Friendly, Outgoing, Insecure, Selfish, Lonely, Rebellious, Self-destructive, and Lost. All these word describe me in various stages of my life, before I accepted Christ as my Saviour.
I was born into a Roman Catholic household on May 1, 1979. My childhood was very typical. I took ballet and piano lessons, participated in Girl Scouts, sang in the school choir, and I received okay grades; but, in spite of achievements, I was always afraid of what lay ahead. My home was unstable as I grew up as well. My Mom often left me alone to tend to my younger brothers while my Dad worked to make ends meet. As a result of this stress, I felt my life was no longer worth living, and at the tender age of 13, I tried to kill myself by turning on the gas to our stove. Shortly after that incident I was diagnosed with dystymia , a very severe form of depression. It was also around this time that I started to raise questions about “my faith”.
What was it that I really believed? Was “the church” really teaching me about God? Did I believe in Catholicism because I wanted to, or because I was afraid my Dad and what he would think of me if I didn’t? I would sk my Dad to explain the doctrines of Catholicism and ask him questions about why we believed what we believed, but all he would tell me was, “ We believe what we believe because the church tells us to”. Now, I believed in the fact that God was “out there”, and I knew that Jesus was the Son of God. I had also been told that Jesus died on the cross to save sinners, but that wasn’t me (at least I didn’t think so). Sinners were murderers, pedophiles, or drug dealers; these kinds of people did horrible things to hurt other people. I wasn’t a sinner. So I did what I was told; I went to church on Sunday, made the sign of the cross, shook hands, said the Lord’s Prayer, and waited until after communion so we could leave: all the while waiting and hoping that, someday, the motions I was going through would make sense.
I was also confirmed into the Catholic church I high school. This was an especially tumultuous time between my father and I. In my search for the truth about God, I had asked more questions than anyone around me could answer, and in doing so had also alienated my Dad. The issue escalated one night while driving home with my Dad from catechism class, when I spoke to him about my hesitation in going through with the conformation into the church. My dad was not happy, to say the least, and a few weeks later, in a last minute effort to ease the tension I my house, I waved the white flag of surrender and went through with the conformation . . . causing the void in my heart to get even bigger.
I made it through high school, but not without much trepidation. In that time I managed to develop a second language (cursing), get caught shoplifting, give away my virginity, cheat on numerous tests, take up smoking, and watch my parents get divorced, all of which slowly, but surely, chipped away at my self esteem and hardened my heart towards God. So I found other gods and bibles to worship. My gods and bibles were as follows: TV and TV guide, the movies and their time listing in the newspaper, astrology and horoscopes, country music and magazines that followed that suit, just to name a few. After high school, I decided to attend the local community college. However, I gradually started to drop out. I told myself I’d just make the class later, or make excuses as to how I didn’t like the teacher enough. Eventually I ended up working in a job a hated and indulging myself in one illicit relationship after another; one of these men was a convicted felon who was emotionally abusive, only causing my self-loathing and insecurity to increase. I was living on a string of borrowed tomorrows.
I tried starting over in Maryland by becoming a nanny, but that ended after only a few months when I got into a car accident.
Then in a feeble effort to rid myself of the emotional guilt that was hanging over me, I decided to join the United States Navy. Sitting in front of the TV one night, watching their recruiting commercial, I saw a ticket to a new life, a fresh start. Actually, looking back, I was trying to run away from myself. I thought I could become someone different and that somehow I would be special and would find honor in my life because I was sacrificing myself for my country.
I left for boot camp on January 19, 2000. I spent my first six months in the Navy training, which included boot camp and A school. Then, upon graduation from school, I received orders to Sicily, where not even I could have guessed what would be in store for me, both bad and good.
I was excited to be living overseas, but I was also sad and lonely, emotions which would soon manifest themselves I even more self-destructive behavior. Soon I was again exploiting myself with men; and this time because I was 21, I took advantage of every opportunity to indulge myself with the poison of alcohol. Most nights, including weekdays, I don’t remember; but the ones that I do remember involved me either stumbling back to my room or leaving the bar with whomever m fancy fell upon for the night. I slowly started to realize that my life had no honor or pride, and that I had not changed. Each day waking up to this truth only added to the imminent evil that shrouded my life, leaving me with the aching question of why, why was I here? The answer to that question was closer than I could have imagined.
While I was stationed in Sicily, I spent most of my time working in the security department on base; and it was there that I met Brian. One night God saw fit to put me in the direct path of Brian’s enthusiasm for the Lord. Earlier in the evening people began to try and talk me out of standing the post that he and I had been assigned, citing the fact that Brian was a Christian and all he would talk about was God all night. This was their chief reason for me to not go to the post with him. I was intrigued by Brian’s zeal, and had never stood a post with him, so I didn’t listen to their persuasive speech, and he and I took the same watch that night.
The evening began uneventfully, and as I stood outside the guard shack, Brian opened up his Bible and began to read. I looked out of the corner of my eye at him and waited for him to give me his standard speech. I stood there for what seemed like forever, but he didn’t say anything to me, so I said something first. I looked at him and asked, “So, what is it that you really believe in, Brian? I know about God and how Jesus was crucified. I don’t really see what’s so different about our beliefs.” Brian looked at me incredulously. What must he think of me now, I wondered. His reply was slow and steady as he asked me what it was that I believed in. I talked to him about my lack of understanding in the way that Catholicism taught and told him the story of me and my Dad, but I never stated what it was that I exactly believed in. I told him that I knew I wasn’t perfect, and that I had sinned, but I didn’t think that I was deserving of Hell, because God loves everyone. Brian agreed with me, God did love everybody, but he also said that the only way to ensure that someone would go to go to Heaven was if they were saved, because that’s why God sent Jesus to earth, to die on the cross. I still didn’t really understand what he was saying, but I knew that I wanted to know more, so I accepted his invitation to church.
A few weeks later, as I sat listening to the sermon, I began to realize that the works of Catholicism had no salvation and assurance of heaven in them. I saw that the life I had been leading was not worthy of heaven, but that God loved me in spite of my sinful nature, and the reason He had sent His Son to die on the cross was so that those who accept Him as their Saviour would be covered by His blood as payment for their sins. The alternative was eternal separation for God in Hell. As I sat there, I wanted to know how I could accept Him as my Saviour. I realized I didn’t want to be separated from God. I finally saw myself as a sinner and greatly in need of a Saviour. The sermon closed with a call to the alter for anyone who didn’t know Jesus Christ as their Saviour. I was nervous and hesitant, like this first time you meet someone new. I almost didn’t go up, but then the Pastor asked this question, “Is there any good reason that you shouldn’t ask Jesus to be your Saviour today?” And, as I searched my heart, I couldn’t come up with one, so I walked forward. That morning I this prayer, “Dear God, I know I haven’t done very much in my life that was good. I know that I’m a sinner, and that I deserve to go to Hell for the wickedness that I’ve let plague my life. I see now that your purpose in Jesus’ death on the cross was so that he He could shed His blood to cover my sins. I accept the gift that you have given me. And I now ask you to save me from the sin that has shrouded my life. Amen.”
It’s hard to believe sometimes that that was 6 years ago, but today I have different words to describe what the Lord has done for me, like Friendly, Outgoing, Happy, Joyful, Giving, Kind, Understanding, Hopeful, Confident, and Saved. These are all words that describe me as I am now-not for my glory, but for God’s.