Jesus, Be the Center

Church was all I knew, growing up. I went to church 3 to 4 times a week, on the regular for may years. I went to Sunday school. Was even in the class taught by mom when I turned 11. I went to all of the revivals, we had frequent fellowship dinners. I won a Bible by reciting the books of the Bible, beginning to end in front of the church… And all of my close friends went to the same church. Despite the fact that I had a religious lifestyle, I never knew Jesus the way I tried to. The way I wanted to. For many years. A lot of people I saw in church were just there because they grew up in church and that was what they knew. Or they were still young and had no choice, because their parents made them go (which was the case often enough, with myself). Though I do remember having a longing to have what the other few I noticed had. The ones who stood, openly pouring their hearts out to the Lord in testimony service, unashamed. I wanted that connection with God too. But around the time I turned 13 years old, I started to rebel and seek other sources of love and acceptance. My older sister left home to join the Navy, and at the same time I was hitting puberty and dealing with emotional problems. My mom was busy working and raising the 7 of us and I had no one to really sort things out with. I don’t know that if I did, things would have been different but I questioned God. Being in out of hospitals and being diagnosed with Bipolar disorder, I met different people with strong beliefs that conflicted with the strict religious code I grew up with. Through the years of late night Bible studies, Sunday morning sermons and weekend revivals, I never had a personal encounter with Christ that led me to accept His redemptive work of the cross and start a real relationship with Him. As I questioned, “Is there really a God, I went through depressive times. I tried smoking pot and drinking my pain away. I turned to different men who I thought would give me the love I sought. Then I tried Tarot cards. Looked into Mormonism, considered becoming a Wiccan. I do remember a couple of times, in the midst of suicidal thoughts, crying out to God, unsure if He was really there, to give me happiness and peace. Fast forward to 25 years old. Not too long before, I ended a relationship with a man who said he wanted to marry me. I simply was not in love with him. So I left. We went to church together, he took me out to eat, bought me roses and was trying to help me heal from my past. But I knew I couldn’t be with him. I believe the Lord was leading me away from him because it wasn’t meant for me to be with him. Alone again, I started friendships with a couple more men who wanted a future with me, but things never panned out. I backed away from them both. Let me explain: This is not about the men, but I mention them to get the point across that I thought a man could change my life. I didn’t want to be lonely and depressed anymore. Only when I got serious with God and really sought Him, did I find Him. One night, I went to a Kierra Sheard concert with some people I had grown up in church with and she did an altar call. The invitation to accept Christ at that moment felt very personal to me and I wanted Him. I wanted to go to the altar, but was too ashamed. Thank God He didn’t give up on me, but He kept pursuing me. You see, I was raised to believe that you had to go to church to experience the Lord and had never heard of anyone having an encounter with Him outside of the church walls, so that was pretty uncomfortable to me. A few months after I turned 27, I was seeking the Lord and wound up meeting my now, husband. I’d never met anyone so zealous for God, but at the same time joyful, full of life and just happy. I knew I wanted what he had. We started a relationship, but were going through a rough spot. He had the book, A Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren in his house and I picked it up and read it. Upon coming to the chapter about forgiveness, which included a salvation prayer, I got on my knees, acknowledged Jesus to be God, sincerely asking Him to change me and be my Lord and Savior. In those moments, I knew my life truly had changed. Within a month, I was baptized… Learning to trust God with my life has been a process, but I know that Jesus is the best decision I ever made. I am a new creation in Christ! Not perfect, but redeemed from sin! It’s been close to 7 years of me being a Christian and I am a walking testimony. I thank God for eternal life, and I believe eternal life with Christ starts the day you are adopted into the Kingdom of God! Jesus said, “I came that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.” – John 10:10. I seek for a deeper relationship with the Lord and I seek to have that abundant life Jesus died for me to have. I trust the process!

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