My Testimony - JH
I wanted to serve God even when I was very young. I can remember at age nine focusing on the sorrowful mysteries while my family prayed the rosary and trying to imagine Mary in every role as we recited her litanies. I attended daily mass, even in the summer time, and made weekly novenas while other children watched television. I went to confession regularly on Saturday afternoons, just like I polished my shoes and put my hair up in curlers in anticipation of Sunday morning mass. It was part of my life. I can remember making my first communion, at age seven, and asking God never to let me do anything that would cause Him to leave my heart.
I even tried to become a nun - spending the first two years of high school in a Dominican preparatory school. The school was very disciplined and provided a good education, but I found neither joy nor peace there, nor did I ever touch the Lord. It also bothered me that we never read the Bible. I asked why, and the priest who taught the Bible class told us not to read it, as it would only confuse us. I began to pray desperately that God would help me get out of there, since I did not have the courage to tell my family that I did not want to stay. Eventually I developed juvenile arthritis and had to return home.
As I grew older I became bored with the rituals and ceremonies and quit attending mass. I thought I was bored with God. I remember hearing that God was really doing something in California and that if I wanted to find God I should go there. I considered it for about a minute, and decided I wanted to taste the world first. I was about 22, fresh out of college and beginning a career; my zeal for God was gone. I went to a priest and asked to be released from the vow I'd made to the Lord that I would never marry. He released me and I married the young man I'd dated throughout college. That marriage lasted exactly 18 months. The divorce shattered me inwardly, and opened me to the Lord. I was hungry for God again, but since I had refused to have the marriage annulled, because I knew in good conscience that I did not genuinely have the grounds to do, I felt my divorce had formally cut me off from God. I was very depressed, even suicidal. But it was not until I decided to re-marry that I prayed. I didn't know why my first marriage had been such a disaster and I was afraid. I told God that I didn't know how to do it "right" and I asked Him if I should marry Lewis. When I prayed, He gave me peace. I had never sensed such peace before. I knew this was God; I felt released to marry Lewis and felt assured that God would help me.
The God who is "rich in mercy because of His great love with which He loved us" met me in that second marriage. One day we decided to have church in our home. We started our worship time, and Lewis prayed, "Father ." I never heard the rest of his prayer. He spoke that one word and I touched the God Who is a Father. I had never known such a God before. I only knew a judge God, a distant Santa Claus God, but I had never known a Father. I wanted what Lewis had. Lewis was a sinner, but still, he could come to God as his Father. My own father had been in a terrible, debilitating car accident when I was eight. He had subsequently suffered through a nervous breakdown, more than once, so I'd never really known a father. A Father was more attractive to me even than a Savior, since I didn't realize how desperately I needed a Savior. Lewis told me I needed to surrender my heart to God, and that stopped me. I could not understand why a God who had given me a free will would require me to turn my will over to Him. Nearly two years passed before I answered an altar call in a little Methodist church in Kingman, Kansas while the pianist played "Jesus is Tenderly Calling to Thee" and the Lord made it clear deep within my being that Jesus was indeed tenderly calling to me. I asked Him one last time about my free will and He graciously answered me, "You don't have to understand it. You just have to do it."
Christians told me I'd been "born again." They wanted to hear my "testimony." I had never heard those terms before. That week the Lord began to convict me about the feminist philosophy I'd picked up in college. He made it clear that Lewis was the head of our house. I realized that the Holy Spirit does indeed have a way to speak to us, and I began to understand what had gone wrong in my first marriage. I thought this must be my testimony. However when I stood up to speak the following Lord's Day, I only had a chance to say a little about the rebellion against authority He had exposed in me when suddenly the Lord rent a veil before my eyes and I saw clearly I had been born again and that God Himself was my Father. I screamed, "I've been born again!" and then began to sob. I was not able to speak anything further.
Immediately my Father gave me an intense hunger for the Scriptures. I read the Bible whenever my children were sleeping. The Lord seemed very near when I was in the Word. He began to shine on all my religious concepts and habits. He told me to stop aiming my prayers at a God far away in heaven, and to pray to the One who had come into me. It seemed awkward, like praying to myself, so I didn't. Then He told me He would no longer answer any prayer I aimed to heaven. That trained me, and I began to know the indwelling Lord. From Ezekiel 16 He showed me that praying to Mary and the saints was a replacement for Him - that it was actually idolatry. He wanted me to be absolutely separated from all the outward, physical things I'd worshipped, all the physical means I had used to worship, and to be separated from the philosophy and teachings behind them. I saw His desire to be everything to me, and how I'd mistrusted His heart for me. I was so grieved that I wept. Through this experience I began to really know John 4:24: "The Lord is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in reality." To this day my enjoyment of Him in my spirit continues to grow.
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Scripture quoted from The New Testament, Recovery Version © 1985, 1991 Living Stream Ministry. Used by permission.