My Salvation Testimony

I thought I should start at the beginning, and include my testimony here, so you can know how I met my dearest friend Jesus.

I did not grow up in a Christian home. My parents were both alcoholics, and so my childhood was quite dysfunctional. Of course, I didn’t know that until I was much older. When you grow up in a home like that, you just think its the norm of how families are, until you get a bit older and see other families that aren’t like yours. I may not have understood the term ‘dysfunctional’ when I was young; but I know I was frustrated that the hoops we were supposed to jump through as children kept changing, and stability was definitely not a given in our home, to say the least.

There were 4 of us children in our family, and I am third from the top. Girl, boy, girl (me), girl. All that comes with alcoholism was rampant in our home. At some point, I came to understand that my parents truly did love us, but they loved the bottle more. We were abused verbally, physically, and emotionally, especially my brother, for some much speculated upon, but unknown reason; even to this day. In spite of all this dysfunction, I do remember & cling to, many loving & happy times throughout the years, and strong moral standards that were taught to us, although probably a bit hypocritically so.

My maternal grandmother came to live with us when I was about a year old. She took care of us while our parents worked. She was probably the most stabilizing influence in our home, but she went “off-duty,” so to speak, at about 5 every night, and, whether our parents were home or not, we made do. Most nights they came home from work around 5, but the weekends were their bar and heavy drinking nights, so it was a given that they would come home drunk and fighting and then “recuperating” with even more drink all weekend long. We, even as young children usually knew to “get out of dodge” if at all possible, or be subject to whatever mood the drink put them in. Although it may start out somewhat civil, it always went south. I know I cried myself to sleep many a night, and I felt very lonely at times. I craved attention and affection, but wouldn’t let you know that’s what I wanted. I was somewhat “untouchable” and earned the nicknames from my mother “cold-fish” and “Pushmi-Pullyu” from the two-headed llama in the Dr. Doolittle series. I think I simply felt it was unjustifiable to cruelly yell and hit at me, or demean me the night before, and then want hugs the next day.

I don’t know if it was because of my Grandmother, who I always shared a room with, but I can’t remember a time when I didn’t believe in God. I always believed that He was there, and that I should pray to Him, and that He was watching. My Grandmother would read her big black Bible, mostly on the weekends, where she would catch up on her week and read 7 chapters all at once to complete her ‘daily’ Bible reading. She would check them off as she read them. She would quote verses she had memorized. The one I remember most was Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.” My grandmother had some serious O.C.D and so she would rock and repeat these verses over and over. So, I learned them. And I learned the Bible was important. I had a Bedtime Bible Story Book that I would read over and over from beginning to end, I guess imitating my Grandmother. I learned all the major stories of the Bible that way.

I remember wanting desperately to know God. From very early on, I know I believed in God. I knew about Him; I prayed to Him, but I always had this strong compelling desire to really know Him. I remember begging our parents to take us to church. We would faithfully on Sunday morning watch preaching shows on TV, and cartoons like the old Davey and Goliath, but our parents wouldn’t take us to church. My father had been raised Catholic, and my mother was raised Evangelical. My father’s mother seemed mad at him for not marrying a good Catholic girl, although he was far from a “good Catholic” himself. Maybe this denominational difference made church an area of conflict for them… I don’t really know, but they just laughed at the request when I, or one of my siblings, brought it up.

At some point, my oldest sister was invited to go to church with some friends from high school. She went, and kept on going. She invited my brother and he went. This was during the early 70’s, and the church was a small Southern Baptist church in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, with a growing bus ministry. Thank God for those bus ministry’s in the 70’s and 80’s!  My sister and brother became active in the youth ministry of the church, and went to lots of teen-age outings with them. They both got saved soon after; my sister at a James Robison Crusade, and my brother at a Billy Graham Crusade in Cleveland, I think in 1972. He was just a young teenager, but knew when God was calling his name, and he went forward and committed his life to Christ.

I don’t always have a good memory for details, but I do know that in May of 1973, my brother and I got in a conversation in the hallway to my (and my grandmother’s) bedroom. I was 12 years old at the time. My brother, who was probably 14 at this point, was telling me how to be saved. I know I kept arguing with him over what he was saying, and I seriously remember my hands being clenched. My argument was “If I do more good things in life than bad things, I will get to go to Heaven!” and he kept patiently explaining that it wasn’t about doing good things at all. “Salvation comes from recognizing that you are a sinner, and being sorry for your sins. Then asking Jesus to forgive you for your sins, repenting and asking Him to come into your heart.”

I was a little fighter, even back then, and kept arguing, tooth and nail that “No! That wasn’t right! I just had to be good enough and I’d go to heaven.” But even though I was arguing so strongly on the outside, on the inside I felt the Holy Spirit tugging on my heart. I didn’t know it was the Holy Spirit, but I KNEW immediately that what my brother was telling me was true. But I still kept fighting! Part of my argument was to ask him “How? How do you do that again?” And every time he’d repeat the plan of salvation, my inner heart would verify it was true. I determined that I was going to pray that night, after my grandmother went to sleep. I didn’t tell my brother that…. Just kept on arguing for working my way to Heaven.

That night, I stayed up real late, waiting to hear those familiar sounds of my sleeping grandmother in the bed beside mine. Then I knelt beside my bed, and prayed. An extremely earnest, faith of a child, prayer. I did know I was a sinner. I was on my way to hell. I had even recently dreamed of dying and going to hell; a very graphic dream, that I now believe God allowed me to have as a stepping stone to my salvation. I knew without a doubt Jesus had died for me on the cross, and risen again on the third day. I had devoured those truths from my Bible Story Book for years. The only thing I had to let go of was that I could work my way to Heaven, and I did let go of that false & debilitating belief on that night.

I prayed and told God how very sorry I was for all my sins; sorry for being a sinner! I asked His forgiveness, and asked, (repeatedly!) for Him to come into my heart. I was crying my heart out beside that bed. I kept on asking… (OCD runs deep in my family!) until, at some point, I heard a gentle & loving whisper inside of me that told me, “I’m here!” I felt a huge burden lifted from my shoulders! Peace replaced that burden. I may have been only 12, but I knew instinctively that God had changed the course of my life. I believe God’s grace reached out to me in a tangible way so I would be especially comforted, and fully cognizant of the confirmed answer to my salvation prayer. Remember, I was the “cold-fish, Pushmi-Pullyu” child who pushed away physical expressions of love, although I desired it so deeply. I had no one to confirm this new faith with me, since I still wasn’t allowed to go to church. I don’t recall telling my brother what I had done, and it probably wasn’t known by him till years later that he had actually been the one to lead me to the Lord.

My younger sister also got saved at some point close to mine, and also because of the witness of our brother. She was around 10. Because we were younger, my mother wouldn’t allow us to catch the Church bus. My older sister and brother were going with their friends early in order to work on church busses as teen helpers. I remember praying for 6 months to be allowed to go to church. I would ask nearly every week. My younger sister asked too. Sometime in early December, we asked again on a chilly Sunday morning if we could catch the Church Bus as it went by our driveway.

“Yes, go ahead” my mother said. I have no memory of what flurry must have ensued after that… getting dressed for church and running to the end of the driveway with my younger sister, in time for the familiar painted bus to go by… But I will never forget the look on the bus driver and helper’s face when they stopped the bus and we said, “Our mother said we can go to church today!” And we did. Faithfully every Sunday, becoming bus workers ourselves, until we left for college.

God is good! I know I am a changed life. My family was changed because of God’s faithful love. My mother years later became a Christian herself, and a few years after that was delivered from alcohol.  I’m not sure about my father, but I have hope.  He died young from cirrosis of the liver from many years of drinking. Those are stories for other days. This is my personal salvation testimony, and 44 years later, I am still in AWE of my Savior reaching down and embracing this little lonely & broken girl in His Loving and Saving arms.

For that, I am eternally grateful.