Rick and I joined a growth group back in November. (For the uninitiated, a growth group is a Bible study that takes place in someone’s home. In various church circles, it may also be called a life group, a small group or a home group.) This is our first group in several years and has rapidly become vital to our lives. As I’ve mentioned before, we both work from home and are isolated, socially speaking.
Two weeks ago, we started taking turns sharing our testimony with the rest of the group. (This means we tell our conversion or salvation story; how we became a Christ-follower). Everyone’s story is very different. We all come from a wide variety of backgrounds and our stories are richly varied. I haven’t had my turn to share yet but it’s coming up soon. It’s been awhile since I’ve had the opportunity to tell my story and as I’ve been rehearsing it in my head, I realized I would like to share it with you; the most important story about me.
I never doubted the existence of God.
As a child, I attended church somewhat regularly with my family. Our attendance became more sporadic when my dad launched his own business and started working seven days a week.
Eventually, we stopped going but God kept popping up randomly throughout my life.
During the summer after third grade, I remember playing outside with my brother and the neighbor kids in my front yard. There was a new Nazarene church at the end of our block. An elderly woman carrying a Bible was taking a walk when she suddenly stopped and asked us if we would like to hear a story. I love stories so I immediately said yes. There on the sidewalk in front of my house, she opened her Bible and read from it. I do not remember which story she read, I’m sad to say. After she concluded, she resumed her walk. I never saw her again.
In eighth grade, the decision was made that I would be confirmed in our neighborhood Presbyterian church. To this day, I don’t know what determined that situation. I do remember loving the confirmation classes taught by Pastor Jensen each week on Sunday nights. 13 of us, most I already knew from school. I enjoyed learning from the Bible, hanging out with Pastor Jensen, becoming involved with the church services, lighting the candles each week, memorizing 1 Corinthians 13 and writing my statement of faith. But once again, after I became a member of the church, we stopped attending again.
In high school, I became friends with the band director’s daughter. She invited me to church several times throughout high school but I didn’t accept her invitation until college. I enjoyed the independent Baptist services on Sundays and met my first missionary from Israel.
It wasn’t until 1995 that I heard the phrase “born again”. My husband and I had only been married for a couple of months. We were living in the Chicago suburbs. My sister-in-law and her husband were in town for a convention and attended a local megachurch. They invited us to come.
I lied and said I was sick. Rick went without me.
Why did I lie? I never encountered anyone quite like my sister-in-law and her husband. I’ve known plenty of people who went to church and I enjoyed attending with them but I never saw anyone act like Rick’s sister and her husband. Church was more than a once a week event for them. They talked about God… a lot. They were changing their lives and talked about being forgiven. I was all for believing in God but I didn’t see the need to be so…fanatical about it. What can I say? I was 22 and thought I knew everything.
Flash forward to 1996. Rick and I are still living in the Chicago suburbs and our first child was on the way. News of school shootings slowly became more prevalent on the news. I was frightened. Jacob would arrive in November of that year and already I feared for his safety before he’s born. I was worried about what kind of mom I’d be.
Living in the Chicago area, you can count on being stuck in traffic. What should have been a 20-minute drive home from work every night was easily an hour on a good night. It was difficult finding a way to pass the time. During rush hour, all I could find on the radio was shock jocks who were slightly tamer than Howard Stern. Once night, stuck on the Elgin-O’Hare, I kept hitting the scan button my car radio to find something…anything…other than Danny Bonnaduce on the radio when I found a radio show about parenting. Within 15 minutes, I found myself engrossed with the speaker and even though he talked about God quite a bit, I was riveted and eager to learn all I could about being a parent since Jacob was due to arrive in a matter of days. I listened to this radio program daily for the next 6 months.
Then I started nagging Rick about going to church. Now that we were parents, going to church seemed to be of the utmost importance.
In addition to my new parent fears, I was starting to wonder what else there was to life. At the age of 24, we accomplished the big things adults were supposed to do. We got married. We had good jobs for big corporations. We bought a house. We had a child.
Is this all there is?
Have another kid or two, keep working and then die? Is that it?
I was still listening to the parenting radio program every night after work and starting to sense that Jesus was the answer. I knew it at my core. We needed to go to the church Rick’s sister invited us to a couple of years before.
Over the next 18 months, Rick and I would go to church and hear things we never knew before. We knew how Jesus came to Earth but we never knew the why. We learned God is perfect and holy and man is not. We learned we cannot earn our way to Heaven by doing enough good deeds or just being a nice person. We learned that all have sinned and fallen short. We learned the only way to enter the Kingdom of Heaven is to be born again. (You can read about this for yourself in John 3 of the Bible and read about being born again here.)
The more I learned, the more fascinated I became. We continued attending this church every week and during one Sunday in October of 1998, Rick and I both prayed; repenting of our sins and asking Jesus Christ into our lives.
Looking back, I see that God has been inviting me to join him from a very early age. I was very slow to realize and even slower to respond to his invitation. Our lives have taken a path we never could have anticipated.
We weren’t promised health and wealth. We weren’t promised problem-free lives. We didn’t make this decision just to get our ticket punched to Heaven. Together, Rick and I realized our need for a Savior; not just for the next life but for this one now.
Freedom from guilt and shame.
The joy and awe of God’s presence.
Being used for His purposes.
Rick and I are passionate about being a part of something bigger than ourselves. We love being used to further God’s kingdom; being a part of our local church and vocationally serving churches across the country through administrative and IT support. We found what God’s wired us to do for Him and it’s truly an honor and privilege to serve Him in this capacity.
And that, reader, is my origin story. Our story continues with many twists and turns, potholes, crevices and veering off into the ditch many times but over and over again, God forgives. God heals. God points us back in the right direction. God still has a purpose for us.
Thanks for reading.