I grew up with parents who didn’t know the Lord and were each very lost in their own way.
I was about 11 years old when I went to a neighborhood church and heard that Jesus loved me. I heard that He came to die on the cross to pay for my sins. For a little girl who was lost in a home with alcoholism and mental illness, that was an incredible thought.
God loved me.
One Sunday after church I went to my mother as she sorted the dirty clothes in the laundry room and asked if I could be baptized. She asked me why. I stood in the doorway and said, “Because I believe Jesus died for my sins.” There was a pause. “Okay,” she said.
I was overjoyed when I was baptized about a week later.
My life remained unchanged for the next 14 years. When I left home at the age of 17, my life spiraled downward into a parent’s nightmare.
I was married when I was 24 and had my first baby boy when I was 25. Shortly after he was born I returned to work at a law office where two of my co-workers were friends from the church they attended. I passed them in halls from time to time and heard them talking about the things going on at their church and something pierced my heart each time.
Now that I had this precious child for whom I was responsible, I felt a need to raise him in the church. I didn’t want him to grow up like I had and I thought church was the answer.
I went to one of those women at work one day and asked her what church she attended.
She grabbed a pen and a piece of paper faster than the speed of light and wrote down the address and directions to a Calvary Chapel. I thanked her for it and then lost that precious piece of paper. But a week or two later my co-worker wrote down the information for me again. My husband, our six-month old son and I attended the Sunday morning service a week later.
To say that we went to church that morning does not come near giving justice to what I experienced that day. Walking through the front doors was like walking from darkness to light, from being lost to being found.
The congregation was small at the time, maybe forty people, but I could feel the thick presence of God. We walked down the aisle to find a seat. It just so happened that we sat next to the co-worker who had given me the directions. She and her husband were supposed to be away on vacation that weekend, but for some reason they decided not to go.
The band began to play and I looked around and saw people who were not just singing, but who were truly worshipping the Lord, hands raised to Him, glorying in that thick Presence Who met us there that day. The tears began to roll down my cheeks.
The Lord Who I had heard loved me all those years before was right there with me in that room. There was no denying it, my heart was His.
The joy I felt in the weeks after I have described before as that wondrous joy you feel as a child on Christmas morning. It was Christmas morning for me every single day. The gift of eternal life had been given to me and I rejoiced in it. Layers of dirt that I had accumulated in the world were sloughed off and I was a new creation.
My co-worker later told me that she had been praying for my family and me for about a year. It wasn’t a mistake, a coincidence or just emotion. The Lord had His hand on me all those years and had brought me back to Him.
Shortly after my husband received Jesus as his Lord, too, and so has that baby boy who compelled me to go to church, who is now 23, as well as my other precious guy, who is now 21.
I have now known Jesus as my Lord and Savior for 22 years (or 38 if salvation took place when I first believed and was baptized, only God knows). Each day is still a new experience in Him as I strive to know Him just a little more than I did the day before.