My life before ChristMy parents were moral people, but they didn't become Christians until the end of their time on earth. So although they provided a loving, stable home, they didn't raise me in church.
Mom, however, briefly attended a Baptist church when I was five and took me to Vacation Bible School. I remember making some nifty little crafts and being told that Jesus is God, He died on the cross for my sins, and He rose back to life.
In the years following, I became drawn to the King James Bible someone had given Mom. Mostly because I liked the little gold cross that dangled from the zipper, but also because I was curious about God. And He apparently put it in my heart that reading the Bible was something I should do.
So I tried. During my childhood, I read the first few chapters of Genesis several times, but never got past the "begats." And I'd start over at the beginning every time I tried to read it. At least I learned the most fundamentally important thing for a child to learn—that God is the Creator.
My next church experience came during my preteen years when a friend invited me to participate with her in the Easter cantata at her Baptist church. There in a white robe I stood—a lost, tone-deaf girl—singing about the Lamb of God and the Resurrection. The songs touched my heart, I enjoyed my time on stage, and that was that.
As a heathen teenager in the late '60s and early '70s, my life was all about drugs, sex, rock 'n roll, and rebellion (although back then I thought it was about peace and love).
When I was 16, one of my sisters-in-law invited me to her Baptist church. As the invitation began, she whispered to me that my nephew was going to walk the aisle and I should too. Uh, okay. Why not?
That little walk sure seemed to delight folks—the pastor and congregants who shook my hand, my sister-in-law and her relatives who hugged me. So I was pleased with myself, figuring I must have done something good. My nephew was probably pleased as well since he wasn't forced to go by himself.
I could then check the God thing off my list as done, so I didn't bother going back.
After graduating high school at 17, I left home to live in the Montrose area—the epicenter of hippie culture in Houston at the time. My focus remained on the pursuit of pleasure, with few boundaries, and whatever the next “new” thing was. I fell into the cult of Transcendental Meditation, practicing it religiously, encouraging others to join, and honoring Maharishi Mahesh Yogi with a little shrine in my home. (Just writing that makes me want to throw up.)
My conversion experienceWhen I was 21, I began reaping the consequences of what I had been sowing. Lying in bed alone one night, I was reflecting on my life, how the previous years had been full of mistakes and bad choices that led to my current circumstances. For the first time, I was truly and utterly ashamed. How could I have been so foolish? So wicked? All I knew was that I wanted and needed forgiveness.
God had been sowing something of His own in me. He planted the Gospel seed in my 5-year-old heart through that nice lady in Vacation Bible School and then carefully watered it over the years. Now the appointed time had come for God to harvest the fruit of salvation by breathing life into my dead spirit.
I had no idea of the magnitude of what was about to happen.
In faith, I prayed to Jesus and asked Him to forgive me. That's it. Just forgive me. I didn't ask Him to "come into my heart" or to "save my soul" or say any of the phrases I was led to believe later I should have said.
I literally felt a crushing weight lift off of me, and I knew in my heart that my prayer had been answered. I went to sleep in perfect peace for the first time in my life because now I was at peace with God.
When I awoke the next morning, I knew I was different. My attitude and desires had changed. I longed to learn about God and serve Him, so I started attending church. It was another Baptist one, although in later years I switched to nondenominational Bible churches.
To become a member of that first church, the pastor asked only if I had been baptized. I said yes, and that was good enough for him. When he and others in the church would talk about being saved, I was so ignorant I didn't even know what they meant. I kept wondering whether I should do the aisle walk again.
About a year later while reading Romans, I realized I had been saved that night in my bedroom, alone but for the Holy Spirit. My understanding was limited, but I finally knew that salvation wasn't about walking an aisle, praying the "right words," or ceasing to sin—it was about trusting Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of my sins. I also realized that fully understanding salvation wasn't required to receive it.
Then I got baptized for real.
My ongoing sanctificationEven after publicly confessing faith in Christ, I continued to struggle with thoughts like: Am I really saved? Did I do it right? Can I lose my salvation? Why do I still sin so much? Just in case, I kept asking God to save me.
Through the study of His Word and the counsel of godly people, I came to learn that I was permanently saved from the penalty of sin, which is death. A supernatural act of the Holy Spirit brought me eternal redemption that night in my room. He opened my eyes to the truth, convicted me of my sin, gave me faith in Christ, and did His work of regeneration.
I did nothing. Salvation was something that happened to me. A gift that was bestowed on me.
By God's grace, I was saved through faith in Christ (Eph. 2:8; Titus 3:5–7). There is nothing I could have done to earn my salvation and consequently nothing I can do to lose it. With my inheritance reserved in heaven, I am protected by the power of God (1 Pet. 1:3–5). No one can take me from His hand (John 10:28–30). And nothing can separate me from His love (Rom. 8:38–39).
The answers to all of my questions I found in God’s Word.
I also learned that I will continue to sin as long as I live in this body of sin. If not for the Holy Spirit dwelling within me, I would surely sin a whole lot more. And I wouldn't even feel bad about it. But as I grow in Christ, I mourn my sin all the more, strive to do it less, and repent quicker when I fail.
On a daily basis, Jesus saves me from the power of sin. And when He takes me home, He will save me forever from the presence of sin. Hallelujah, what a Savior!
As the song "My Tribute" says:
"All I am or ever hope to be / I owe it all to Thee / To God be the glory!"