First, let me start by saying that I don’t think a personal testimony is ever a complete story. As I write this, I can remember multiple times I have been asked for my story. Each time, I have new experiences to share that refine how I see myself, God, and my own struggles. I’m sure this blog will be another turning point for me, and refine how I view my own relationship with God.
Most Christians will be aware of the terms “milk” and “meat.” The milk is the period in a Christian’s life where they are learning fundamentals. “Jesus loves you,” “Jesus died on the cross,” “God created the earth,” “Accept Jesus into your heart,” and all of the Old Testament characters such as Adam, Noah, and David.
The meat is where you take those fundamentals and learn how they apply to your life. It’s where you start discussing judgement, faith, prophesy, salvation, and other hot topics. It’s also where many Christians start losing faith because they are faced with implementing these concepts into their daily lives. Everybody wants to be patient, because “love is patient,” but it’s not near as easy to put into practice as it is to read on paper.
Most testimonies consist of a story along the lines of, “And then my pastor/parent/sibling/friend/etc. finally convinced me there was a God and that Jesus loved me, and I asked him into my heart. The End.” I believe that is only the beginning. This is why I have broken up my testimony into The Milk, The Transition, and The Meat.
I was born into a Christian family. Somewhat. My mother absolutely hated large churches that had more budget committees than small groups. So, when she was in college, she decided to join a small little group that met in an elderly couple’s home. She was surrounded by amazing people who challenged her faith and helped her grow.
My father was raised in the Catholic church, and jumped ship as soon as possible. He absolutely hates crowds, and anything to do with people telling him what to do. When my parents got married, they disagreed 100% on how they saw religion. If I had to define my mom’s point of view, it was something of a relaxed, hippy/artist, free-spirited view. My dad was more of the, “I hate people, especially people who tell me what to do, especially when those people are free-spirited hippies.” And so their first child, me, was born into a struggling Christian home.
Fast-forward a few years, and my parents have at least agreed that our family is Christian, and that we should be taught Christian fundamentals. I learned that Jesus loved me, I needed to love Jesus, Noah built the ark, etc. We had joined a very small church that met in a basement, and most of what the adults talked about was way over my head, so I focused my attention on the snack table.
By the time I was twelve, I was the oldest of five children, we had moved ten times, my parents had declared bankruptcy because of my father’s failed businesses, and we were literally moving to another state on nothing but a prayer. My dad was actually driving our moving van to job interviews, and stopping at houses for rent along the way to find somewhere for us to live.
When I was fourteen, we had settled into a large house in a small town, and mom had just had child number seven. I was beginning to be interested in boys, but I felt like my mom wouldn’t understand, and my dad would kill me, so I refused every date offer, and focused on sports instead.
I was the first person from that town to have a softball scholarship offer. I accepted the offer of a small school in Missouri, declared a major in Creative Writing, and packed my things. I was so ready to have my own life, and I believed that the only thing holding me back had been my family.
At this point in my life, I had done all of the good Christian things. I had attended youth group most Wednesdays. I read some Christian dating books. I was a virgin not only to sex, but to everything boy-related. I had only been minorly drunk, and it was an accident. I was only late by five minutes one time for curfew, and my best friends both read their Bibles and were just as “Christian” as I was.
As I drove the five hours to my new life, I had no idea how completely unprepared I was for growing up. I had this idealistic expectation that I would find a Christian guy within the first few months, and he would fall head-over-heels in love with me. Our first kiss would be on our wedding day (one day after me graduating with highest honors), and we would go on to have many children right outside a gorgeous small town in the Midwest.
Looking back, I was so naive. As a young girl from a town in Kansas where there were literally no more than ten black, Mexican, gay, Democrat, or non-Christians total, I actually believed that the perfect spot for me to go to college was an all-female liberal arts college located in one of the most liberal college towns in the country.
A full explanation of that semester would take much too long, so here’s a brief synopsis.
- I stole my roommate’s boyfriend. We started sexting while she was trying to set me up with his best friend. I skipped classes and practices to drive five hours north to visit this redneck. I lost my virginity within two months of starting school, and a pregnancy scare combined with finals week was quite the dramatic event.
- My entire floor was bisexual. And did I mention I was on the softball team? I actually did not believe “those people” existed until one of them tried to kiss me. Of course, I was labeled intolerant because I skipped out on the communal orgies in favor of reading a book at the local coffee shop.
- My entire school was Liberal. I was one of four students total who voted Republican that year. It took a while for me to realize that I couldn’t make political comments as if my entire table agreed that pro-choice was obviously from the devil.
- My entire school was feminist. This probably would have been obvious to most people, but I truly thought an all-female school would be full of budding musicians, artists, actresses, models, and poets who had devoted their lives to Christ, not other women.
- My professors were NOT impressed with my opinions. As soon as I wrote a research paper defending my belief that abortion was wrong, I watched my grades slowly slip from A’s to D’s.
By the end of the fall semester, I had no idea what was wrong with the world. I had been taught that if I stood up for God, He would stand up for me. I had avoided all Liberals/Feminists/Lesbians, I had stood up for my beliefs in class, and although I had lost my virginity, it wasn’t near as bad as the girls on my floor who couldn’t remember how many men they had slept with just the night before! I reasoned that I was better than everyone else on that campus, so I couldn’t figure out why I had failed, and everyone had labeled me the evil one.
I realize now that I had been caught in a trap that most Christian kids get caught in. We are raised that being Christian comes with all of these subset labels. We are raised to believe that if you are a true Christian, you will also be Libertarian, Pro-Life, Straight, Anti-Feminist, and a virgin who’s life goal is to raise many children and serve her husband with unquestionable obedience.
As I moved home to my sheltered Midwestern town, and was surrounded by familiar ideas and concepts, I began to question my faith. I had seen many women who were beautiful, talented, successful, and intelligent. They were also kind, loving, and honest. They were just as convinced that there was no God as I had thought I was convinced there had to be. The only difference was that they seemed to be much more confident and knowledgeable than I was. I had been raised on, “The Bible is true because the Bible tells me so.” They had been raised on, “The Bible is not true because of all of these hard facts.”
I had a hard time believing that my neighbor who never made it past 10th grade, but believed in God, could possibly know something that my professors with infinite degrees did not. How could people so successful, and so put-together, and so confident be wrong, when people so laid-back and literally could not spell illiterate, be right?
For the next few months, I tried to prove to myself that there was a God. I read books, articles and everything except the Bible to look for evidence that He existed. I wanted actual facts, like scientific facts, that God was out there. That summer, I decided that the best way to prove to myself that He existed was to go back to school. Only this time, I was going to major in Christian Ministries. I wanted to be surrounded by people who were intelligent and believed in God, so I could convince myself that God was more than a grown-up Santa Claus.
My second go-round in college went something like this:
- I worked 50 hours a week to pay for school. Therefore, I missed most of my classes.
- I hated most of my professors because they used the, “Because the Bible says so” argument as the reason God exists.
- I failed Chapel because they preached that Christianity was all about harmony and tolerance, rather than recognizing and taking responsibility for your own actions.
And the big one…
4. I was raped. Not like a Law and Order rape. I knew the guy. We were sort of dating. He lured me in with a story of a broken home and past drug dependence, and I thought I could be his savior. After a while, he was dictating my schedule, inspecting me to make sure my body stayed a certain way, and using my lack of funds to control me. He would buy me lunch on the condition that I had sex with him. He made me believe that I was worthless to the rest of the world, so I should be lucky that he even acknowledges me in public. If I tried to set boundaries when we were alone, he would tell me he would kill me unless I let him do what he wanted.
A few months into this “relationship,” I was watching Law and Order, and saw a situation very similar to mine. When I realized that I was in one of those situations, I went into a tailspin. I reached out for help with many of the faculty and staff. The overwhelming response I got was, “Good Christians don’t get into these situations.” So basically, if I had been a better Christian, then I wouldn’t have brought this on. My coach at the time told me that life was tough, but I needed to “man-up and move on.” He told me to focus on school and that sooner or later I would forget everything that happened.
This marks the second time I quit college. This time, I was even more confused than the last time. I went to a “Christian” college looking to prove to myself that God existed, and then was told that because I didn’t have enough faith, I deserved to get raped. This obviously went against everything I had ever heard my friends at my previous school talking about. Women don’t “deserve” to get raped and mistreated. Women are just as good as men! And then there’s the Bible saying to forgive. And my friends saying that it wasn’t rape because I let it happen. And my parents who blamed themselves.
Enter my drinking problem. This would also be the time in my life where I dated random men in an effort to somehow make sense of love. I cut my family out of my life, and never let anyone see that I was hurting. I created a facade that was fun-loving, wild, spontaneous, and sexy. I also decided I needed to get away and leave my God-forsaken small Midwestern town in search of my own life.
So, I traded a small town of 2,000 for a town of about 350, and declared a major in Horticulture. I had four other people in my entire class, and immediately set my sights on my professor. He was a little older, somewhat odd, and everyone on campus had a major crush on him. His class was a joke, and I passed every test with flying colors. Within a month, I woke up in his bed. I was a little hungover, but proud of my “accomplishment.”
He then informed me he needed to get ready for church, and to meet his girlfriend’s parents. Yes, I had just become the woman that all women hate. For the next two years, we had an on-again, off-again “just friends” relationship. The last time we slept together was a few months before his wedding.
Looking back at all of the low points in my life, this is holding steady as the lowest. I had lots of reasons that stemmed back to my abusive relationship, but reasons are not excuses. I wrote a very sappy letter to my professor about life, and how essentially he was screwing his up and was never allowed to talk to me again. I then wrote an equally long letter to his fiance explaining our last few years together, and moved for the simple fact that I wanted to start over.
During those two years, I became part of an amazing church. I made some amazing Christian friends, and I quit drinking all together. However, I still label it part of my transition, because I still had no idea where I stood in life. I knew what I was supposed to believe. I knew that God must be out there, because I would have never survived without some guardian angels. But I didn’t really come to terms with my past and commit to God until I met my husband.
My husband and I met at a restaurant. Not like a cutesy, coffee shop, he looks across and finds my table in a crowd while I’m reading a book in a very sexy dress while seductively giving a “come-hither” look. Nope, we met because I was desperate for a job, and all I could find was the overnight waitress position at a local Denny’s. He was my manager.
The first time we met, we talked for a few hours. We basically told each other about all of our life’s failures. We both had drinking problems. We both had college sports ripped from us. We both jumped around schools. We both had scandalous relationships in the past, and we both had attended Christian colleges. We had also both given up on ever finding “The One.”
We almost didn’t end up together. He says he knew instantly that I would be his wife. I knew it deep down, but avoided that idea by casually dating his brother.
A few months later, after much confusion, embarrassment, and prayer, I made myself a promise. He had been the most persistent man I had ever met. He asked me out almost every day for two months. I decided that I would give him one chance, and if I didn’t see any potential, I would write off men and become a career-oriented, independent woman and throw myself into my new job.
The night before my first day as a career woman, I called him. I asked him to meet me at the local Applebee’s, and I think he thought I was joking. After two months of asking me out, and the whole brother fiasco, and me telling him I hated men, here I turn around and ask him out.
I didn’t know until much later that he had to walk to our date that night. Apparently, his car wouldn’t start, and instead of asking me to pick him up, he did the gentlemanly thing and walked four miles to meet me. Granted, he was very late, but he made it.
That night, we talked as if we had known each other forever. We drove around (in my car) afterwards, and explored the country surrounding our little town. We pulled into his driveway around five in the morning- in the middle of a very noisy thunderstorm. I then mentioned that I hated when I could tell a man liked me, but wasn’t man enough to kiss me. Fortunately, he got the hint, and laid one on me. Somehow, we ended up outside my Jeep, with him pushing me up against the door, and kissing me like I had never been kissed in my life. Between the rain and the lightening, it was just like the scene from most cliche romantic movies.
Three hours later, I was at work. That night, we went out again. We tried to have a “Christian” relationship, but before long I had moved in, and we were having sex on a regular basis. He never actually asked me to marry him, but we both knew it was coming.
One day, on one of our roadtrips, he just looked at me and said, “You’re going to marry me today.” We stopped at Walmart, picked out rings for each other, waited until sunset, and found some old railroad tracks. He pulled over, and we got out of the car, held hands, and made our vows. To us, that was our real ceremony.
A few weeks later, our parents met, and we signed the papers. It was about six weeks from first date to marriage. Needless to say, both families had many reservations.
My first year of marriage will probably spur about 35 posts, so I will summarize it here:
- Six weeks later, we were pregnant. Obviously, it doesn’t take us long to make gigantic life decisions.
- A few months after finding out I was pregnant, I had a complete meltdown. It wasn’t just pregnancy hormones, either. I felt like a horrible wife, and like I had no idea what I was doing. I was constantly frustrated with something he was doing, but only because it reminded me of the man who raped me. After many nights of hiding my hurt and anger, he finally sat me down and made me tell him everything. This began a healing process that is still in progress. God bless him, he listened to every detail and still loves me.
- I started learning about true submission. After I was able to realize that God commanding women to submit to their husbands was not a command to be controlled by their husbands, I was able to get ahold of the idea. I had always associated being controlled with, surprise, my rapist. Therefore, I had massive control issues in my marriage. Now that I understand it, I’m able to put it into practice as best as I know how.
- I started letting him lead. Again, my issue with him leading had to do with my rape. Once I could face that, and let God show me what letting him lead really looks like, I was able to back off. I used to think that men would never do anything unless women made them be responsible. Or worse, if I let him lead, he would lead me into some crazy, irresponsible life where our children had no stability. Once I learned to trust God with my husband, a whole new world of security opened up for me.
- I really started letting him lead. I thought I was letting him lead by deciding what we had for dinner. Then, I had to really learn a lesson in submission, trust, and giving my husband the reigns. We had been arguing about moving for months, and we could not agree on where to go. I wanted to stay in Kansas so my family could be close to our baby. He wanted to move to Florida, because his family owns a business there, and we could be financially stable. I prayed and prayed that the Lord would give us guidance, but I was actually just praying that God would force him to stay in Kansas. Once I was able to put aside my reasons for wanting to stay, I could see God’s reasons for wanting us to go.
- We moved to Florida. My parents were not happy at first, but they have been very supportive. I have learned more about God, love, trust, leadership, patience (in-laws, need I say more?), and having absolutely no financial security in the past few months than I ever thought possible.
This brings us to current-day, where I am a few days away from the birth of our first child. Meeting my husband, and taking the path we have taken, has really brought me to the meat of my relationship with God.
Where I used to be defensive, I am patient. Where I used to be controlling, I am trusting. Where I used to believe women had to be independent or else fear losing ourselves in a marriage, I have found that my husband wants more than anything to help me realize my dreams. Also, where I have been insecure in believing in God before, I am now 110% positive He exists. I have seen too many answered prayers in the last year for Him to not be there.
Marriage has also given me a new confidence in my beliefs. Before, when I was content to believe what I wanted, and keep my opinions to myself; now I am brave enough to defend my beliefs. I have learned that I will never change a mind that God isn’t going to open up. However, sometimes standing up for what you believe is not about anyone but yourself. Saying out loud that you believe in God and His truths has made an amazing difference in my life. Defending Him and His Word will only sometimes have an affect on someone else, but it will always have an affect on you.
So essentially, my testimony is this:
I have sinned. I have fallen. I have denied Him. I have lost faith. I have failed. I have realized that I’m not only not perfect, I am not even semi-acceptable.
Through all of that, I have learned forgiveness. I have learned patience. I have learned salvation. I have realized true faith. I now know the healing power of grace. I know that I owe my abilities, my blessings, and every good thing in life to God. I know that I will never save a life, but that I can do His work and watch Him save a life. I know that God loves me just like He loves the stripper in the joint next to our church. I also know that there is only one constant in life, and that is Him.
I plan to expand on parts of my testimony in following posts. However, for your sake, if you even made it this far down the page, I will end my story here. Please come back, and feel free to tell me your thoughts, or share your own stories!