Today, I’m sharing my story…
I grew up in an evangelical Christian home. Every Sunday we went to church. And every week I attended youth group. I also went to both a Christian elementary school, and a Christian high school.
I remember, when I was around six or seven years old, my Grandma explained salvation to me, and had me pray the Sinner’s Prayer (I believe I am a sinner, I believe Jesus died for my sins, and I want Jesus to be Lord of my life — that’s the basic premise, anyway). But, nothing really changed in my life after that day. I just knew I wasn’t going to go to the scary place called “hell”.
Unbeknownst to me until my later teen years, my home life was very “sheltered”. We weren’t allowed to watch certain TV shows or movies, we weren’t allowed to listen to certain music, and we definitely weren’t allowed to hang around with certain types of people. Needless to say, when I had my first introduction to a secular school environment — my college days — it was quite a shock! I was under-prepared, to say the least.
In my last year of high school, I started dating a guy who was also a Christian, and I fell in love. I’d had a couple of boyfriends before him, but no one had captured my heart like this guy did. I was head-over-heels.
Within several short months, we decided that we wanted to get married… but we knew our parents wouldn’t agree to it until we had finished school. So we made a promise to each other that, if we were still together after high school, we’d get engaged officially. Until then, we were “secretly” engaged.
With that, though, came the perfect excuse… we knew we shouldn’t cross certain lines, but it was all too easy in the heat of the moment. We ended up justifying it by saying, “Well, we’re going to get married anyway, so it’s not a big deal.” Yeah… right.
We dated for almost two years, but not straight through. We’d feel guilty about our intimacy, so we’d break up. But we’d miss each other terribly, and so we’d get together again, promising we weren’t going to misbehave. Yet, we always ended up back where we’d started.
After one year of college, plus a year of work, I ended up working at a factory. And this is where I met my downfall. I wanted to fit in… I didn’t like being the “goody-goody” any more. People looked at me funny when I told them I was a Christian.
One of the guys who worked in the quality control lab there was very attractive to me… and after several weeks of flirting, he asked me if I wanted to meet up with him — alone. And I said yes, despite the fact that I was still dating my high school sweetheart.
Of course, our sins find us out eventually… and my boyfriend found out that I’d cheated, and broke up with me. I found out later that he had planned on proposing to me two weeks later, on our two-year anniversary — he already had purchased my ring. That hurt deeper than anything else ever has.
I continued seeing this guy from the factory, though. On the side, I was dating two others, as well.
Eight months into my new relationship, I was kicked out of my mom’s house because of my promiscuity — she had read my journal and decided she couldn’t abide by that under her roof. So, I went to live with my Dad for two weeks until my friend and her family took me in.
I lived with my friend for two months before I was finally able to get my own apartment. And just two short months later, I discovered I was pregnant.
The reactions to my pregnancy weren’t what I expected. My mom didn’t berate me… she just calmly asked me questions and said she’d support me. And the people at my church had mixed reactions — some turned their noses up at me, as I’d expected everyone to do, but others were genuinely excited for me, and offered their congratulations (which took me by surprise). I will always be grateful to those who did not judge me… it meant the world to me.
The baby’s daddy and I had decided to live together in my apartment. And, because of this living arrangement, my church board wrote me a letter to ask me to either (1) stop sleeping with / living with my boyfriend, or (2) give up my church membership. I chose the latter. I was really hurt, at the time, but I wasn’t ready to go it alone. I had already been feeling like something was “off” with their way of doing things, anyway, so I just said “whatever” and walked away.
With the pregnancy, I’d given up going to bars and drinking (as I’d been doing for a couple of years). I lost a lot of my guy friends as soon as they found out I was expecting… this really opened my eyes to who my real friends were.
And, as the excitement of rebellion wore off, and the reality of my sin sunk in, I told God I was sorry for my actions, and asked His forgiveness. And, I decided I was going to start living according to my faith from there on out.
I was 20 years old when my son was born. His daddy and I had gotten engaged when I was six months pregnant, and we were married when our son was 11 months old. We’d bought a house just shortly before the wedding, too. So, life was definitely changing. I sank into life as a mom and wife, and continued to seek God.
My home church had some people that had decided to branch off and create a new, nondenominational church. So, I started attending that. And, I went there for several years. However, there were some issues that took place that I did not agree with, and so I ended up leaving that church, as well. I went without a church for about three years.
Finally, after my little family had grown by adding a daughter, and after we’d moved to a new house that was closer to our families, I started attending a Baptist church. And, I made great friends there. I got involved in the Ladies’ Bible studies, and discovered how much I love Beth Moore.
I’ve grown and learned so much through these Bible studies (not just Beth’s studies, but others, as well), and can now say that I’m a long way from where I started. I now know what faith is about, and what legalism and hypocrisy look like, as well as what grace and love look like. But, I’m also still learning and growing. I have become more open-minded and find that my non-Christian husband often challenges my faith … in a good way!
When he and I first met, I thought I could convince him to accept Christianity. He’d been raised Roman Catholic, so it wasn’t that he was faithless… but, because of my sheltered upbringing, I didn’t know what Catholics (or any other faiths) believed, and only thought that he wasn’t a “Christian” because he hadn’t “prayed the prayer” like I had. Through the years, though, I’ve read up on Catholicism (as well as other faiths), and have learned more about my own faith. I’ve learned to question what I was taught growing up, and that it is OKAY to question — it’s actually a good thing to do so! For, what is faith if it’s never challenged? The challenges have taught me to seek out answers, and to learn the whys behind what I believe. Doing this has only made my faith stronger, in the long run.
So, that brings us to the present day… Long story short:
“Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now am found
Was blind, but now I see.”
– John Newton, “Amazing Grace” (1779)