I’ve been presented with the challenge – or should I say, opportunity – to write my Christian testimony. I love to write and there is certainly no shame or embarrassment in sharing my story or talking about my relationship with the Lord. So why is this so hard? Why can’t I find the right words to eloquently and beautifully say “I didn’t know Jesus before but now I do and I love him and that’s pretty darn incredible?”
I think that’s where I made my mistake – thinking it had to be beautiful. Thinking I had to use big words. Thinking I had to switch off my “real” and turn on the “fancy.” The truth is, I could write my testimony backwards and with no punctuation and it would still be beautiful, simply because God is beautiful. Granted, it’d be pretty difficult to read, but it’d be my story of my relationship with with my God. That’s beautiful, regardless of how it’s written.
That said, I was baptized Methodist and confirmed Lutheran, but didn’t really feel like I was either. I was related to nearly everyone who attended the Methodist church and couldn’t stand the traditional “stand up, repeat after me, sing a hymn, sit down, the end” routine of the Lutheran. I spent most Sundays of my 18 years living at home trying to convince my mom that we attended church the previous Sunday (which usually meant we didn’t have to go that Sunday.) In middle school I ran out of Sunday school Christmas program practice in tears after being told to open my mouth and sing louder. I wasn’t a fan of doing anything that might be viewed as “uncool” and at that point in my life, Jesus was not cool.
When it came time to choose a college, a small and private liberal arts Christian school was an easy choice for me. Not only did I like the location (just 40 minutes from home in a city I was extremely familiar with) and the idea of small class sizes and a great education, but I was especially lured by the many religion classes and the strong Christian influence promised in all the brochures. I wanted a new start and I wanted God to be a part of that. In hindsight, the notion that He could only be “a part” of my new life was a sure sign that I wouldn’t last long. College ended up being some of the best and worst years of my life. I met a lot of people and drank even more beer and 99 Berries vodka. I got really, really good at beer pong. I had a lot of fun and during one year especially, and found myself hating nearly every choice I was making. Want to know how many times I attend services at the campus church? Zero. Want to know how many elective religion classes I took beyond the two that were required? Zero. Want to know how many times I prayed? I don’t remember the exact number, but it was probably only after some boy broke up with me or when I didn’t study for an exam I was currently sitting down to take.
As with most people who finally come to find Jesus, things didn’t really change for me until I hit my rock bottom. A paralyzing breakup with my boyfriend of nearly two years who I thought I had a serious future with brought a big wave of depression. With that depression came eating and health problems and I pushed away nearly every friend I had. I was working a job I enjoyed well enough, but I wasn’t going anywhere. I didn’t feel like I was doing anything. Therapy and antidepressants helped, but I was craving something more. I felt empty and without purpose. I did everything my therapist and mom recommended and was even told I was a “model patient!” Success! Still, I needed more. I needed Jesus.
In November 2011 I made the choice to find a church. I was ready and willing to attend service at every single church in town until I found the right fit. I started with a simple Google search of “great Sioux Falls churches” and first found Embrace. That Sunday I went, all alone, and never looked back. It took one church on one Sunday for me to know I had found what I so desperately needed. I found my home.
Embrace changed my life from day one. It changed my entire perspective and outlook. It changed everything. Finally, for the first time in my life, I found a church I felt comfortable in, where I could FEEL God’s presence. I didn’t realize how powerful that is until I stepped foot into that building for the first time. Everything I previously thought was hokey was suddenly real. Everything I never understood was suddenly so clear. Embrace gave me friendship and family. It gave me strength and hope. Embrace gave me my future and Embrace gave me God. I met my husband at that church and our pastor married us just 16 months later. Even now, attending a new church hundreds of miles away as we are immersed in our new life together in Colorado, Embrace is my home.
I’m saved by Him and so in awe of Him. I find myself seeking Him, yearning to learn more about Him. I forgive much easier because I know that it is what He constantly does for me. I don’t want to disappoint Him, but know that I am so unworthy of the incredible sacrifice He has long ago made for me. I sin every single day, but rejoice in the fact that I am made new again every morning. God speaks to me now – something I never imagined possible. I don’t hear his voice with my ears (but let’s be honest, I’m nearly deaf so He probably knew that wasn’t the best way to get through to me), but I hear Him in my heart. God told me to “Stay. Fight.” during a recent time of pain and turbulence in my marriage, so I am here, fighting for the marriage He has gifted me with. As I go through a job search and struggle with feelings of unworthiness and lack of purpose He says “Wait for Me” so I wait for Him and I trust that He will provide everything I need.
It’s a daily struggle to put my own selfish needs and desires aside. It’s a struggle for this incredibly independent woman to be able to hand it all over. I like to take care of things myself, darnit. But, in Him and for Him, I live. I will sing and speak and write of his praises for the rest of my life.
“The Lord directs the steps of the Godly, He delights in every details of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.” -Psalm 37: 23-24