At our church, we have to give a testimony in front of the congregation as a part of becoming members of the church. Jay and I haven’t done this yet and I’ve wanted to share my testimony for quite some time now, and it’s always easier for me to put my thoughts into words first. Here it goes…
When I look back at my life I now see that God has been with me all along. I was baptized as an infant, as that is what my parents chose for me as having been raised in Lutheran and Presbyterian churches, as is custom. I went to Sunday school as a child, and I can’t remember it at all. The only thing I remember about going to church as a little girl is getting to go for Sunday brunch at this restaurant called “Dagwood’s” afterwards. As I got older we went to church in our small town, it was a United church. Then life got busy, competitive sports took over, and church just didn’t happen anymore. I also want it to be crystal clear that I don’t have any blame or negative things to say about my parents for these choices.
I didn’t think about God or church that much growing up. I had faith and I prayed to God about the important things in life, but I wasn’t sure if I believed it, or if I was “doing it right”. I now know that God was with me…whispering in my ear every once in awhile to let me know that He still loved me and He was in my life.
My Grandma T gave me and my brother heirloom books when we were teenagers. She wrote about her life and gave them to us so that we would know about her and her family. At the end of these books, she wrote us a letter. At the end of that letter she wrote “You are a child of God and Jesus loves you.” I remember staring at that sentence and being overwhelmed. What did it mean? I didn’t know yet.
Then I met my husband, and there was a defining moment in my Christian life that happened on one of our first dates. My husband-to-be asked me: “Did you go to church when you were little?”
I answered with a summary of what I just wrote above. Yes. Went to church. Life and sports got in the way. Don’t go anymore. Haven’t really thought about it in a long time. It is what it is.
That question repoened the door to my Christian life, to my faith. I think Jay just wanted to know if I was a Christian or if I had the potential to become one again. He didn’t dump me because I didn’t go to church or because I didn’t claim to believe. Bless him.
Around Christmastime, Jay, our friend Adam, and I went to a church service at the church that was kitty corner to our house at the time. I thought I’d give it a whirl and see what church was like now as an adult. The pastor was talking about “worshiping Jesus” that day. I can’t remember much more than that. But I remember being scared and uncomfortable and thinking “worship? How can I worship and follow Jesus?”. It was very scary for me at the time. Those are big words with a lot of meaning behind them: worship and follow. What did they mean?
Then I went to my husband-to-be’s house for Christmas. We had only been dating for 3 weeks and I drove down to the farm to meet his whole family just after Christmas. I nervously met his mom, his dad, his three sisters and their husbands/boyfriends. They were all lovely to me…and then another huge defining moment on my journey of faith. God bless my husband, but he asked me yet another question that absolutely rocked me to my core, scared me, make me think, made me question, made me worry, and confused me. He asked me:
“Have you let Jesus into your heart?”
Who asks that? WHO ASKS THAT KIND OF QUESTION!? That’s how I honestly felt right after he did.
I was 21 years old. I was still just a baby on my journey and I was scared. I remember hiding in the room I was staying in at Jay’s house, sitting in the corner of the room on the floor, and quietly talking on my cell phone. I called my best friend, at the time, who was raised a Catholic…but was really just a “holiday Catholic” from my observations and our conversations, and she lightly laughed and said “don’t worry, Sarah – I’ll be your Jesus.” I wish I could say she was sincere. I confessed my raw emotions to her, and at the time she eased my nerves by taking it lightly. That friend is no longer in my life for other reasons, but now I see clearly why God removed her from my life.
Back to the important stuff. God spoke to me for the first time that I can clearly call, through Jay, that day. Because Jay asked me that question, God was forever on my mind and yes – Jesus was slowly let into my heart. My journey is more like a marathon than a sprint. I feel that question swung the door to my faith wide open and Jesus started seeping into my heart, pumping faith through my body like blood through my veins.
Jay’s family is Christian. His whole family is. His aunt, uncle, and cousins spent years overseas being missionaries in Pakistan. When we went to meet his mom’s side of the family in BC the first summer we were dating I was intimidated to meet them. I was scared that I would be preached at and all I would here is “God this” and “Jesus that”. Such was not the case at all. They did not stand up on their Christian soap boxes. There is no such thing in this family. I could feel their love for Jesus in our conversations and that’s what I needed. We attended a service and I can’t even remember where it was, but the pastor was talking about salvation that day and a little something clicked in my brain. I think it was the fact that I could still be saved. I could seek salvation through Jesus Christ as an adult, even though I didn’t really have a Christian childhood. There was still hope for me!
Fast forward a bit to 2007 when we become engaged and married. We did our marriage counseling with our pastor who married us, but my heart wasn’t as into it as I know it would be now. I considered myself a Christian when I got married in our church, but like I said before – my journey is a marathon and I was nowhere near the finish line.
We kept going to church, and I love our little church. I love the fellowship, I love the message. I just love everything about it. They made me feel comfortable and the more I went the less scared I became.
Then I got pregnant with Braden in 2009, and we both really got thinking about things. Jay was dedicated as an infant and he was called by God to be Baptized when Braden was 6 months old. He told me that he had been feeling that this was the right time in his life and that he wanted to be Baptized for Braden, so he was. I talked to our pastor about be Baptized as an adult, but he suggested to me to reaffirm my faith, so I did at that time. My father-in-law prayed over me after my reaffirmation and that was another defining moment in my journey. I felt God’s presence over me that day and I felt a fresh beginning.
Having Braden really made me feel I had to be accountable. I felt this pressure come upon me to raise a Christian child. How would I do that? How do I teach someone to be Christian when I’m just learning myself? Don’t get me wrong – this was and is a good thing! It really made me want to learn and know more.
In May of last year my sister-in-law Laura texted me asking if I wanted to go to a women’s retreat at a Bible camp. Me? At a Bible camp? Was she for real? – those were my honest first thoughts. In even more honesty, I thought a weekend away without Jay and Braden and just us girls sounded pretty good right about now.
Little did I know what was at first a, quite frankly, selfish reason to go to a retreat would end up being the most defining moment to date as my journey as a Christian and it would change my life forever.
As I’ve blogged about before, the theme for the weekend was “Hearing God’s Voice”. When Carrie, the guest speaker and pastor for the weekend, started off this series I thought to myself “hearingGod’s voice? What? Like hearing voices? Is that possible?” She then taught me that we hear God’s voice through our children, through song, through Scripture…there are so many ways.
One night at church at the retreat one of our exercises was to ask God to speak to us. At the time, my dad was in rehab for the second time for alcoholism. I didn’t have a very good relationship with him I felt like I didn’t have a father anymore and that he had let me down in so many ways.
So on June 2, 2012 during an exercise at our retreat, I asked God to speak to me. I told Him what was on my heart, especially regarding my dad, and I just asked him to speak to me.
God spoke to me, loud and clear.
He said: Sarah, you do have a father. I am your Father.
It was that moment in the chapel that I fully let Jesus into my heart. I have never felt so comforted, so loved, so cherished by my Heavenly Father than I did that night. He reminded me through Carrie that when our parents, in this case my dad, foresake us – the Lord will receive us (Psalm 27:10). And I was received. I found Jesus at a Bible camp.
I have only shared that moment with my husband, my friend Carley, and of course the women at the retreat. Now in my testimony I share it with all of you. I want to remember that day forever and to share my journey.
God is the reason why I have dealt with my family issues so well. I don’t live my life full of anger and hatred. I live it full of faith and prayer. I seek His mercy. I accept His grace. I pray, and I pray, and I pray some more. God has brought me amazing friends into my life that I can share these things with, and He has given me the courage to share my testimony on this blog.
I can’t wait to see what comes next.