My testimony is not a rehash of a salvation experience in which I prayed and asked Jesus to forgive me of my sins and come into my heart, but rather it is the ongoing account of my life in Christ since he created me anew.
I was just four years old, it was after dinner, and my brother and I were sitting in the recliner. I’m thinking that we were probably rough-housing and were told to sit down, because there’s no other way that we would have been sitting calmly together speaking of such deep matters; but nonetheless, we were sitting quietly when my brother abruptly informed me that I was most definitely not going to heaven. I told him that “I am to! Mama and Daddy are going so I have to go because they won’t go without me! So there! “Nunh unh!” he said, “just because Daddy and Mama are going doesn’t mean you are!” He told me that I have to be saved (whatever that was!). “Well, are you?” I asked. “Yeah”. “Are —— and ——–(my two older sisters)?” “Yeah”. “So you’re saying that Daddy and Mama and ——– and ——- and you are all going to heaven and I’m not?!” I was mad. “If you get saved you are” he said. “What’s going on?” came Mama’s voice from the kitchen. I pursed my lips shut and cringed to hear what my brother would tell her and what she would say. He promptly began rehearsing, but I interrupted and told her that he said that her and Daddy and all the other older kids were going to heaven, but I wasn’t because I wasn’t saved! Let her tell me I was going to hell! I was waiting for it! I didn’t know what salvation was, but I knew that there was heaven and hell! While she affirmed that I did have to be saved, my brother gloated in triumph – he had been right again. When I asked then how I could get saved, she said that she and Daddy would talk to me after everyone was in bed. And they did. I remember kneeling there and crying as I pictured Jesus hanging on the cross naked and bloody, and thinking of how my sins had hung him there. Now I didn’t know of inherent sin and the fallacy of praying a prayer, but when I asked Jesus to forgive me of my sins and come into my heart I meant it.
Was I a Christian at this point in time? Ask God.
After a few years had gone by, as the memory dulled with time and was not so bright and vivid in my mind as it had been, whenever I heard a fire and brimstone sermon or a message on assurance I was given to doubt. During invitations on these occurrences, I would pray the prayer again “just to make sure”. I still remembered that time when I was four, but I’d question “Did I know this?” “Did I know that?” “Was I entirely sincere?” For years this went on; it wasn’t a regular occurrence, but now and then I’d have to “update” with God.
Finally when I was about fourteen, I’d had enough. I had read and heard that if you find yourself doubting your salvation and you know you’re saved than you need to rebuke Satan or take him back to the time you got saved or make a specific location where you go and pray every time you’re doubting, all these grandmother potions for solving what I knew couldn’t be solved – like that anyway. So I began to think back through all the places that salvation is found in the Scripture and it always said “believe”. (Yes, I say “think back” because all this began while folding laundry one evening and then concluded while I was outside after finishing my work. This wasn’t weeks and months of pondering and study, though granted it could have been – I’m not discrediting that, but I won’t go down that trail. All that to say that after years of struggling it was resolved within minutes (should I add “for a few more years?).
When I realized that salvation was simply believing, I knew that if I was believing I had no room for doubt. I didn’t need to go back to a specific time in my life where I knelt and folded my hands in prayer, all I had to do was know that when Satan came knocking at my door, belief had taken any space he had occupied prior. If I was believing then and there whenever he came around, I would have no need of worry. No, I wasn’t hung up on all the doctrinal issues of “eternal security” or “perseverance of the saints” or however you like to term it, I knew that Christ said “believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved” and that was good enough for me. Satan could be defeated with this kind of power!
So was I saved by now? Ask God.
Around the age of seventeen or so, God really started to get ahold of me. As He revealed himself to me and I soaked in that light, I began a true love relationship with Jesus Christ. I was His bride and He was my bridegroom. It was at this time that I began a steady ascent to the promised land. It would take the whole of a book to tell of everything God taught me, what He took me through, and everything He did in my life during this time. I can’t even begin to tell the tests of fire, but I remember on my nineteenth birthday telling Mom that I would give anything to never see a year like my eighteenth year again in my life. I’m realizing now that these were simply preparation for the more intense heat of bigger fires! During these years God made known to me things I had never experienced before – His joy, His fullness, His peace. When at last I felt like I had slight chance of entering the victorious Christian life, it all started slowly fading away.
Eight months later, I found myself desperately crying out to God to hold on to me because I knew I was letting go. I didn’t know why, I didn’t know how, I didn’t know anything, I simply knew I was in desperate condition and I was scared. I was scared of falling away from the faith, actually I knew I was falling away, but I was afraid of totally falling off the deep end. I couldn’t glean anything from the Word of God, my prayers seemed to ride away unheard on the wind, and I was at a loss. I would try to read my Bible, but would understand or comprehend none of it, I tried to pray, but didn’t know what to say and didn’t feel like God heard me anyway. I asked God to reveal Himself to me, to take me back a year in time when I saw the land of milk and honey before me, to give me back the relationship I had with Him. But it was useless and fruitless. I was doomed to be a miserable wretch .
How it came about, is unnecessary and hardly possible to document, but a seed of doubt was planted in my mind. I felt like my walk was close to the Lord at the time of the planting, but though I pushed this doubt to the back of my mind it always found a way forwards and continually plagued me until I came to the point that I doubted Christ’s very existence. I don’t how it found its way forwards and why I was unable to remove it – if I didn’t try hard enough, or didn’t use the right methods, or what, but my intellect got in the way of faith, and I didn’t know why on earth I myself should claim the name “Christian”. God could be in existence and could have created the world and so forth, but how was I to know that His Son actually had a relationship with mankind? That the Bible was real? That the entirety of the Christian faith wasn’t a figment of the imagination? I could reason it all out – I’d read enough philosophy to know the capabilities of the mind and there was no reason that this should be any different. Though I knew that faith was the basis of Christ’s teachings, I didn’t know how that faith came around – how to get ahold of it in such a way that doubt was removed, but then why I should want it in the first place?
So for the next six months I was honestly a Christian zombie and nothing more. I could get hardly anything from sermons, I could rarely gain anything from reading my Bible, I couldn’t pray with any faith at all, and life was absolutely horrible. At times I felt like everything was good between God and I, but no sooner would I think that, and I’d be doubting and questioning it all once again. I’d been convinced for quite an amount of time that “I’m not holding on to Jesus, He’s holding on to me.” I had seen too many “Christians” go off the deep end and I was convinced that if you’re truly one of Christ’s He’ll never let you go. I surely hoped that at least during this time. So as I already mentioned, I’d pray and beg God to not let me go; to hold on to me and bring me round once again. But it wasn’t until I decided to play my part that I saw a glimpse of hope for my wretched state.
During this period, many times I’d thought, “what if the Christian does have a part to play in following Christ? What if God does require that they follow His commands? In other words, what if I do have to get off my bum and do what He asked, in order to obtain what He’s promised? I told myself that God was omnipotent and sovereign and in order to prove that, I would do nothing but watch and see how He would bring me back into close relationship with Him. Wait and watch I did, but to no avail except my misery! Finally I gave in. I said “God, I’ve tried everything – nothing has worked. I have one more chance, and I’m going to take it. I’ll fast. Why? I don’t know except that it’s one of your commands given in Scripture, but I’m going to do it.” And I did. There were no fireworks or a miraculous transformation, but I knew from that day forward that we have to follow Him. Yes, it is only in Him that we can do so, but if we’re in Him, because we’re in Him, we will do so. If we are His disciples we will keep His commandments.
So here I stand, journeying once more toward the land of promise. The excitement is absolutely glorious! At first I felt like I had been taken back three years in time and was beginning the journey all over again, but I see now how God is using that knowledge and those experiences to assist me presently in my journey onward. His mercy truly endureth forever!