Just today I realized that my testimony (how God brought me to know Him) has much more than I've written in my profile to the right on the screen. The most interesting part is missing!
Still, some of it is beyond words--such as the hopelessness I felt, the emptiness that was an almost physical sensation like a huge hole in my middle. There was a time in high school when I was pondering suicide, seeing that my life seemed to have no significance and I could not pull myself out of its meaninglessness. As I recall, all that saved me at that time was that my sister noticed my increasing listlessness and said that things would improve. I'm not sure why I believed her; but I went on to get married at age 23 and have our first child at 27...and start sinking into hopelessness again at 29.
Nothing was going right in our life, and I had tried fixing things myself: tried getting along with my mother-in-law (who we later found out was coming down with Alzheimers, which makes many of its patients contentious); doing my best for my colicky daughter (it probably wasn't colic, she was almost two, but it was like it), who woke up every night at 2:00 a.m.; keeping up with repairs on our house--I remember spending a month of evenings using a heat gun and scraper to peel the marine paint that was layers thick and checkering on our front porch, and fixing a wobbly leg on our table using a drill and dowel and glue. I fixed appliances and electric outlets; I was constantly overwhelmed with things to do after work, and it seemed that nothing put a dent in the things that needed doing. No trying to hold my tongue helped my relationship with relatives, no economizing helped our ever-increasing money problems. I was constantly exhausted, overwhelmed with allergies and problems, and could hardly think straight with all these struggles.
Maybe I was obnoxious toward family, but I don't remember being so. I do remember carrying all my complaints about my mother-in-law to work, and looking back I picture myself with all sorts of sore thumbs sticking out from every direction. I was a mess, and lots of Christians started trying to help me. One invited me to a Bible study. I didn't understand anything they said there, but afterward, I asked, "Why are there bumper stickers that say that Jesus is alive? He died on the cross!" The man directing the study asked if I'd heard of the resurrection (Jesus died on the cross, but He rose from the dead after three days; His tomb was empty even though there were Roman guards posted there). Since I wasn't sure, he explained it to me. Well, I asked, "So didn't Jesus die again? I don't see Him walking around today." The man was patient. "Have you ever heard of the Ascension?" (Jesus appeared to over 500 people, and as His disciples watched, He rose to heaven and is seated now at the right hand of the Father in heaven, alive today.) I thought about this. A person couldn't live on earth 2,000 years, but in heaven, I figured it was possible. Well, I didn't come to any quick conclusions that day, but an important step was made. I hadn't known Jesus was alive. I couldn't worship a dead man, but Jesus wasn't dead after all.
Katie had been waking up every 2:00 a.m. for most of her life. Suddenly she started sleeping through the night. I didn't; she had me conditioned, and I woke up at 2:00 a.m. with nothing to do but think. I thought about the various things people had said. I had a vague notion that Christianity somehow started with a transaction, and that I had to give up my life to get something meaningful that Jesus had for me. That was honestly about all that I knew about it, and I don't know how I knew that much.
So I thought about my life, and in a rather systematic fashion, I assessed how much of my life was worth keeping. There wasn't much I wouldn't give up at that time. Katie was my biggest hesitation, but she was often colicky and quite difficult (anyone who knows her now would wonder at that, but we have witnesses who would testify!). Besides, I remember figuring, I might have her as a friend until she was 13, but from what I'd heard, that would be about the end of it. Still, I had my doubts that He was going to demand Katie as part of this mysterious exchange; I honestly didn't know what the exchange consisted of at all. I was desperate, but I went to sleep.
The next night, again, Katie slept, and I woke up at 2:00 a.m. like I was supposed to. This is the strangest part: We need to flash back to when I was about 14 and my brother was going to college at Portland State University. He'd come home from his day's schooling and tell my mom in a mocking tone about someone who'd stand on the street corner and shout out a Bible verse. I don't remember ever having thought about that up until this time, the verses were somewhere latent in my brain, but this night my brother's mocking voice came to my mind, mocking salvation verses: "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved." Various verses went through my mind, but the mocking was getting to me. I asked God to make the mocking go away, and everything went silent. I went to sleep again.
The third night, Katie slept, I awoke, and I thought about the previous two nights. I was overwhelmed, desperate, and exhausted. I didn't know what Jesus had in store for me. I don't know what I thought He was going to do with my life, but I guess I thought I was going to lose anything significant that I had. The picture that was in my mind was of taking a step off of a cliff into darkness. Finally, I took that step. I surrendered to Christ, and I had no idea what that meant, except that I guess I thought He would rescue me. I didn't realize that the conventional way is to acknowledge in prayer that you're a sinner and that you need a Savior. Still, I knew I was in all ways inadequate; I knew I needed something He had but I wasn't sure what. I knew very little! I went to sleep, and I'm not sure that the next day I even took note of having done anything significant in the wee hours of the night before.
God was gracious to accept my exchange, and what He first gave me was an insatiable desire to know His word, but I couldn't while I was a working mom. He made it very clear that I had to quit work, even though Gary was working part-time and looking for full-time work at the time. I did so, and I remember just starting to feel the peace that came with His salvation.
It's funny, many of the things (but not all of them) that brought me to that desperate point were lifted almost immediately: I was diagnosed as severely anemic, and three days of triple iron doses transformed my energy level; Katie suddenly turned sweet and compliant (I think it was because she was at home, where she wanted to be); 1 1/2 years later Gary got a full-time job. We started attending a church that taught the Bible at about our level (ignorant beginner).
Not everything got better. Gary's mom of course remained sick; still, she was diagnosed, which reduced her influence in the family and that made things much easier. There are other things that have never been "solved" either, but that isn't the point.
The fact is, even if any of my earthly struggles hadn't improved, the exchange would have been worth making. God has given me peace, joy, contentment, the ability to love and forgive like I never had before. Besides that, I know that I can look forward to a future hope of heaven with Him. That alone is worth anything a person could give to get there--and yet all you can give is your heart, your love for Him, your obedience to Him (that comes out of your love for Him and He makes it much easier than it sounds!). Nothing could make me go back. Praise be to God, Hallelujah! Amen!