Rachel wrote her testimony a few posts back, and I thought it was time to follow her good example.
My parents were good people who raised us four kids to be God-fearing Protestants. Dad had grown up Methodist, and Mom’s family attended the Episcopal Church. We attended church regularly, at least often enough that it was not foreign to me. My folks taught us to pray before dinner and at bedtime. I always believed that Jesus was the Son of God. We had no denominational affiliation because Dad was in the military, so on the air base we attended the Protestant service.
Dad retired from the military, and I started junior-high school in southern Texas. My family attended the Presbyterian Church, and I became actively involved in the youth group and the choir. In fact, I joined the church. During those years I remember going forward at a big revival meeting in a stadium that a friend had taken me to. It was quite an emotional event, and I really thought I had changed. But every day as I looked in the mirror, I was sorry to see the change fading away. But I continued to participate in church activities and youth group retreats. Church became more of a social function than anything else. I had many wonderful friends during those years, and some of them are faithful Christians today.
After high-school graduation we moved to Idaho, and I started college as an English lit major. I never even considered trying to find a church to attend; it just didn’t occur to me. Academics were never as important to me as the social life, but I managed to pull decent grades. I led a very self-centered, egocentric life enjoying my friends and parties, much as I had in high school. However, the 70’s were a time of social upheaval and students in particular were looking for meaning in what they saw as a meaningless world.
I was being fed a message of hopelessness and meaninglessness by my English professors. I remember one in particular my junior year who said, “Man is beyond redemption. He is merely an animal, a beast.” I wrote stupid me-centered poems, and started reading stupid trendy philosophical books that I didn’t understand. I became restless and discontent. It had happened very gradually. I didn’t like going to my upper division lit classes that had only six or eight students because I felt it was all over my head. They were talking philosophy, and I couldn’t answer my teachers. So I skipped class. Which put me behind. Which eventually caught up with me. Which made me more and more unhappy.
In my unhappiness I started feeling superior now, looking down on the girls who were happy about a boyfriend or a date (like I had been the year before). I was hungry for something more meaningful, but I didn’t know what it was. I thought maybe I just needed new friends, friends who were “deeper” and not so superficial. At that time there was a “free university” run by some hippies on the campus, so I went down and enrolled in some of their classes: transcendental meditation, wilderness survival, and leather tanning. Thankfully, wilderness survival and leather tanning were cancelled. But I went to hear about TM and signed up.
For my initiation, I was instructed to bring fruit and flowers, and when I arrived, someone took the fruit and flowers and put them on an altar of sorts in front of a picture of maharishi whatshisname. It wasn’t until then that I realized this was a religious thing that I was doing. So I began meditation exercises a couple times a day, thinking this would give my life new meaning and give me the identity and purpose I was longing for. It was a joke.
Being a natural evangelist of sorts, I tried to get my roommate to join it. I told her how cool and wonderful it was. And I will never forget her reply: “Why should I? You haven’t changed.”
Yikes. I knew she was absolutely right. I knew it was a stupid sham. She had pulled the mask off, and now I was back where I started.
Around this time, I summarized my spiritual condition by articulating three questions. The first was, “Why is no one happy?” I actually asked people if they were happy, and I always qualified the question as a deep happiness that was not dependent on external circumstances. I never got a happy answer. Everyone was unhappy, just like I was.
My second question was my purpose in life. I reasoned it this way: “I’m in school so I can get a job, and I’ll get a job so I can eat, and I’ll eat so I can get up and go to work. Is that it? Is that my purpose? Is there nothing else?”
My third question was this: “How can I be free of myself?” I saw how my “self” was always in the way, interfering in all my friendships. I saw the superficiality around me (feeling pompous at my great insight), but I saw no way out.
During this period God was plowing the ground, and I was getting more and more miserable and convicted of my sins. A couple of times I walked into a church on campus and just sat in the back and cried, not knowing what to do. I decided I would “get my head together” (a popular thing to do in the 70’s) that summer. That was the summer of 1973, right after my junior year of college.
After school was out, I moved in with my parents. I had heard that my older sister (who lived a couple hours away) had become “religious,” but I didn’t think too much about it. But after I started having collisions with my parents, I called her for some advice. The result was that I got a very long letter from her in the mail, laying out the gospel. I read it, felt awkward about it, and put it away. I didn’t think too much more about it.
Not long after that, my parents and I met my sister with her husband and kids for a picnic at a park. I was surprised at how different her family was. Where there used to be bitterness and fighting, there was now sweetness and kindness and peace. I knew it would be rude not to speak to her about her letter, so I thanked her for it. She asked if we could go for a walk, so I went along reluctantly. She told me more about the gospel, more about forgiveness, more about Jesus. She asked me if I wanted to pray. I said, “NO. I don’t want to be like those Christians I know at school.” Then we left to go home.
I got into the back seat of my parents’ car, and on the way home I decided that when we got home, I would go for a walk and do what she said. I found a spot on a hill, sat down, and had a long talk with God. Then I walked home.
The change was immediate, and my parents saw the change and began to ask me questions right away. I received so much in Him. He lifted the burden of sin. I felt washed and clean and new. He gave me purpose for living, He delivered me from my “self,” and He brought me a true joy and soul-satisfaction that I had been hungry for.
That was over forty years ago, and I am still experiencing the cleansing and purpose and joy of the Christian life. God graciously brought my entire family to faith in a short time, and they are all still walking with the Lord. Dad was ushered into His presence a couple of years ago. A little over a year after my conversion, I met my future husband who was going to be my future pastor, and now we have sixteen grandchildren. To God be all the glory!