First, let me start out by saying that I have a wonderful family, great parents and siblings, and they are in no way to blame for what kind of person I was turning into. But there were certain events took place when I was little that had tremendous repercussions, one of which was the time I was kidnapped from our front yard, along with a brother and a sister. A nineteen year old boy took us and sexually assaulted us. Looking back, God surely had His hand in my life even then, because the kidnapper returned us all safely to our home when he was finished with us.
Other things happened, which I don't need to get into, but my point is, that although I didn't remember these traumatic events until I was older, they impacted my thinking, especially in terms of my self-worth.
Without understanding why, I always seemed to live in fear and self-condemnation. Whenever bad things happened to me, I felt that I deserved it.
At a very young age, I began experimenting with alcohol and smoking. By the time I was seventeen, going to bars, drinking, and having sex were all normal parts of my life. At age 18, I dropped out of school and got married to an abusive man. Even though, on many occassions I had to call the police to come rescue me from him, I still thought this was "normal" life; the kind of life I had coming to me.
By the time I was twenty-two, I was divorced and had a 6 month old daughter. I was a single mom, working full time just to provide for the basics of survival. Many men came in and out of my life over the next ten years, bringing with them, drugs, alcohol and more abuse. I felt worthless and had never known the love of a man. I had experienced so much fear and pain, yet the sad thing is, I didn't even know there was something wrong with my life.
Then I met my husband, Darryl. We had a stormy relationship right from the beginning. Three years later we were married. The first few years of our marriage were pretty much typical of my life. Darryl never hurt me physically, but he hurt me with words and his fits of rage. He told me he was a Christian, but he was so affected by the world, that he thought there must be some other truth out there besides the Bible. He lead me deeply into all the New Age stuff. We believed we were finally on to some wonderful new truths that couldn't be found in the narrow-minded realm of "religion".
Some peculiar things started happening. It was our custom to go visit my husband's family once or twice a year. What a dreaded trip...they were "saved" people, you know...."born-again". They would all get around the piano and sing their Christian songs. Sometimes they would just weep together and talk about Jesus. I used to love to hear Darryl sing, but when they talked about Jesus and got all emotional about it, I didn't understand what that was all about. Well, eventually he started acting really wierd. He started saying things to me like, "From now on, I'm not going to swear," and he said I was a bad influence on our two small boys. Naturally, I became quite rebellious, and I was still drinking heavily.
In June of 1994 our home was destroyed by fire and Darryl was severely burned. When I'd visit him in the hospital, he'd be singing "Thank you, Jesus!" I thought it was because of all the morphine they pumped into him.
And while he was praising God, I was cursing God. After all, I reasoned, our brand new home was gone, my husband would be hospitalized for a long time, I had no food or clothes for my two sons, who were 9 months old and 2 years old at the time. Plus, I had to deal with all the work associated with our insurance claim, and the construction crew who would be rebuilding our home. My next door neighbor told me, "God will never give you more than you can handle." And I told her, "Well, He's really pushing His luck with me!"
Four months later, when Darryl was feeling better, we made that infamous trip to visit his family. That was a turning point in our lives...well, at least in his life. He went on one of those kooky religious retreats, and when he got back, he made an announcement in the church. They called it a testimony. (I called it an embarrassment). Needless to say, I wasn't very happy about it. All he talked about was following Jesus. And he said he had committed his life to Christ. He was crying and telling everybody what Christ had done for him. He never even mentioned me! What about all that I had done for him? Didn't that count?
By the time we got home from that trip, I determined that I would never go visit his family again; in fact, I even contemplated divorce. There was no way I was going to be married to one of those Holy-roller Jesus freaks! I didn't even know my husband anymore...he was so different...so kind, so loving; his sudden "goodness" made all my dark ways even darker. I always had something to feel guilty about.
Eventually Darryl started dragging me to church, against my will, I might add. I felt so awful being there, and would have rather stayed home to drink. I was out of control and I knew it, but was resigned to live that way, because I was powerless to break free.
One year after he committed his life to serving Jesus, he went away on a business trip for a few days. He left me with a couple of CARMAN videos he had rented. So, I poured myself a drink and started watching them. As I watched and listened, I began crying. I heard things that I never heard in church for 40 years. I found out that I didn't have to be a slave to alcohol - Jesus said that in the authority of HIS name, I could tell that demon of alcoholism to leave. I heard Carman say "I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ." And I heard him singing about making a decision; about drawing a line in the sand - with the cross before him and the world behind. And I could see a deeper love relationship than I had ever seen. The whole thing was awesome! So when Carman gave the altar call, I cried out to Jesus through my tears. He heard me and I believe His spirit was right there in the room with me. I fell in love with Jesus that day. And I told that lousy demon of alcoholism to leave me - and it did. I have been free ever since!
The next night I heard the Holy Spirit talking to me (no, not audibly) about what had just happened in my life. I didn't even know then that the Holy Spirit spoke to people, but I knew it was Him. He told me about all the inner turmoil I had been going through. He said that Satan knew he was about to lose his grip on my soul, and was fighting to keep me. But when I allowed Jesus into my life, the fight was over. I was finally at peace.
Are you wondering what my husband thought of all this? I was nervous about telling him of my "good news" after all the insults I had previously hurled at him, so I wrote him a letter. I didn't know all the Christian lingo back then, but I told him there was a new man in my life, and His name was Jesus.
Jesus took my old life and made me a brand new creation. Now I realize that many of you reading this are probably thinking, "I don't have the kinds of problems you had", or "I'm a good person. I don't drink or do drugs or sleep around. I don't even tell little white lies, or have unkind thoughts". And maybe you even think that you don't need the salvation that Jesus offers.
Well, I've got some good news, and some bad news. The bad news is that we are all sinners. It doesn't even matter how you live your life or how good you try to be. The Bible says in Romans 3:23 "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." There's not much you can do to get around that word ALL ... I guess it really means ALL. The problem I think some people may have, is that they believe in God, and they think that is all that is required of them. That's how I felt. I always believed in God, but guess what, even the demons believe that. Look what God says about it in James 2:19 "You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe - and tremble!"
I'll go one step further...I believed in Jesus! Yes, I believed that He lived, and then He was crucified. I guess I also believed that He rose from the dead. What I didn't know was that just believing it still isn't enough. It's not the same thing as placing your faith in Him alone to save you. There was something I had to do about what I knew. I had to make the decision to specifically ASK HIM to be my Savior and Lord. Jesus said, "Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven." Matthew 10:32-33.
One day, we will ALL (there's that word again!) stand before God's throne, and personally, I wouldn't want to be denied before Him. We don't know how much time we've been given here on earth. When we stand before Him, we will either be accepted, having received the free gift of righteousness, offered by Jesus alone. Or we will be rejected, and cast into a place that I don't even need to explain to you, other than to say, that you will be forever separated from God. FOREVER! That's not a scare tactic...that's the truth.
OK, here's the good news. Actually, it's GREAT News! Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me."
He also said that you must be born again, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."
I think one reason why people don't get born again is because they think it's too easy. They think they have to do some great deeds, or earn their way into heaven. God doesn't work that way. Our salvation doesn't cost a thing, it's a free gift that we can either receive or reject. But our salvation cost Him a great deal. It cost Him the death of His one and only beloved Son, that we might be reconciled to Him. John 3:16-18, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him [places their faith in Him] should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."
Please, get your dusty old Bibles out and see for yourself if what I'm saying is right. Then ask the Lord to show you the truth.