Where to start… I can only start by thanking Him and praising Him for loving me.
John 3:16 says God loved the world so much, He sacrificed Himself, Jesus, so whosoever believed in Him would spend eternity with, instead of without, Him. Whosoever, everyone and anyone, me, you; whosoever believes will be saved. Even if only one of us ‘whosoevers’ came to Him, He still would have died on that horrible, wonderful cross. Think about that for a moment. Do you – can you even begin to really grasp how much He loves you? If you were that ‘only one,’ He loves you so much He would still have gladly given Himself for you. Once you begin to come to grips with this concept of just how much He loves you, start to expand that thought to the fact this is how much He loves every person, whether you like that person or not. Start looking at every person you meet, hear about, see, do not see, every person individually could have been that ‘only one.’ How shameful that we fail so utterly in loving others, much less letting others know how much God loves them.
Now back to my story; I was born in a small southwest Missouri town. My father was an alcoholic, and a mean one, who abused us, especially my mother, on a regular basis. My mother was definitely what we now call an enabler. I am amazed now, looking back, that we even went to church. I know we did because I remember being baptized. My mother made play outfits for my sister and me out of cloth flour sacks. You might remember something like I am describing; the bottom was stitched with elastic to make legs, bias tape and elastic made the waist, the top was finished with bias tape, and bias tape straps to tie at the shoulders. I wore one of those outfits, a blue and white striped one, to be baptized. I was absolutely mortified when I ‘arose’ from the water and realized you could see those blue and white stripes through the wet, white baptismal robe. That is absolutely all I remember about church, and being baptized, until after we moved to Texas and my father had left us. You can probably agree with me, I was not sincere in my relationship with Christ at that time.
Once we got to Texas, we joined a big church, and I mean big, second biggest church of any denomination in town, and ‘growing’ all the time! I have vague memories of planting a bean in a paper cup during vacation bible school, and once going to – was it G.A.’s? Oh, and once I was going to be in some Children’s Choir production, until some other child made fun of my homemade costume and I sat out on the front steps of the church, crying, until my mother came to pick me up at the time it was supposed to be over. That broke my heart because I was so proud of my sister being in the Youth Choir; they had even made a record and she was in the choir’s picture on the album cover. I kareoked to that album until it was stolen from me after I got out of high school. You see, my brother was “The Hero” of our family, my sister “The Perfect One” and I was “The Black Sheep.”
I am not really sure when I stopped going to church, but I ‘learned’ a lot while I was attending. I ‘knew’ more scripture than most Christians, I could sing most hymns from memory, verse and chorus, and I knew all the right (as Duane Sheriff calls it) King Jimmy Jive. Don’t get me wrong – God was definitely wooing me during all this, but somehow Satan always kept me in his clutches. I also remember once my mother’s friend was watching us while my mother was out of town for work or something. She took us to church on a Wednesday evening, and came back to get us when it was over. I know the Holy Spirit was moving in me that night; I walked the aisle to give Him my life. But the pastor told me I couldn’t since I had already been baptized, and was just being emotional. Then, my mother’s friend wanted to know why I had been crying at church (this was before waterproof mascara!) and when I told her, she just laughed at me, and later she even made fun of me. Satan won another battle.
By the time I finished high school, Satan had me tucked neatly in his camp. Oh yes, The Holy Spirit convicted me of the bad decisions was I making, but one more drink, one more toke, or one more pill usually closed my ears, if not my heart, to Him. I decided it was probably ‘right’ to marry the father of my child before she was born, but divorced him before she was three years old. I have heard it said a girl wants to marry a man just like Daddy, and I did. He got drunk and beat me regularly, until I realized no matter how sorry the man was the next morning, dead was dead. He tried to push me out our living room window; we lived on the third floor. I packed up my and my daughter’s things while he was at work the next day, and was gone before he got home. God does not approve of divorce, but He did not approve my choice of husband.
Fast forward through almost thirty years of one bad decision, after another bad decision, after an even worse decision… when I was 28, I started going to a non-denominational church in an attempt to get yet another marriage to an alcoholic and drug addict on the ‘right track.’ God finally broke through to my hard heart. I gave my life to Him and was baptized again – something for which my mother swore I would burn in Hell – but I meant it this time. I even took a few Bible College classes, but that is another story, one in which Satan almost won again. Do the math; this was in the midst of that thirty years I mentioned. Yes, even then I fell away and back into making very poor and shameful decisions. Satan kept telling me I could never be good enough, God could never forgive me again, so stop trying. Yet God was so good to me and brought me back, only for me to fall again. A friend asked me once if I had died when I was deep in one of those backslidden times if I thought I would have gone to Heaven or Hell, and I still do not know for sure. But no sin is a small sin to God, so was I really any worse then than I am now? I still mess up, we all do, but now I am quicker to realize when I begin to drift away, when I am not seeking Him minute to minute, not listening for Him to guide me in everything. I realize then I am yet again adding another thorn to His crown, another stripe on His back, and I fall brokenhearted at His feet, so ashamed, and thankful He is so very gracious and merciful to forgive me.
When did all those scriptures I learned finally become real to me? When did I start singing those hymns from my heart to His? When did I drop ‘the jive’ and start talking to Him, as my Loving Father and Most Precious Friend? When did I finally realize I am head over heels in love with Christ, that He is everything to me? I can not give you a definite date, since it was not a flash of lightening event. Rather it was His ‘still small voice’ whispering in my heart, over and over, until I finally came to believe Him; He loves me, so much, no matter what I have done or will do, I could have been that “only one.”
How could I not want to tell the world?!?