Most testimonies are conversion stories. Having grown up in church, I don’t really have a conversion story. I do, however, have stories of how my faith has changed over my life. The most dramatic change happened in college.
Growing up, even though I attended church, I didn’t know what faith or grace were. I only knew that there were things you did, and things you didn’t do, and they put you in one of two camps: saved or not saved. It wasn’t until I was 17 that I got my first inkling that there was more to Christianity than rules.
I was always hungry to know more about faith, and went to a Christian college partly to dig into it. I expected going to a Christian college to help me define my faith more. But instead, it blurred everything. Instead, I was sent on a downward spiral that I can trace through classes and professors. My professors had told me, in so many words, that Christianity was really just one of many ways humans design to get closer to God. This shook and shattered me, because if there was one thing I absolutely knew about Christianity, it was that it was exclusive and that it was real, not just a construct. But I trusted my professors’ word as I did any authority figure or mentor. What they said had to be true. Everything I had ever been told or believed was a lie.
It was in this place that I met my future husband.
In a place where I wasn’t even sure if God existed or if Christianity was real, I knew beyond any shadow of a doubt that God had brought me S and that I was going to marry him.
Our dating was lightning fast, our engagement swung madly between blissful and dreadful. So many of our conversations were fights, because an angry young woman trying to burn bridges with the world was deeply aching for a lasting relationship. Because a young woman who wanted to throw Christ in God’s face was desperately looking for reasons to hold on to Him.
Toward the end of our engagement, we had a particularly brutal, at least for me, session of premarital counseling. Our counselor was a pastor from a church S used to attend. He was a stranger to me and I had no desire whatsoever to open up to him about my spiritual state. I threw up as many hedges and walls and deflections about it as I could muster. The pastor obliterated them. He shoved them all aside and demanded to know point-blank if I believed in Jesus Christ’s sacrifice for my sins. It had been years since I’d cried about my spiritual bankruptcy. Sobbing, I said, “Yes.”
It was all I had.
But I had thought I had nothing.
And somehow I still had Christ; or rather, He had me.
He had me.
College had destroyed what faith I had. But in the way things happened with S, God showed me that He was still at work. Because of that, deciding to marry Stephen wasn’t so much a self-determined proclamation that S and I would “make it work” no matter what, as it was a quiet statement that, yes, I did believe God was still at work, even in the middle of the darkest spiritual night I’d ever seen. I did still believe He was real, somewhere on a level I didn’t even know existed before He brought me there. It reminds me of Psalm 139.
“Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.”
Our marriage for the first 3-4 years basically consisted of me rebuilding my faith from the ground up. I did it very slowly, deliberately, and analytically, weighing every brick separately many, many times, before finally deciding to plaster on the cement and press the brick in.
By 2012, I had planted enough bricks for a foundation. And this was the foundation: Christ was sacrificed in my place as an atonement for my sins, so that I can stand before and dwell within the presence of a holy God. Nothing intrinsic to myself led God to do this for me. It was purely His grace and mercy. “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” Exodus 33:19