"Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both." ~ Benjamin Franklin

My Testimony- If God Can Save Me He Can Save Anyone

>> Monday, September 15, 2008

One of the things that attracted us to the church we attend is the series our pastor teaches. We delve deeply into a book and he makes it relevant to us now. Quite often he offers humorous anecdotes, like yesterdays about a conversation he recently had with another local pastor. The pastor asked what our church was doing to gain congregants so quickly- do we have short services, is the teaching soft and inoffensive? My pastor replied that, “No, we don’t do any of those things. Services often run long and (my) teaching is unapologetically straight from Bible text.” He joked that he did everything “wrong” to grow a church but people just keep coming.

My pastor really makes us evaluate who we are as Christians and challenges us to learn and understand the Word. And I truly appreciate that.

We just began a study of 1 Timothy. Yesterdays teaching included Paul’s testimonial (1:13-17).

13Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did it ignorantly in unbelief. 14And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus. 15This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief. 16Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might shew forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting. 17Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

As I was listening to Pastor Todd teach I felt a nudge- it is time for me to share my testimony. I have been asked for it many times but am really quite embarrassed and ashamed of who I was and what I have done. And, for a very long time, I was afraid of being judged for my past. I’ve gotten over that now. I know that I have been forgiven by God and that Jesus was sacrificed for the sins I have committed. With the knowledge of that amazing gift I am ready to share my story…

I offer this first glimpse of my life not to lay blame or to offer excuses but just as fact. It happened and it shaped me.

I was born to a newly single mother. My father did not want me and it is only due to my mother’s love that I am here today. She very easily could have succumbed to her husband’s wishes and terminated my life. Unfortunately my father wasn’t willing to let her go so easily and he thought that if I were gone my mother would come back to him. So, one day while my grandparents and mother were in the barn milking cows (maybe 500 feet from the house) he took me. Neighbors found me crying in a country ditch and brought me home.

Fast forward to about preschool age. I can’t really pinpoint the time… Who can when they are that young? I am thinking it began about age 3 and ended about 7 or 8… During this time I was molested by two male relatives. Who they are and what they did is no longer an issue to me. It is past. It happened. I will go to any length to keep it from happening to my daughters.

Much of my life is lost to me… I really don’t know what I can’t remember… My childhood memories are filled with large spots of emptiness.

I was an awful teen. Family referred to me as a “rebel without a pause” and I lived up to it, foolishly wearing the comment as a badge of honor. My mother and father (she remarried when I was young and I was legally adopted) divorced when I was in my early teens. My mom had three other kids to care for and her own issues. I rebelled against every rule she tried to set. I followed no curfews and would defiantly walk out of the house immediately after being grounded, daring her to do something to stop me. I had a violent temper- if you crossed me you definitely needed to watch your back. Revenge would come. I held grudges for tiny, tiny infractions. To this day my temper is quick to rise and I fight very hard to control it.

I ran around with a much older crowd; drinking, smoking… There were very few things I wouldn’t try at least once. I dated men, not boys, and was exposed to way too many adult experiences as a teen.

Luckily I was a smart kid and school was easy for me. If I cared to learn, that is. I excelled at classes I enjoyed and didn’t try at those I disliked. I graduated from high school early and went directly into cosmetology school- it was the quickest education I could get and get out of my house and out of the small town I lived in.

I spent the next couple years living a “rock and roll” lifestyle. I worked during the day and spent nights in clubs or at concerts. Men rotated through my life too quickly for me to recall their names and much of that time is lost to me in an alcohol haze.

In what can only be described as an “escape” I moved to Minneapolis. Unfortunately I continued to make bad decisions and be guided only by my desires. After only a short time there I became a stripper- and remained one for 10 years. The rotation of men through my life ceased and I entered into a long term abusive relationship. There were days that I wasn’t sure if I would be able to work- the bruises might not cover easily. Excuses came easily to my lips.

As I look back at that time I can see that, even then, God had his hand in my life. I was surrounded by alcohol and drugs yet it was at this time that I quit using drugs and drinking to excess. I was known as “responsible” and “organized”. Girls I worked with died tragic deaths- overdoses, drug related murders, and alcohol related car accidents…

As I approached my 30th birthday I began searching for a purpose, a meaning, a reason for life. I couldn’t see the point. I began studying religions, delving into anything and everything that was suggested to me. I dismissed God in favor of false teachings but, luckily, He had other plans for me.

In late 2003 I was visiting my sister when God put Doug in front of me for the third time (third time’s a charm). The day Doug came into my life was the day my life began to change. Doug made me desire to be a better person, to leave my past behind completely and to move forward as the person I wanted to be, not the person I was expected to be.

Before Caelan’s birth I was ready to allow God into my life. It wasn’t so much a quick decision as much as a realization that He had been watching over my life and had blessed me in ways I hadn’t even begun to realize. We visited churches but none felt right. Many circled around the Word or didn’t even open a Bible. So many felt apologetic for believing in God.

We had almost given up when we were invited to First Family Church. And here we found a “family” who didn’t apologize for believing the word of God and who welcomed us wholly. And who not only opened the Bible but read from it, studied it and expected me to do the same!

I can’t remember the sermon that day in February when I accepted God fully. What I remember is that the last place I wanted to be that day was in church. I had woken frustrated, Doug was at home (he was working so much at the time- I think he had finished a meeting at 3am that morning) and the girls were an overwhelming handful. I was tired, I was angry and I could have, very easily, lashed out at someone. So the last place I wanted to be- but where I definitely needed to be- was church.

I remember the sermon really hitting home with me and fully realizing that I didn’t have to go through life “alone”, that, if I would only allow it, God would guide me. And that day when Todd asked who was willing to accept Jesus as their savior I raised my hand. And I cried. (As I am crying now)

Not long after that we became members of First Family and this past June I was baptized. I still struggle every day with my temper and with memories of my past. I’m still defensive and I have to think before I speak. I have a tendency to come off as abrasive and cold. I have trust issues.

But I trust in God, I believe in His salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ and I know that I have been forgiven the sins I have committed. He has blessed me with the beautiful gifts of my daughters and with a husband who is a Godly man and is willing to walk beside me as we navigate God’s Word.

From yesterday’s sermon: If God can save Paul he can save anyone. God changes all who believe in him. God’s seed always bears fruit.

From my life: If God can save me he can save anyone. My life has changed due to my belief in God. His seed has planted in me and I strive daily to share the fruits with others.

Our church offers sermons and series online, if you are interested. Or, if you are in the area, I would be honored to have you join us at service. And visit Pastor Todd at his blog (which he needs to update, lol).

18 comments:

Elaine 10:18 AM  

Beautiful, you are beautiful and I am thankful for a friend like you. Thanks for sharing a deeply moving testimony that connects and relates to life's hurts and pains.

jennhuff2004 10:48 AM  

all that matters is who you are today. we all have skeletons in our closets and some people have multiple closets. but they are our closets and no one elses. life is too short for regrets so congrats to you for finding forgiveness in yourself and finding god along the way.

~*~Jenni~*~ 11:40 AM  

WOW. You have rendered my speechless.

Thank you for sharing your story. It brought tears to my eyes reading it, and I know while it was probably difficult to write, it was also very cleansing for you to share it.

You're a strong person, Jody. I realize we've never met in person, but I just can tell you are STRONG.

I loved reading your story.

green3 11:48 AM  

Wow.

You are so brave to share.

Sally 1:30 PM  

That is a great passage in 1 Timothy. Thanks for reminding us of it. And thanks for sharing your story.

Marie 2:29 PM  

You are very brave, Jody!

Jillian, Inc. 3:18 PM  

What a wonderful testimony, Jody and I just know somewhere someone read it who really needed to hear your words. Though I have not met you in person, what shines through about you to me - as a reader - is how much joy your family and home bring to you. No matter where you've walked before, the place you stand right now is what counts. I've been truly blessed from "meeting" you through your blog. I hope that someday we can meet in person.

Kara H 3:23 PM  

It is amazing how many of our stories are so similar. Yours is much like my own. I took/am taking a 3 phase course called Christ-life. Phase 1 you get into your past, Phase 2 your present, and Phase 3 your future. In phase 1 many of us when we looked at the past we had a story that was very like yours.

God works on us when we least expect it. then we look back and are amazed at the seeds he has planted to prepare us to accept him.

mpls Bobbi 3:57 PM  

Praise God! As someone who comes from a similar place, I have been praying or this since my own rededication to Christ. It is an amazing thing to know that you can lean on God's understanding and that you don't have to do it all. (I know how hard you work and it is good to give some of the hard stuff to God)
I LOVE YOU! hope your day is blessed!

mpls Bobbi 3:57 PM  

Praise God! As someone who comes from a similar place, I have been praying or this since my own rededication to Christ. It is an amazing thing to know that you can lean on God's understanding and that you don't have to do it all. (I know how hard you work and it is good to give some of the hard stuff to God)
I LOVE YOU! hope your day is blessed!

red fish 8:34 PM  

Thanks for sharing, Jody! It will be exciting to see all that God has in store for you. God is so good!

pjmomof3boys 11:38 PM  

I am so happy for you, Jody! I think many of us have pasts that we are not proud of, but just as you said, Jesus paid the price for our sins and we need not be ashamed. I just am in awe whenever I think about how God just puts His plan for us in place, piece by piece, and how every single thing that has happened to us, good or bad, has had its own significant purpose. I know that God put you in my path, and I feel truly blessed to have you as a friend! You are such a good, good person. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

Chris Huff 6:02 AM  

I am so proud of you and love you so very much. Mom

gina Louise 7:18 AM  

every step we each take has gotten us to where we now stand, stumbling is sometimes necessary. when we get up we don't have to look back in order to keep moving we just have to remember the pain caused from the fall... this acknowledgment is always healthier than denial.
WHEN THE CANDY COATED SHELL IS BROKEN THE TRUE BEAUTY IS SET FREE!

keep going forward my friend. we all stand with you.
lol gina

Melody 4:21 PM  

I am so glad you put this on your blog. I know so many times people think God would never want them because of the things they have done but God loves all us because we are all sinners.

I think you are an amazing person and I am so glad that I have gotten to know you.

Cindy 10:26 PM  

What a powerful testimony and thanks for sharing it. I know that took true courage to put it out there for everyone to read and you can be sure that it has or will touch someone who needs to hear about our wonderful, loving God. I, too, am glad I've gotten to know you at least a little through our back and forths and if I lived closer I'd be proud to be called your friend.

Bubbi 10:35 AM  

Praise God and thankyou Jodi for sharing. You and I share a b-day of sorts--I too became born again in the month of feb many years ago.

My "back" story (as I like to call it) is full of the many things you describe and no one will ever convince me that if God had not entered my life I would have died before age 30.

I am older than you and can tell you this.
The things you still struggle with will pass--thats a promise.

You are a new creation in Christ--the old is gone and the new is alive.
"God remembers are sins no more"

Soon, your memories will be as if it was someone else--in a sense they are.
Other than how God may want to use your past to encourage others.

As he promises to turn all things to the good for those who love him!

shepherdsgrace 10:48 AM  

Thanks for sharing your testimony...God's grace in our lives is a wonderful thing...no sin is too small for Him to overlook and no sin to to large for Him to be unable to forgive...it has been true in my life...this verse has comforted me multiple times as well...He didn't come to save the well, ie self righteous ones who don't think they need him, but the unwell, the rest of us sinners who know we are sick and need Him dreadfully...What a Savior!

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