Click on the video to listen to me talk about how I became a believer in Jesus Christ, or scroll below to read my testimony instead.
I wish I could share the whole story in depth of how I started to follow Jesus in writing, but unfortunately I do want to protect those who have been changed from old, sin-loving creatures into new regenerated ones. Some details have been changed, but you’ll get the gist of the picture.
My Cultural Context
When I was about 14 years old, my parents moved me to this town in the middle of nowhere called Pickens. That year at the start of my high school career, I was in the middle of one of my social chameleon changes when a classmate asked me an important question. The classmate, a beautiful Southern blonde who was very loved in that community, asked me a simple question, “Do you know who Jesus is?”
Well, I had lived in the South my whole entire life, and the obvious answer was yes. Everyone knows who Jesus is. When I responded affirmatively, the beautiful blonde didn’t push the issue further, though she did confess to me later she was scared of me.
She was scared because I was swaying between rocker and goth identities and couldn’t make up my mind. I really couldn’t live out my identity as a mixed Native American child so I would jump back and forth between identities, never really settling fully on one. The longest chameleon period I had was when I acculturated into African American culture five years prior. I had made a transition from that stage honestly because of some very strong racial tensions in Pickens which I didn’t have the guts to stand up against.
But her question started me on a journey of deep thinking, though. Why was she asking me if I knew who Jesus was if I look like I knew who Jesus was? Does that mean I don’t look like I know who he is? Am I a Christian?
Painful Memories of Sexual Abuse
During this process of thinking, I was also struggling with painful memories from my past. I was coming to an age when I could think about the sexual abuse I had received as a small child and hate the person who caused the pain. This person who had sexually molested me for four years from the age of four to eight frequently became the target of my angry thoughts. I remember looking at a child around the same age, “I could never do something like that to a child. Disgusting.” I wanted this person to die. I wanted humiliation, retribution. I remember I wrote down in several school papers about this happening to me, but it wasn’t until much later that a school counselor was ever notified. I was in so much pain.
So when my mom gave me the Bible I had asked for, she encouraged me to start with the Gospel of Matthew rather than straight through. I then read about a holy God who proved that everyone was sinful but that he called all of these sinners to be holy. He explained that anger was the same as murder, that lust was the same as adultery. He revealed that the hearts of men are wicked and that they cannot ever obtain to the perfection of God to receive eternal rest and renewal. This God even came to save his own people but they were so rebellious they rejected him. They didn’t even want him or his salvation, even though they were following the very religion meant to lead them to this God. What on earth was he going to do?
And he loved them. He poured out his life on these people who hated him. He died for their sins and loved them while they hated him. He poured out his grace and they were changed. I remembered all the things I had done as a preteen. I remembered the sexual immorality I had experienced through the urban culture where I had lived prior to Pickens – the songs, the clothes, the self-pursued sexual encounters that began when I was 11 years old, and the way I used my body to seduce my male peers to get more of what I wanted. I had chased a 19-year-old man when I was 12. I knew what I was doing and yet I really didn’t understand the consequences of what the sexual exaltation did to my heart.
I wanted this God. I knew he was God. And so when I read Matthew 18, knowing full well how deeply I needed grace, I wasn’t expecting the cost. In Matthew 18, a servant in huge debt is about to be thrown into jail by his master because he cannot pay the debt. Servant (me) begs the master (Jesus) to be relieved of this debt because it’s so big and so wide it can never be paid for by the servant’s own means. The master forgives the servant. Well this same servant happens to be asked by someone else for forgiveness for their debt. That second debt is so much smaller, but the forgiven servant (me) takes the other servant by the neck and harasses him to pay. Then the forgiven servant (me) throws that other servant into jail. The master hears about this and rebukes the unforgiving servant (me) and then throws him into jail, too.
I saw myself as that servant clearly, and I saw the person who molested me as the second servant. I wanted to be forgiven of all that lust, of all the sexual immorality I had committed against my own body, which falls short of the perfect standard and glory of God. But I wanted to murder my abuser instead, not forgive. And so that night in the darkness of the room, I begged for forgiveness and for a heart that would be able to forgive.
My story with being a terrible servant doesn’t end here, but it needs to side step to say that eventually the one who abused me was changed too. Eventually it was God’s plan to make this person a new creation in Jesus too. Salvation belongs to us both now! The person had a chance to seek reconciliation with me due to a changed, regenerate heart and indwelling Spirit. I don’t believe that people cannot change and that once offenders always offenders. I believe that only by an absolute miracle can an abuser and the one abused be reconciled. And because of my testimony I will always say, my God is mighty to save.
Photo: The Kitty Girl (Flickr). That is actual downtown Pickens, South Carolina