will be inspired to give their life to the Lord, or to have the courage to share what God has done for them. The hardest realization, for me, is that we are all human. We all make mistakes. Maybe not the same ones as others, but in God’s eyes there is not any difference. Sin is sin. And if He will forgive me, He will forgive you. He promised He would. Let’s begin.
First, I was raised to believe in God. We did attend church until I was about 5 years old, at which time my Daddy had a disagreement with the preacher and we did not return. Sundays became “Family Day.” We cleaned house, watched football, just relaxed and played games, or went on a family trip.
However, we were never kept from going to church with friends, and my sisters and I even attended “Missionettes” on Wednesday evenings. When I was a freshman in High School I even went to church on Sunday mornings with a friend of mine. It was at that time that I went forward to pray. Now, I have to tell you that this was an Assembly of God church, which I really didn’t know a lot about. Even though I had been attending Missionettes for a few years I still didn’t really understand their “doctrine” or belief system. So, after I prayed the preacher asked me if I “spoke”. I thought he asked if I prayed. I said, “Yes”, and he immediately told me I had been saved. So, I thought I had been saved. It would be many years before I realized that I was SO NOT saved.
When I was young and stupid I acted, well… young and stupid. My “sins” consisted mostly of lying, disobeying my parents, things like that. However, something did happen during that time that would later set a pattern of sin in my life. This is one of the parts of my testimony where I “put myself out there.” I don’t mind telling you that I am tearing up just typing these words, and I haven’t even told what happened yet.
When I was 7-8 years old I was sexually abused by an older relative. Not an adult, just an older, male relative. I do understand that that sin was not on me. However, because of that incident I allowed that to be a stepping stone later in my life to continue down that path. But, in the beginning I had such low self-esteem, and was afraid of even my own shadow at times, that I told no one. Back then, you didn’t tell. My parents did find out, and took care of it “in house.” But, that was it. It was not really spoken of again.
I would love to tell you that was the only bad thing in my life, but we all know that would be a lie. I hid my sins pretty well, but in reality, I was awful. I gossiped, I was prideful, I was hypocritical. I had bad thoughts, and at times I even used bad words. Mind you, most of this was not done around other people. To them, I was still the nice little fat girl who was shy, and afraid of her own shadow.
When I was 15 my Daddy died. I know I have spoken of that before, so I won’t go into detail about that. But, it was a life changing thing, to say the least. We then moved to what I refer to “cow town USA.” I HATED living there. The phrase “bloom where you are planted” was not exactly a phrase I lived by. I was very active in FHA, and I did enjoy that. We also began going back to Church, and I enjoyed it.
I always enjoyed going to church. I have always liked learning about God, but I never thought I was “good enough” for Him to love me. Or so I thought. I never studied the Bible on my own. I never read it. I knew what I was taught in church and Sunday school and that was it. I never really understood about having a personal relationship with God. I did however, get baptized, because I thought I had been saved when I “spoke”, and when you get saved you get baptized. Right? I found out later that all I got was wet.
When I was 18 I went to Jr. College on 2 scholarships. It was a private, Christian college. It was one of the best experiences of my life. I did have to take a religion class each semester, but I didn’t mind, because I loved to learn more about God. I still didn’t have a personal relationship with Him, but I loved learning. It was during a New Testament class that I suddenly started doubting my salvation. I mean, they were saying that you had to “confess your sins with your mouth”, and “turn your life over to God.” That you, personally, had to pray the “sinner’s prayer.” I didn’t understand what that meant. I mean, the preacher told me I had been saved. I even got baptized. I thought I must just have understood it wrong. I thought of asking the professor or one of my “preacher friends” about it. But then I thought, “No. They think I am already saved. I’ve been baptized. I even teach Sunday school occasionally. What would it look like if all of sudden I say that I am not saved?” So, I kept it to myself. It literally made me ill every time I thought about it.
So, one night after a group Bible Study I just couldn’t take it anymore. I talked to one of my “preacher friends” and asked him how I knew for sure that I was saved. He told me the same things that I had been learning in class. When I reminded him of what the preacher said he asked me if I had prayed for God to forgive me. Had I made a conscious decision to live my life for Him? I said, “No.” I reminded him that I had been baptized. He told me that if I was baptized, but not saved, then I just got wet. That is why I could not have a personal relationship with God. That night I prayed, for real, and I accepted Jesus as my personal Savior.
I could not have been more wrong about everyone’s reaction. They were not confused or angry. They were happy for me. I really grew, spiritually, for the next two years. I taught Sunday school. I witnessed to others, and even dealt with the bondage of what happened in my childhood, and forgave the person who did it. I learned a lot, but unfortunately I still did not have the satisfying relationship I was searching for.
I left the college after 2 years and moved back home. I got 2 jobs and worked a lot. I also took on some knew bondage that I was not aware of at the time. Pride, resentment, anger, prayerlessness and other things kept me from a relationship with God. Because of these things I “fell away” from God. My prayer life became all but non-existent. I stopped reading/studying my Bible, and that led me to make a very hasty decision, which I would regret.
For me, I became very dissatisfied at home. I basically “ran away” to another town. I wanted to start over, but I had no plan, no money and no job. I did get a job as a live-in nanny shortly after moving there. It was for a couple who were not Christians. I did attend church while there, but I most definitely listened to the others around me instead of God. In my heart I knew I had made a mistake, but I was too prideful to go home. So, I stayed. I began listening to others instead of listening to God. My thoughts became more “worldly”, and my decisions were completely out of character for me. I began to drink, and associate with people of “questionable” character.
On one such occasion I went out with a man that I barely knew. Something I would have NEVER done before. He tried to get me to have sex with him, and I actually considered it, but when I said no he got angry. I cannot tell you how I got out of the situation, because I honestly don’t remember. I just know I got away, but instead of that being a “wake up” call, I allowed it to influence me to make a stupid decision.
Thinking even more “worldly” I decided that I needed to know that a physical relationship was not something to be feared. So, I decided to give the one precious gift God had given me away. I talked it over with a guy that I knew, and began my downward spiral into sexual sin. Did I feel guilty? Yes. But, after that night I thought, “I did it. There is no way God will forgive me now. So, why bother trying to live right.” From that time I walked away from God. My prayerlessness, my lack of focus on God blurred that line of right and wrong. And what was worse, people still thought that I was a Christian. I felt sick anytime someone would talk to me about God, because they did not know my “other” life. I had them fooled, but not God or myself.
After a few months I moved back to “cow town USA”, and I tried very hard to get back into the church, but I held on to my past sins and guilt. That continued to keep me from a relationship with God. At that time my spiral into sexual sin continued to take me down further. I will not go into detail about that. I do not want Satan to be glorified in any way about this. All that needs to be said is that struggle in this area of sin lasted for several years.
During those years I did go back to the same Christian Jr. College. I rededicated my life to the Lord, and things were better for awhile. I still held on to the sins of pride, lack of forgiveness, and others. I still did not have that satisfying relationship with God that I so desperately wanted. I was jealous that others did have it. I felt like I was wandering in a wilderness, and I could see the way out, but I kept wandering in circles, never reaching the way out. Does that make sense?
I discovered another sin, jealousy, at that time in my life. All I ever wanted was to be a wife and mother. I felt now that would never happen. God would punish me for my sins. I had learned when I was 19 that I would probably never be able to have children. This was confirmed in my early 20s. This, I felt, was God’s punishment to me. I would never marry, because what man would want a wife that had committed the sins that I had committed. I felt that way for many years, and it caused me walk away from God, again.
It got to the point that I KNEW ahead of time I was going to give in to the temptation, and instead of praying for God to lead me from it, I actually pushed the voice of the Holy Spirit out of my head. Did you get that? I basically told the Holy Spirit, the voice of God, to “shut up.” You know what? Unfortunately for me, He did.
During that time I did things I never would have considered doing before. I committed wrongs against people that were totally out of character for me. I still get to the point of being physically ill just thinking about it.
For the last seven years or so, I have struggled between trying to have a relationship with God, and allowing Satan to put that doubt in my head that “I’m not good enough. God will never be able to use me, or love me.” “I’m too bad.” “If people really knew the things I had done they would never speak to me again.” After all, I had quieted the voice of the Holy Spirit. How do you have a relationship with someone you don’t even talk to?
This was also during this time that my sister was gracious enough to allow me to homeschool my nephew. Being around the other homeschoolers and using Christian curriculum kept God in my mind. Even though I struggled, He was there. Making sure my nephew went to church kept me going to church, therefore kept God in my mind. One day, I had enough! I read all of time about how God forgave people of horrible sins, and He used them. Would He do the same for me? I rededicated my life to God, and begged for His forgiveness, and wisdom. I took very small baby-steps toward the path back to Him.
During this time several situations arose which strengthened my faith in God. First, I became engaged. After a year and a half of engagement I KNEW that I was not supposed to get married. So, the question presented to me was, “Do I do what I WANT to do, or do what I know God wants for me?” Remember, my life dream was to be a wife and mother. But, I sincerely prayed for the strength to do God’s will. I called off my wedding. This was my first big step in beginning a new, real relationship with God.
During this time God also gave me the strength to try to rebuild relationships with certain family members; relationships that I had a huge part in destroying to begin with. Remember the pride, self-righteousness…? Yeah, huge relationship destroyers. These relationships still aren’t 100%, but I am striving to make them stronger, with God’s help.
About two years ago I decided I was not going to allow Satan to win any more battles. I was going to fight for a relationship with God. I still didn’t quite know what to do, or how to do it, but I was determined to learn. It started with a weekly womens group. I kept my mouth shut and listened. We did a study on the Proverbs 31 woman. Oh, how I wanted to be her. So, I tried taking baby-steps. I committed to reading my Bible more; to pray, and more importantly, listen to God. A little over a year ago I felt God calling me to move to a different church.
Instead of just “jumping into it”, I prayed about it for several months. Really searching for God’s will. Once I was sure of His will, I did move churches. A couple of months after moving to the new church I joined a woman’s Bible study class. They were doing the book of Daniel, by Beth Moore. This would be my introduction into Beth Moore studies. I learned SO MUCH and, more importantly, I enjoyed it! This got me really in the habit of daily prayer and study. I could see my life/attitude changing.
Now, this was actually more of a history/prophecy study. Not exactly “life changing”, but it was to me. I felt comfortable around the ladies, my hunger to learn more grew. As soon as they announced the study for “Stepping Up” I signed up for the class. Here is where my new relationship with God would really grow.
Each day I looked forward to seeing what God had to teach me. I was so excited to learn/be reminded that God does not sleep. That He WANTS for each of us to trust Him, and be saved. After all, He sent His Son for ALL OF US, so that we may be forgiven. The one verse that really hit home with me was Psalm 130: 3-4 “If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.
I swear y’all, when I read that I almost went Pentecostal in my bedroom; raising my hands and praising God. (And for a Baptist that is really saying something. LOL….) He really didn’t keep a record of my sins. His desire is NOT to condemn us, but to forgive and free us of bondage! If He didn’t “keep an account” why was I? (I’m getting goose bumps all over again, y’all.)
When we began that study we committed to asking God to help us grow/teach us everyday. So, I vowed to give Him everyday of my life. Everyday I woke up and the first thing I did was pray for His guidance. I gave Him that day. I studied His word everyday. Now, does that mean I never got down? No. Did I still struggle with thinking of past sins and guilt? Yes, but I was quick to pray for those thoughts to be removed now, instead of concentrating on them. Do I still sin? Everyday. But, I am giving them all over to Him. I was so much happier, and was developing a “SATISFYING” relationship with God. I even committed to not doing the things that led me down the spiral to begin with.
I had to distance myself from certain movies, songs, even jokes with subtle innuendos. Things that would make me feel accepted by others and then bad about myself. Things that took my mind off of God. Even if my actions or thoughts weren’t considered sinful by the world, I had to remove that. Does that make me a “prude” in others eyes? Probably. Does it make me a “fanatic”? Am I taking my faith “TOO seriously?” Probably. But, I know me. And I know that to have the relationship that I want to have with Christ this is what I have to do.
Does this mean there is no joy, laughter, in my life? Absolutely not! In fact, there is much more now than ever.
You know what’s about to happen right? Every time God is winning, Satan will throw something at us to try to ruin that relationship. God allowed me to be tested. Without going into detail I will just say that God has allowed our family to go through a crisis that tested our faith to the very core. I cannot speak for everyone. This is my testimony, so I will just tell you how I have come through this test.
First, let me say that “God is good!” One of the things I have learned is that Satan cannot stay somewhere if God is there. So, I took to heart the advice someone gave me not long ago. “When you feel like Satan is tempting/testing you, start singing praises to God. Praise Him for something, anything. Satan cannot stay around if you do that, and you will get through it.” So, I did. My favorite songs to sing are “Steal my Joy” and “Shackles” by Mandissa, as well as several praise choruses.
Y’all, I cannot tell you how totally on the mark that advice is. If you’ve never tried it, do it. It works!! Praise God!! I can tell you that it is only because of God that I have the mindset/attitude that I do. My “mantra” has become, “God is in control. His will be done” I constantly pray for strength and understanding.
I have learned to trust Him completely, and to look back on my past and realize His plan for my life. Instead of believing I was being punished for not fulfilling my dream of being a wife and mother I now know that it is actually a blessing. One thing I have learned from “Breaking Free” is: “The potential for spiritual offspring in the lives of those physically barren is virtually limitless. If He restricts you from physical offspring, He desires to set you free from all restrictions in order to bear spiritual offspring.” (Beth Moore, “Breaking Free)
OH MY WORD, y’all. That realization has spoken so much to me. And I do feel like I am being “groomed” for such a thing. When and how? I have no idea. But, I am looking forward to the journey.
Another realization I have learned lately is this; according to Psalm 45: 13-15 “If anyone has accepted Christ she is a daughter of the King. And according to Isaiah 61:10 WE are the bride of Christ. No, I may not have an “earthly husband”, but I am part of the Bride of the greatest Husband to ever have existed. And, I may not have children, but thanks to the graciousness/love of my dear sister my nurturing side is definitely being used, and I get to still be a teacher through homeschooling. God is granting my dreams, just differently than I imagined. Different, but better.
And lastly, I know that even though I may not be “populating the earth” God can, and will, use me to populate the His Kingdom.
One of the great things about the internet is that it can be used for so many great things, like sharing God with others. Unfortunately, the bad thing about it is that facial expressions and sincerity is not something that can be produced with words on a “page”. As I have typed this entire thing, I have prayed that my sincere praise, love and appreciation for God come across to those who have made it this far in the post.
Everyday I feel closer to God, and the excitement to share Him with others grows even deeper. Everyday I pray for wisdom, guidance, humility and to hear His voice. (This from the woman that basically told Him to “shut up” years ago.) Now, I did not say all of this to say “WOO HOO! Look at me now.” No, I said all of this to say, “Praise God! Because, none of us can change without HIM and He can and will love you and change you for the better.” This is totally a “God thing, and it is meant point you to HIM.”
Yes, I know that there are those who know me who will question my sincerity. Who will doubt, or laugh at me. Especially those who know me personally, and go “I have never seen her act this way, or speak this way before. I don’t know whether to believe her, or think she’s a hypocrite.” All I can tell you is that I am still in the early stages of my journey. It is both exciting and scary. I am still learning and growing, and I will stumble. I pray that you will be there to help me get up when I do, and pray for me. For those who are reading and may not have the satisfying relationship with God that you want, or you are still holding on to “baggage” from past sins; let me encourage you to hand it over to Him, and “Enter into the joy of the Lord.” (Matt. 25:21)