I was raised the daughter of a Pentecostal church pastor. Every Sunday, Wednesday, and Friday night, we were in church raising monetary offerings, singing in the choir and listening to the preacher scream Bible lessons at us. The overall theme was “holiness.” From what I could gather, being “holy” meant being “Christ-like.” Being “Christ-like” meant an endless list of things you’re not supposed to do accompanied by another list of requirements that you are supposed to do. It was confusing. But, it was all I had ever known. Who was I to question authority?
Nearly every man in my family is a minister, and the women are “missionaries.” So, of course, it is expected for all of us to fall in line and “get saved.”
I spent most of my life trying to figure out what that really meant. I had been “saved” several times, using several different methods, only to backslide back into a life of sin. I couldn’t live up to what was expected of me.
In church, we were to repent, ask Jesus into our heart, be water-baptized, and then “tarry for the Holy Ghost.” I was 12 when I “tarried” for the Holy Ghost, and I was terrified. During a revival (a week long nightly church service), each night my friends and I were placed in a chair or on our knees in the front of the church. The musicians would play, and the church would sing. We were instructed to call the name, “Jesus,” over and over again until the Holy Spirit entered our bodies. I didn’t understand it (I still don’t), but I did it anyway. I wanted so badly for Jesus to come into my heart.
All around me, I could hear my friends jumping up and screaming, “Thank you, God, for saving me!”
I called Jesus’ name louder and harder until I started to foam at the mouth. I thought that was a sign that the Holy Spirit was trying to get in, so I screamed more.
The service ended, and the Holy Spirit had not come to me; but it had come to my friends. I was heart broken. I prayed to God and asked Him to please take away anything that’s keeping me from Him. I begged for forgiveness for everything from thinking bad words when my mom made me mad to lying about homework. I got as “clean” as I could and tried again the next night.
And again, all around me, other kids were getting the Holy Spirit; and I wasn’t. I didn’t want my church and my family to think that I was not saved, so, after I foamed at the mouth once again, I jumped up and screamed “Thank you Jesus! Thank you Jesus!” I waved my hands in the air and praised God for the Holy Spirit.
It was a lie.
My plan was to repent and find what was keeping me from God and get rid of it so that the Holy Spirit would really come into me – but that never happened either.
As I grew older, I stopped faking it. I started to question inconsistencies that I found in my church. I was ostracized for it, of course. But I felt in my heart that I was right. I grew up and moved out on my own and joined other congregations. I was in search of a true relationship with the Lord; and from that search, I had been saved by reading a prayer from a plaque, asking Jesus into my heart, and even reading a poem. All of it was moot.
I had been in churches where we were criticized for not giving enough money, not doing fund raisers, not coming to church, not wearing long dresses, etc. Sometimes, I would sit in the back of the church with my kids and just cry. I refused to believe that this was what God intended for us.
Church was not a church. I called it the “poor man’s country club.” I refused to be a part of it anymore. So, I stopped going and started studying on my own.
I’ll never forget the day that I met a local DJ who introduced me to the concept of rightly dividing the word of truth.
I already knew this verse by heart, but, I didn’t completely understand it. Now I understand that rightly dividing the word of truth means to separate the law scriptures from the grace scriptures. Now I understand that God deals with his people differently in different dispensations. We live in the dispensation of grace, which means all of that hard work that I was doing in those churches would have never secured my salvation. Salvation is the gift of God! You don’t earn a gift! It is given with grace!
I believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose after three days for all of my sins! I believe that with all of my being and no one can take it away! Not even me!
Now I teach my children better than I was taught. I am trying to share this wonderful gift of love with as many people as possible. Who can comprehend the sacrifice that was made for us? I don’t believe that anyone who is saved and truly appreciates this great sacrifice could ever keep it a secret.
My testimony was originally published on the blog of a dear friend and fellow author, Deborah (Kuzenski) Collins. Read more uplifting and inspiring testimonies on this Grace Testimonies blog.