I was raised in a home where the parents didn’t socialize with other people so I never had a clue that the term “abused” fit us for the treatment we received in our very private home. As for school, I just assumed that you didn’t complain or talk about certain things. But in my emotions, I could always relate with biographies like “A Child Called It” more than teenage play, pranks or rebellion. Neither of my parents received Jesus during their years of child-rearing and turning 18 and leaving was an escape for safety, not a rite of passage.
When I was 17 and near a nervous breakdown, I knew one night that I had to get out that night: it was too dangerous to stay. I had been looking towards religion and for a perfect church and the correct belief system that whole year. But my depression grew as did my search. But my search got deep and more personal and less outward. It became a groping and a hunger accompanied by a feeling of doom and hopeless and purposelessness. I had investigated Armstrongism, Mormonism and Jehovah Witnesses, but I also had a Bible and as sweet as these neighbors were I could read and what I read in my Bible told me that their belief systems did not fit with God. But this was all intellectual work. (Feeding the spirit with studies of the mind doesn’t work). In my “inner man”, ( a term I would only come to know later), in the pit of my existence, my human spirit, I didn’t know if there was a God.
At that point I was in an apartment with a friend, it was 2 months before my 18th birthday and I was overwhelmed with sadness. I made a pact (with myself? With God?), I don’t know with who but it was a vow I would keep: I gave myself two weeks to either find or have this Christian God I’d been told about earlier that month, give me a purpose to live or I would get off the planet; I would commit suicide.
Let me tell you of my encounters with stories of this God and how and when they came up. I turned 17 in October and went to see “The Cross and the Switchblade” in the theater. I accepted that this kind of thing happens for some. In April I found the book and bought it. It made me hungrier. At some point I wrote to the author’s counseling center. In July my father put me in a dangerous predicament and two days later did it again. I moved out that night, under the guise of spending the night with a friend in town, as you’ve read, I never went back.
Hating my father’s drinking, at my deepest depression, I turned to his depression-reliever, alcohol. One night I was drunk and a stranger picked me up and took me clear across town on his motorcycle (so I wasn’t much better at keeping myself out of danger than my father was). I was too drunk to be sensible so the stranger left me. It was dark but I thought, ”what the hey”, and in a short dress, I climbed a chain link fence and dove into a public swimming pool. It sobered me a little. I climbed back over the fence and fell, tearing my finger on the top of the chain link. (It’s a scar I now treasure).
I walked around the park until I saw a sleeping bag and stood and stared at it. I remember still, with a smile. a man, about 10 years older than I, slowly pulling his sleeping bag down over his hair, his forehead, his eyes, and when I saw his eyes I put my hands on my hips and asked, “What are you doing here”? He saw the blood dripping from my hand, I saw the cross he wore glinting in the moonlight. He sat up and pulled me down and took out his first-aid kit and cleaned my finger. “Are you a Christian?”, I spit the words. “Yes. Yes! I am !“ he said, the conviction in his tone strengthening. He talked me into staying with him and gave me use of his sleeping bag, while he slept a little distance away, leaning against a tree. In the morning I was sober and embarrassed. He made me coffee and he talked to me about God. I refuted what he was saying; something as simple as God cares for you, something I didn’t believe. We got loud with each other, he insisting that his God cared, I insisting that He didn’t! He got the last word, I grew silent. He took me home on his motorcycle, took down my address and wrote me four letters in a week. He explained, the sacrifice, the substitute, the cross, the care, the love. I, pondered, needing this to be true, feeling numb, empty, like the pain of this life was pointless.
Somewhere during this time there was a visit with a pastor who prayed with me but I didn’t really understand the message that there was a Savior, so the prayer was just a grouping of words for me and it was about as effective. On August 24, 1973 a letter came from the Teen Challenge Counseling Center with the words of a prayer. I read that letter and thought to myself, “This is just the way I feel”. In my desperation I would not have asked anyone for anything or believed that anyone would give anything to me, so I never did pray the prayer as a request. But I read it the second time, with longing and I guess God knew I finally had heard and understood the gospel and wanted it. Jesus was sent to save each person on an individual basis, by an individual invitation for Him to come into their life, bringing His Kingdom of Light with Him. I went to bed as depressed as ever. But a funny thing happened. When morning came, before I opened my eyes, I was aware of a difference, a viva la difference! And I sat up-right in bed! And I realized He had done it for me! I had been born again! I didn’t know the correct words! But I felt light, forgiven, I felt love for others. I Felt Loved! It was amazing! It was like walking around in shades of gray all my life and suddenly waking up one day and finding that everything was in Technicolor! I knew that what had happened to the people in that book had happened to me. That God owned me and wanted me, like a family member. Some may not understand what I’m saying here, but I felt cherished!
My belief was (and is) that there is a very personal God who longs to be personal with each one of us, valued, treasured. He arranged for His son Jesus Christ to become one of us, so His perfectly lived life could take on a punishment He did not deserve. So He could give that punishment, as a gift of substitution to each one of us and all we need to do is be hungry for Him, our Creator, want Him in our personal life and make the attempt at letting Him be Govenor, which we’re not too good at, but already long ago were forgiven our weaknesses, including this one. My prayer was similar to this one: Lord God, I believe in Jesus, I believe He is the Son of God, I believe He came and died for me, I believe He took my place, and that He spiritually-legally, actually died when He didn’t deserve to, making a trade available: His death for my eternal life, a place in the family, a legally leaving satan’s kingdom to be translated to His own. He ransomed me! Thank you!!! Come into my heart, stay in my life forever, let me not leave this place of intimacy with you and help me to stay watchful of all You are doing and be ready to do your bidding while you work for the salvation of others. Give me guidance, Give me peace. In Jesus Name, Thank you for giving me new birth and a place at the supper of the Lamb! Well, I know more theology now so it was a little different from that but He heard me as He will hear you. The only requirement for salvation is hunger for your Creator Jesus on the inside of you, now and forever. It is possible. He is here. Now. With you. Waiting. Pray. I’ll be praying for you. Have a Bright Forever! Simply, Wonderously, His, Janet