*Just a heads up this is a long post*
The number one thing a follower of Jesus or a Christain of any kind will always ask what is your testimony is. In other words “What’s your story?”
While there are many different and unique testimonies out there, my testimony, whatever you want to call it didn’t use to feel as glamorous or heart-wrenching as others. I often felt like maybe I wasn’t doing it right or I was missing something. I use to feel like maybe I didn’t experience my true testimony yet, whatever that meant. I have since learned that this isn’t true, everyone has a different story to tell, and everyone’s lives are led to him differently. On top of that, I have realized that I didn’t fully know Jesus until this year despite what I thought I knew four years ago. My story is quite long but is still growing, I have learned over this past year that I am not done being molded and shaped. I acknowledge that there will be many more situations, outcomes, choices, and experiences that will add to my testimony as I get older. As in a previous post, I am always coming to Christ and my coming to testimony will always grow as I learn more.
I grew up in what a normal-ish household may have looked like. My mother was a single mom who worked while we lived in my grandparent’s house for a long time which allowed me to travel with them to a lot of places. It no nothing extravagant like Spain or Italy, more like trips to California, Arizona, and Colorado. I lived in a Christian household like most American families grow up in, we went to church, tithed (as far as I know we did), prayed at each meal, nothing out of the ordinary. I have very few memories of early church life though. What I do remember actively is one memory of a church gathering in which I wore a green velvety dress, green stockings, black shoes, and a headband. While the rest of that memory is blurred I remember hiding in that house in the upstairs closet of one of the kid’s rooms feeling sad and ashamed, parts of me remember I was crying, but to this day I don’t know what. According to my therapist, it is a suppressed memory in which anything could have made me suppress it.
Through most of my elementary years I have hardly any memories but a few. I know and remember being bullied, I remember getting in trouble for standing up to my bully and wasn’t allowed shoelaces at school (long story). I remember some family events and small moments with my mother, my grandfather, my grandmother, and some with my father. My father came back into the picture when I was 13 (another long story). Most of the memories were good ones but I can’t recall a lot.
This goes for middle school as well I remember select things like that I was made fun of, I was part of the crowd that was less at wanting to be a part of the social status and more about being in a classroom playing dungeons and dragons. I remember always feeling alone, unworthy, and well just odd. During this I stopped going to church altogether, claiming that I believed there was a God and a Devil but everything in between was all mankind. To be honest with you I don’t actually remember when my mother and I stopped going to church. As I began high school I started to hang around the wrong crowd, I made some bad friends and some good friends. During my sophomore year, I started to date a boy that was “good” friends with the crowd we hung out with. This boy ended up being the worst for me, I didn’t know what red flags were at the time but despite what my family tried to warn me about, I ignored them. He got me into many bad habits of lying, stealing, and well much more to say the least. During the beginning of the middle of my sophomore year, I found out that I was pregnant at the age of 15, I was scared and alone. Scared and unsure I went to my family for help, while my mother was more humble about it but still upset my grandparents on the other hand not so much. I remember the sting of my grandfather’s disappointment and the words of my grandmother as we sat them down to tell them the news. I questioned faith because I didn’t look for it or live by it. I considered myself spiritual but still didn’t believe in the church. I remember trying once to go to church as a pregnant teen and the church turned me down as I asked for help, shaming me! I remember getting bad looks and judgmental comments made under their breath. I never spoke up about it to my family.
While pregnant I questioned God a lot, I was angry with him, I was angry with myself and with others. I often asked him why because I didn’t understand anything, I blamed God for this when it was my own actions that lead me here. I remember being frustrated because all my life I was taught that God would be there, that God loved me and he would save me but I didn’t feel it or see it.
The guy that I thought cared for me didn’t. He emotionally messed with my head, He cheated on me, manipulated me, and then left me and my unborn son the day after his birth which was a month before I turned sixteen. I prayed (more like talked to him) for God still asking him why while I found other ways to fill a void that wasn’t being filled. After my son was born I sank into a depression. I didn’t want to go to church despite being pushed to do so, I didn’t want to be a part of anything because I felt as if I knew I would be judged before I even got a chance to explain, like what happened before. I felt like one huge disappointment that no one could love so I turned to things that would only mask those feelings with temporary euphoria. I soon found myself in a relationship with a guy who mimicked the first, manipulative and narcissistic. I wasn’t allowed to talk to anyone, especially male friends and family. I had to only do what he wanted to do, I learned how to avoid narcissistic gas-lighting behavior by mimicking this behavior back to avoid getting hurt. I learned how to shut down and disassociate with myself and with my emotions, which will later lead to half of me not being able to remember things.
After some time I found myself at God’s feet again asking what was going on with no response back and with some self-reflection I cleaned up my act and left the guy I was with for safety reasons. I relied on myself, I moved in with my mother and found a job. I realized I was a single mother just like my mother was and that hurt but I knew I had to change something not just for me but for my son. A few months later when I met my husband, I remember feeling unsure and out of place because he was the first man who treated me like a person, like someone worth it all. I was so blinded by trauma that I didn’t know how to react or that I could experience something like this. After our marriage in 2016 and two children later, everything seemed fine. I was then invited to a church group for mothers, the person who invited me figured I needed friends.
Still hurting from past church pain, I agreed to go only to make them happy. I didn’t expect what was to come, being there was only the beginning of my walk with Jesus for the first time. He wasn’t just about to be a story I heard in a Sunday school class as we sang Jesus loves me.
After going to this mom’s group, I realized I wasn’t the only one who had a history. I realized that when I prayed to God all those years, he did answer me I just wasn’t listening. After a few times of going to this group, I was then invited to attend Sunday services at the church the group was hosted. I agreed, and I began to become curious about God again, of faith, and where I fit in. I finally felt as if maybe this was it I found the answers. I wanted to ask where he was during all this, why the church let me down before, so many questions filled my head, and some questions were eventually answered. After some time of me being there, I joined two life groups which opened me up even more and I grew spiritually in some ways but I was still missing something that is when I got baptized. I remember feeling as if the water should have made me feel like I was on cloud 9 like some seem to feel but for me that didn’t come. I was kind of disappointed, I don’t know if it was because I was expecting it to be like in the scriptures we read that the heavens would open up but a friend joked with me saying the baptism pool isn’t magic water. Despite feeling off I was starting to see that I put my faith in people versus in Jesus, I realized that putting my faith in people lead me down a path of shame and disappointment. I finally started to get it, or so I thought.
While some things still didn’t make sense at that point, I didn’t care. I figured all was good, that this was it, and life was finally going great. God changed me and that I was living for God because you know I made it look that way on Instagram, but I was wrong. See what I mean by that is that I claimed to be living for God and Jesus but my actions weren’t lining up with what should have been a bible believing Jesus follower. I was what you can call lukewarm, I went to church, took notes, studied, prayed, and talked about him but I wasn’t living by him. Unknowingly past trauma that I thought I took care of when I met my husband crept up on me, I was allowing this to depict how I acted and reacted. Insecurities defined my actions and paranoia consumed me along with undiagnosed anxiety. All this came to the surface when my husband of 6 years asked for a divorce, among other things, and events that were going on at the time friend-wise didn’t help the situation. Sad to say that all of this was done during the start of the pandemic when things went on lockdown.
During the year of 2020’s great pandemic, I was forced to deal with my trauma and anxiety face to face (well screen to screen since everything was shut down). In doing so I figured out that I was my worst enemy and that I really didn’t change despite all the times I thought I did, I just changed emotional tactics. I found out that in spite of going to church and claiming I found God, I only had come to know of him. I found out that since my teen pregnancy, possibly even before that, all the abuse, trauma, and self-doubt I faced put my mind in a fight or flight survivalist mentality that I thought I took care of but really suppressed. Over the years of suppression, it bottled up and exploded like a ticking time bomb that destroyed even the beautiful flowers that grew in my home.
After many seasons with my therapist that year, figuring out what happened, why, and realizing all the finer details I found myself in this odd but relaxing moment of finally knowing what I had been missing. I talked with my therapist and what would be my soon-to-be ex-husband about changing, after a long talk we decided to move across four states to work on us and work on our family. In doing so I found Jesus for the first time in my life, I found my salvation in the middle of the explosions of trauma and pain. I found Jesus in the midst of crying out to him and fully surrendering everything to him. Not just saying I surrender it. I realized through those years when I didn’t believe in God he never left me, he chased me down despite all my attempts to flee Him. He found me and met me at the place I was in. I wasn’t taught that he comes to you. I always felt as if I had to change first and then meet him where he was because that was what I was taught and how I understood things. However, that is further from the truth. I realized that majority of my life I only knew of Jesus but I didn’t actually and actively know him. I had basic knowledge that I failed to fully understand. There is a big difference between knowing of and knowing him.
Over these past two years, I have come to terms with knowing God fully and his will for my life. Realizing now that merely growing up in a “Christian” house doesn’t make you Christian, realizing now that Sunday school and youth groups even some churches don’t teach you about what having an authentic active relationship with Jesus looks like verses he’s just there on Sundays. Coming to the state that we did was all part of his plan. I am blessed to say that I finally found a church that I can actively grow in, learn in, and accurately follow him. I praise Jesus and give thanks for him opening my eyes and seeing that I was far from what I thought I was and that he saved me and forgave me.
To conclude my testimony I will leave you with this;
It doesn’t matter what you think you know, It doesn’t matter how you grew up, It doesn’t matter where you come from or where you’re going, and It doesn’t even matter what you have done or will do
God meets you where you are at if you are willing to just let him in, he comes to you! In doing so you come to know him not just of him. You come to know his love and his forgiveness that washes all of that pain you felt, that shame, and the sorrow away. Letting him in changes your mind from wanting to always live in sin, filling that void, because it was comfortable and familiar to wanting to live in his love and his grace because he authentically and actively cares. If you’re reading this and you are not a believer let me tell you my friend that I have been through it too. I know how it feels to live through the pain, anxiety, weed, alcohol, hopping around from guy to guy, being rejected by the church, being rejected by others, and self-harm. I’ve been at that point of filling a void just to forget and ignore the past and present time, but he forgave all of that and filled that unfillable void with himself. The world can’t do for you what Jesus can. I don’t know what you have been through exactly and I can’t begin to imagine what it must be like but what I do know is that you are not alone, I know that whatever it is it can be forgiven no matter how bad you think it is. I know FOR A FACT that God DOES love you, Jesus loves you and they are waiting for you patiently. All you have to do is let them in and they will help you understand.
Just let him in…