You may find this page boring. Perhaps you've tried Church, maybe have even been baptized, and decided that it just wasn't for you. Could you please take just a minute, and read the following. It won't take too long, and won't cost you anything. But it may save your life.
It seems that I was born searching for something more, something better to do with my life. From the earliest age I can remember I was always shy, somewhat of a social outcast. My parents did, I guess, the best that they could do. Dad worked constantly as a self employed furniture upholsterer, and Mom stayed home and kept the household going. Rarely did either of my parents have time to spend with us kids, so we sought out another family unit. You see, I not only wanted, but absolutely had to have some sort of love. I felt worthless and desperately needed someone to show me that they cared. Not getting this at home, I pursued false love through theft, drugs, and vandalism.
I smoked my first cigarette when I was 11 years old, and drank my first beer (stolen, of course) shortly afterward. I and my two "friends", Bennie and Ricky, formed an exclusive club called ITOA. The name was foolish, for ITOA stood for "International Thieves of America", and we certainly weren't "International". We were a group of teenagers who thought theft was cool, and thought that the world owed us whatever we wanted. We would often boldly walk into grocery stores with brown paper sacks under our arms, calmly go to the cigarette display case, and help ourselves. While one member distracted the store manager we'd calmly walk out the door with our haul. You see, it was a point of pride to see how much we could get away with. And we got away with a lot, always re-selling the cigarettes at the High School we went to for about 25 cents a pack. What a life! In this pitiful little gang I found the love and attention I always wanted. And as an added bonus, I was making a nice little profit. Raised poor, this was perhaps the greatest benefit of all.
When I reached 15 years old I was introduced to "pot", and some of the other 'ingested' drugs. Quite frankly, though, these drugs seemed to have little effect on me. I've always had a high tolerance to any type of drug, so if I wanted to "get high" sour mash whiskey was my best bet. You'd be surprised how many adults will buy kids alcohol if you offer them a little pocket change. I wasn't addicted to the alcohol either, but I was addicted to the feeling of euphoria that I got when I drank it.
When I was 16 years old I decided that, quite frankly, I'd had enough of my family. Dad was a strict authoritarian, and it was getting hard to hide my stash from him. He'd already found a bunch of condoms that I had hidden, and I can't explain the trouble I got in over that. Anyway, it was time to go. If I was to go, why not go out in style?
I found another "friend" who was equally dissatisfied with his life at home, and we started planning on our big getaway. I found Dad's 22 caliber pistols and squirreled them away. I also stole some money for the trip. The next morning (having emptied the house of groceries late that night) I jumped in the family car (stolen), picked up my friend, and took off.
Our plan was simple: We were going to Malibu Beach, California, and we were going to party all the way. Believe it or not we got all the way from Raleigh, North Carolina, to Malibu Beach before we were picked up by the State Police. I have no idea how we got so far without being stopped, or even killed. You see, neither one of us cared about anyone or anything besides ourselves. Once caught we were both thrown in Juvenile Hall till Dad came to get us. I'd have just as soon stayed there as have him come and get me out. He flew out to get us, but we drove all the way back home. Let me tell you, that was a long ride!
When I got home Mom, with tears in her eyes, asked me "Why?". I couldn't really tell her why, I just knew I was missing something. My parents were at wits end. They were planning on moving the family business to the North Carolina coast, but I certainly didn't want to go. Since I had begun my last year of High School (and wasn't really trying), Dad decided to leave me in Raleigh while the family moved to the coast. I could stay in the family home until I graduated, then I had to do something with my life.
After they left me in Raleigh the loneliness became even greater, and my need for love and recognition became stronger. The gang and I started to vandalize property (cars, houses, schools) late at night. Again, it was a rush! And I felt like I belonged. You see, the need to belong is strong in all of us, we just usually fail to acknowledge that need. I desperately wanted the loneliness to go away.
A few months after my family went Ricky stopped participating in our little outings. I started picking on him, especially after I found out that he's joined a Church. I and my other "friends" picked on Ricky incessantly, but that old "holy roller" wouldn't fight back. One day he invited me to his Church. Quite frankly, I went just to see if I could disrupt the services.
Oddly enough, I expected to be as out of place as a fly in a bowl of soup. It wasn't that way at all. The service was a youth meeting, and during the meeting they showed a movie called "The Rapture". I wish I could find that movie again, it was great. After the movie the Pastor stood at the front and said:
"There's someone out there tonight that needs to accept Jesus as Savior. God is telling me that this is his last chance to be saved."
Sitting on the back row I smirked, silently thinking "What an idiot!". At that moment I felt a hand on my right shoulder, looked up, and NO ONE was there! I looked back at the Pastor, a little shook (I have to admit), and he again said:
"Please come forward! You need to accept Jesus as Savior. God is telling me that this is your last chance to be saved."
At that exact moment I felt a hand on my right shoulder AGAIN. I looked, and again there was no one there (other than, I believe, God). At that moment I got up and accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior.
You may think that this is all fanciful bilge, garbage, something I made up. But I tell you that Jesus Christ changed my life, and possibly saved yours. I was a loaded gun out of control, and it wouldn't have been long before I killed someone. Jesus came to pay for what we couldn't hope to pay for, our own shortcomings and sinful nature. You might think, "I'm not a bad person. In fact, I'm pretty good". No, you're not, and neither am I. The Bible says:
Romans 3:10 "As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one.."
If offered a choice between a quick profit or hard work, any of us would pick the former, even if it meant 'going beyond the boundary'. We all have a predisposition toward sin. Look at our prisons. They don't rehabilitate anyone, because they treat the symptom, not the disease. The disease is that we are committed, in our own selves, to do wrong. Jesus provides us a way out of this evil entrapment:
1 John 2:16 "For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world."
1 John 4:5 "They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them."
1 John 4:14 "And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world."
He has paid for your sins, just as He paid for mine. And if you only accept Him as your Savior you will be freed from bondage, and brought into the glorious peace of Christ. After having read this, and you feel that it's just not for you, would you do one thing? The next time you're lonely, the next time you feel lost, would you dwell on these words:
Matthew 11:28-30 "Come unto me, all ye that labor 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."
Won't you give Christ a chance. Not the Church, not some denomination, not some club, or pagan god, or even a friend or loved one. Give Christ a chance. And please, feel free to write me. I can direct you to Bible studies, Christian resources, and whatever you need to grow as a Christian. Or just write me if you're undecided and want to talk some more. If you let this decision go unmade until after death, you'll have wasted two lives: the life you could have lived on this earth, and the eternal life you could have had in Heaven.
In His Service: David...
I too was searching for something. I was not a "loaded gun" as you say, but my life was falling down around me and I had no idea how to pick it up.
You see, I had moved from my family in Illinois and went with my husband to live with his family in Virginia. Most of the time I spent there they were trying to convert me into Judaism. I wanted nothing to do with any "religious" stuff. Well, one thing led to another (I wouldn't be brainwashed) and I got kicked out by his stepmother and father. I came back home in May and found out that my parents had given their lives to Christ and wished for me to do the same. Fearing that I was being put in the same place all over again, I told them flat out that I wanted nothing to do with church, Christ, or any of this stuff. Luckily, they backed off and let me do my thing. But, that wasn't what I wanted. I too was feeling very lonely (especially since my marriage was failing and I had a 3 yr. old to take care of) and I just wanted to crawl into a hole and never come out.
My parents saw how depressed I was and began encouraging me to start attending the Sunday services. I did and I instantly felt welcome but I still wanted nothing to do with "giving my life away" to God. I started attending the midweek community nights, and started feeling more and more welcome. I started learning more and more and soon I was feeling like I should give my life away. I wanted a personal relationship with Christ.
A woman approached me and asked me if I was ready to accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I told her I was and we went went into a room and she prayed with me. That was in October of '96.
I lived life as a "baby", learning whatever I could. I was loving every minute of it also!!! Then I heard about getting baptized. I told my pastor that I was ready for a public display of my faith and he baptized me in August of 97.
Life after my baptism has been a roller coaster. Not a bad roller coaster but full of ups, downs, twists and turns. It has been one heck of a ride!!!! God has given me so much in the past 2.5 yr.!!!! My relationship with my daughter has progressed, I respect my parents a lot more than I did before. I have a yearning to learn more (I hated school or learning before). He also has given me my husband back. My husband and I are working on reconciliation!!!!
That is my story. Please feel free to publish this and let others know what Christ has done for me. Thank you for having this page where people can come and learn more about Christ.
Growing up, I envisioned myself someday transforming into a tall, graceful, slender woman, sort of an "ugly duckling" ideology, I suppose, far removed from reality. That didn't stop me, however, from nearly killing myself, trying to achieve the elusive goal of perfection. For nearly 14 years, I alternately struggled with and embraced anorexia nervosa and bulimia. The struggle involved every area of my life: my health, family, relationships, beliefs, attitudes, and my faith in God. I embraced my eating disorder out of deep-seated fear -- over time, my identity became so intertwined with BEING anorexic and bulimic that I didn't know who I was without it. It became my only comfort and best friend; it was a panacea for anger and loneliness, and ultimately the greatest source of them as well.
I was raised in an alcoholic family. Like many children in similar circumstances, I felt responsible for other people's happiness. Somewhere along the line I got the impression that if only I could be perfect and please everyone, my life would fall into place. Chaos ruled in our house; emotions were volatile and rules were inconsistent, so I never knew quite what to expect from my family. Nearly two decades later, I'm finally gaining some insight into why my parents acted the way they did, and cannot imagine going through the experiences they faced growing up. At the time, all I could gather from my observations was that keeping up appearances was far more important then honesty. This attitude was confusing for me as I grew older and began to realize that other families weren't like ours. I became adept at hiding my feelings beneath a facade of normalcy. My dad was distant and seldom seemed pleased with me -- no matter how hard I tried, or how well I performed, nothing I did gained his love or approval. I felt like I was invisible.
Shy and bookish, I had a difficult time making friends. Relating to people my own age was hard; I was more comfortable in the company of adults or younger children. School was a mixed blessing, as I loved (and still love) learning, and academics came easily to me, but I was often teased because I was overweight and dressed differently. I wasn't obese, yet in my mind I assumed huge proportions. Eating was a "safe" outlet for the confusion, loneliness, and hurt I shoved down under the surface. Food wouldn't call me names like 'fatty fatty two by four' or 'thunder thighs'. It gave me an escape, or so I thought, and a sense of security and control; in spite of all the things in my life that were beyond my influence, no one could control what I would or would not choose to eat.
In my freshman year of high school, I learned about using self-induced vomiting for weight control from a classmate. Initially, I thought it was disgusting, and wondered how anyone could do something like that to themselves, yet at the same time, in a dark corner of my mind, I was considering it, rationalizing it: well, if it works ... maybe I'll try it ... just this once. No one who develops an eating disorder or other addiction intends to become an addict. In 1984 there wasn't much information available about eating disorders, and being naive (who isn't at 14?), I believed I was invincible. I was just controlling my weight, I reasoned, and besides, I wasn't hurting anyone else, so it was okay. Finally, I didn't have to diet anymore, didn't have to listen to comments from my classmates, my mother, or my doctor, and I could eat without restraint, and without worrying about gaining weight. Simultaneously, I was elated -- and ashamed, because on some level, I knew that my behavior was abnormal.
Slowly, I began to isolate myself from the world, making excuses to avoid any social activities involving food. Eating in front of other people was taboo. My personality changed drastically; I had wild mood swings and was often irritable. Depressed and convinced that no one -- not God, my family, or friends, cared about what was happening to me, I withdrew further as my illness progressed. Over an eleven year period, I tried to curtail my behavior, drifting in and out of treatment programs. At one point, I became so despondent that I attempted suicide. Part of me wanted to be well, but the part that most often won out seemed bent on self-destruction.
I had grown up going to church and Sunday school, attending confirmation classes, but I was only going through the motions. Deep inside my heart, I was empty. God, in my estimation, was much like my earthly father: distant, uncommunicative, and impossible to please. How on earth would I ever gain God's acceptance and love, if I couldn't even earn it from my dad?
On the evening of June 19, 1996, everything changed. I went for a walk, as was my habit, one that usually covered about four miles. That night, I only went two blocks. As I approached our church, I felt compelled to go inside. Although I was technically a member, it was in name only. (Normally, you would have had to drag me in by the hair.) Going to church made me feel guilty and uncomfortable; I felt out of place, as if I were intruding. I had intended for some time to speak with Pastor, so I thought I'd just stop and make an appointment, but as the midweek service was about to begin, I turned around at the top of the stairs and started back down, hoping that no one had seen me. Something made me turn around and climb those stairs again, and I timidly walked into the sanctuary and sat down in a pew, trying to look as inconspicuous as possible, which was a bit difficult when you consider that I was wearing neon-pink wind pants and carrying a Walkman.
The service itself was nothing out of the ordinary, until Pastor began the sermon. It was based on Matthew 9:9-12, telling of the calling of Matthew, and how Jesus answered the Pharisees who questioned his eating with tax collectors and sinners -- "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners." Those few verses of Scripture cut me to the heart; it was the first time in my life that I truly heard the Gospel message. After the service had ended, I waited until most of the others had left, and asked Pastor if I could talk to him. There was a couple scheduled for counseling at that time, but they never arrived. With a broken voice, and after I had gone through a half dozen Kleenex, I told him about my eating disorder, and what a mess I had made of my life; how I wanted so badly to be connected with other people and to believe that my life had a purpose, when all the evidence so far suggested otherwise. God was there all along, waiting patiently, even though I had turned my back on him in pride and anger.
I've heard that the hardest part of recovery is admitting that you need help; personally, I believe that the most difficult thing is to let go, and then to persevere. I spent years blaming God, the doctors, my parents, therapists and programs for not "curing" me, when all along I was sabotaging my chances for success because I was too afraid to let go of my addiction. In treatment, the popular consensus is that you need to learn to love yourself before other people can love you. I think the people that believe that have it backwards. Learning that I was loved unconditionally, by a loving heavenly Father, allowed me to open up to love and trust in my relationships with others, and then, finally, to begin making peace with myself. As a woman in our culture, it's hard not to be influenced by the media and societal attitudes about female beauty. The images are everywhere, and I still struggle at times with wanting to achieve that, but I know now, thankfully, that I am not alone, and that I can't rely on my own shaky sense of control to deal with life's problems.
2 Corinthians 12:9-12 says: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.' This is what I cling to, and where my hope lies.
Peace to you,
... Joanne :)
Please write me if you have committed your life to Christ, or if you just want to talk. God Bless you!
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