I love hearing or reading people’s testimonies about how they came to faith in Christ. Especially when it involves kicking and screaming, like C.S. Lewis’s. Or a skeptical but determined investigation, like Lee Strobel’s. Or this guy, who calls himself the Failed Atheist, who found his commitment to atheism crumbling under an inconvenient confrontation with the facts while attempting to disprove his grandfather’s faith.
So I thought others might like to hear my story, as relatively void of drama as it may be…though I do have a cool addendum to my testimony which I’ll share next time. I’ve already revealed bits and pieces of my coming to faith here and there throughout these last (almost) three years of blogging. Like how I was raised in a large Roman Catholic family, went to Catholic schools, tried to be faithful but eventually left the church. What I’d like to do today is gather all the pieces together in one place, ‘cause I’m an organizer…a list-making, spreadsheet-using, cubby-loving bookkeeper-type with a storage fetish. But I digress.
I spent a lot of time in church as a child…Sunday Mass every week and on Holy Days of Obligation, confession many Saturdays, and Mass periodically between Sundays with my church elementary school class. I dutifully believed all the doctrine and the stories and heeded the warnings about those heretical Protestants. As a teen I began to doubt some of the peculiarly Catholic teachings but I didn’t spend much time pondering them – it wasn’t really important to me.
Once I left home and was no longer under my parents’ authority, and their watchful eyes, church and “religion” dropped a few more notches on the scale of what matters. But by the time I married and had children, they had inched their way up and I was back to attending Mass, though still only dutifully. I was still just going through the motions, doing what I thought was required of me and hoping it counted, paying God little mind beyond that, and I had still never even looked at a Bible.
How gracious is our God that though we pay him little mind, he still pays us much. Though I was blithely just going through the motions, he was actively pursuing me. As I referenced in this post, after the birth of my third child I experienced a yearning…an unsettling perception of something missing in my life, though I knew not what. I remember trying to express it to my husband one night as we were dining out and ending up running to the restroom in tears because he wasn’t understanding me. But how could he? I didn’t understand myself.
Eventually though I discerned a spiritual focus of this yearning…an awareness that whatever was distressing and stirring up my soul had something to do with God. How unfamiliar I was with him then, I marvel now, that I never thought to get a Bible or try a different church. I just drifted along in uncertainty and uncomfortable disturbance. One evening as I was perusing Reader’s Digest I came across an insert from a Christian organization that talked about Jesus and how if we acknowledge our sin, repent of it, and submit to his lordship we will be saved. And I remember having a nagging feeling that this is what I’m supposed to do.
But…Africa, I thought. What if he wants to send me to Africa? I was afraid to commit to him because of what he might require of me. I’m not the missionary type…no…I’m not ready for this, I thought.
Then my neighbor’s two-year-old son got run over by a car. And survived. He’s now one of my son’s best friends. But that incident is what put me in contact with this Christian neighbor whose faith was genuine and obvious. Obvious not because of Christian paraphernalia or knowledge of her church-going habits, but because she spoke of God and faith as if it were the most natural thing. Her faith defined her and God was integral in every part of her life.
So there I was, sitting in her kitchen, in my uncertain and disturbed state, and I heard myself ask her to share her faith with me. I just came right out and said, “I’d like you to share your faith with me.” Any Christian will tell you it’s quite rare to have an evangelistic opportunity like that just fall in your lap. I still remember the shocked look on my neighbor’s face.
But she grabbed that opportunity and ran with it. And the first thing she did was open the Bible and show me what it said. She didn’t preach a mini-sermon or simply relay her personal experiences with God, she let me see for myself what this book says…the one that the faith I was raised in claims as the inspired Word of God but that I had never read. At all.
I wish I could remember the exact verse she first pointed to. It was most likely from the Gospel of John which has a lot to say about being saved by faith. It might have been this one –
Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. – John 5:24
Or this one –
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” – John 11:25
Or it may have been trusty old John 3:16 –
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Whichever it was, I was like, huh…that’s not what I was taught. I thought God assesses our life, our behavior, and if the good outweighs the bad…we’re in. I was pretty confident that my life on the scale would favor the good, but my beliefs about judgment were more assumptions really than beliefs. I may have been confident about my relative morality but I was not confident about my eschatology. (Though I wouldn’t have even known what that word meant then.)
So I was intrigued and my new friend and I began meeting regularly to read the Bible together. And before long I realized something was missing…but a different something. My yearning was gone. That unsettling disturbance in my soul was…calmed. I had found what I wasn’t even sure I had been looking for. I found that I needed a willfully entered into, submissive, personal, salvific relationship with the God who loves me and had been drawing me to himself. And that afternoon, with our little children playing nearby, my friend guided me in a prayer of repentance, submission and faith. And I was born again.
The Bible says….well, here…you can read it for yourself:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. – 2 Corinthians 5:17
And that’s what I was – new. You wouldn’t have known it – there was no radical change in my outward appearance or behavior. But I knew it and I felt it, and I wouldn’t go back to my old self even if I could. I’m now a child of the King. I’m a princess. “Kinda’ makes you wanna’ treat me with a little more respect.” Huh?
God is so good and loving and kind, and when his children really need an assurance of that, he gives it. Next time I’d like to tell you how he did that for me.
But this time…today…if you don’t already know him, I pray you’ll realize as I did that he is pursuing you also. Or else you wouldn’t be reading this.