As a child I was raised in church. My mother was a strong woman of faith, believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. I attended services every Sunday morning and evening. I confessed my sins to the church and was baptized at age 12, but I only did this to please my mother, not for myself.
The church we attended believed we had to go to the mourner's bench and beg God to save us from the hell fire. I did this for many nights before I just finally got up and told everyone that God saved me, but in my heart I knew that He had not. I was baptized in a river, as they believed it had to be 'running' water and not in a church...It made my mother very happy.
I suffered from depression as a child and at the age of ten, I tried for the first time to take my own life. My earliest memories are of my father doing things that I thought at the time were normal - you see, he molested my three sisters and me for most of our childhood.
I got married at the age of 16 to escape the torture of my father. I had my first child at the age of 18 and was divorced by the time I was 19 years old. I remarried again at the age of 20 to a man who was 25 years my senior. I do believe I thought he was the father I had never had. I had craved love more than anything. My second husband was an alcoholic and after 2 years of abuse I divorced him as well. As a means of escape from my second husband, I remarried for the third time at the age of 22 to a man I didn't love, as I thought he was my only hope. This man was good to me and to my children. It was during this time, however, that I found my new friends - the Universal Pentecostal Church. Soon after was divorce number three, and I only 27years old.
THE UPC CHURCH
I was introduced to this church through an aunt of mine. When I first came in, they welcomed me with open arms. I had never felt this kind of warmth before in my life! This is what I had been seeking my short time on this earth - love and acceptance.
The first thing they told me was that since my husband was an unbeliever, that I was living in sin and that I could not live with him and be right with God, so I divorced him also. I wanted more than anything to be right in the eyes of God and to please my new friends.
The seed had been planted many years ago about God and I felt drawn to Him, I always tried to find Him. I felt so dirty and unworthy due to the molestation that went on with my father, but I was a faithful follower now of my new church. They had services every Sunday and Wednesday and on the other days was bible study in the pastor's home. I felt that I had to be saved to escape the hell fire I had heard about as a child, so I attended all of the services, never missing a single one - as I thought I would be damned if I had.
They had me pray to God to forgive me for my sins and once again I begged God to please forgive me. This was a daily ritual until the pastor decided that I had been saved. I was then baptized again.
It was 'normal' in our circle to do anything to please the pastor of our church, after all, I was told that our salvation depended on many things. I was not allowed to wear a pair of pants, cut my hair or wear makeup, as these were conditions of salvation. I was told that my television was evil and was instructed to get rid of it. My children were not allowed to attend proms or any other extra curricular school activity. It had gotten to the point that I didn't even belong to me anymore, I belonged to the pastor and the UPC Church.
Next was the church's requirement of being baptized in the Holy Ghost with the evidence being the act of speaking in tongues. I had never heard of tongues and didn't understand what it was all about, but if this is what it took to be right in God's eyes then this is what I would do. I did everything the pastor told me to do, which consisted of a daily ritual of being prayed over with hands all on my head and being doused in anointing oil. I tried so hard to receive to Holy Ghost for I must have this for my salvation! I spent two years trying but to no avail.
When I did not receive the gift of tongues, I was told it was because of the sin in my life. I felt an overwhelming sense of doom because I was being told that I was on my way to hell. I started to loathe the daily ritual, so much so that I found it hard to even get out of bed anymore. I fell back into a deep depression, which the church attributed to demons and they set about attempting to cast them out of me. I was terrified. I had nightmares about God coming down from His throne and cutting off my head.
After two years of this mental barrage, I decided it was time to make some changes if I was to keep what little sanity I had left. By this time, I was full of bitterness and anger. Not just at the church that I had trusted, but all of the hatred I had felt for my father came back in an increasing wave of terrible rebellion and self destruction.
When I walked away from the church, I decided to live only for myself and my children. These experiences were not easy on them - my relationship with my eldest son had deteriorated to nothing over my involvement with this church and it took several years to repair this divide, for the closeness to be there again as a mother and child should be.
For 22 years I did what I wanted to, and I certainly didn't fear God. Why? Because I just didn't care anymore. I went to bars, I got drunk and had my share of men. I was looking again for that love that I had never experienced. I really thought that love meant having sex, it was the only 'love' I had ever known with a man, you see - my father had taught me this and I had no other frame of reference.
I then became involved with a man that I worked with who was kind and gracious to me. He did not demand that I have a sexual relationship with him, he was a regular church goer and he treated me like I had never been treated before. I thought I had found the light at the end of my tunnel.
Because this man was a man of church, I was sure that God had sent him to fulfill my life. After only months of dating, I married him. This would be marriage number four. We took a cruise for our honeymoon. While we were on the ship, he told me that he was gay and wanted to annul our marriage. Well, I wanted to die. I felt like this was just the last straw! In my search for love I had once again messed up my life.
I begged God to let me die. I had always been a failure and I could not see anything ever getting any better, I felt like I had no purpose in life anymore. I sunk into the depression once again, and cursed God everyday for not letting me die, as I didn't have enough courage at that time to do it myself.
The next thing I knew, I found myself hospitalized in the mental ward. I had been there several times in my life as I was diagnosed with bi-polar depression at the age of 18. This time was different. This time I believed I would not return home again. My mind was at the breaking point, between my father, my failed relationships and the UPC Church, I had decided it was time to leave this world. Looming on my mind was garnering the courage to carry this out, to be done with this shambles of a life once and for all.
I returned to work after being released from the hospital but I carried with me the fact that I no longer had the will to live. I indeed went through the motions of living but I was dead inside - there was no feeling anymore for God or anything else.
I decided one day that I had had enough. Today was to be the day - today I would die. I came home from work, I got the pills out and I had everything ready to go. Suddenly and for no reason, the tears started to fall. I cried like I have never cried in my life!
I got my dusty old bible out and I started reading. I fell to my knees and I cried out to God. I asked him to show me that His love was there for me. For the first time in my life, I truly felt like I was in the presence of God. It felt like He reached in my body and replaced my heart with a new heart! He lifted my soul and made me feel clean again.
He removed the dirt, filth and grime I had put there throughout my life and He had mercy on me.
I welcomed him into my heart and my life as I finally understood that it is a gift freely given, I knew then that I did not have to speak in tongues to be accepted, that I could not earn my way into Heaven. He died for us all. He shed His precious Blood for all, and for me too. He hid a multitude of my sins and He saw them no more - all I ever had to do was call out to him! Seek and you shall find.
God was always there calling me. I just had to stop and listen to His voice. God has healed my mind, He has shown me how to forgive those that wronged me, and He is helping me mend my relationship with my father.
I now have the assurance that one day I will see Jesus face to face. For the first time in my life, I have peace and I have joy. I have been walking with Him everyday for the last two years now and I couldn't feel more loved. Most importantly, I have finally found out what love and acceptance really feels like.
I still have my struggles in life, but I know now that God does not promise me that I will not have these things, but with God I can handle what comes my way, with Him all things are possible. I now go to bed with Jesus on my mind and in my heart and I wake up with Jesus on my mind and in my heart.
These are the verses He gave me that day and will always be with me...
Matthew 11:28-30 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
I only live now to serve God and bring Him Glory. I thank Him everyday for having mercy on an 'ole sinner like me.
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