Jun-30-09

My Story

posted by mrsnunar

I want to start out by saying thanks for visiting. You are invited to keep reading what will quite possibly be the most important information you’ve ever heard. If you’ve already heard it or are skeptical, I invite you to read on with an open mind. My story is unlike any other you will hear.

I grew up in a common American religion. Going to church every week, my parents were faithful and involved. I was in many activities like handbell choir, children’s choirs, youth group,  and went to Sunday School like I was supposed to while my parents participated in numerous church groups and were popular church members. I once won a Sunday School contest to see who could read through the whole Bible. You were supposed to put a popcorn kernel in a jar for every verse you read. I went home and skimmed the books as fast as I could and came in the next week with a jar full of popcorn and a proud smile on my face. I really thought I was the best Christian in the class. I was baptized as a baby and “confirmed” when I was 15 just like all my friends. I said all the words I was supposed to say and thought I was doing the “right thing” by being a good Christian girl.  We moved 6 times around the Midwest before I was in High School. I was a people pleaser and I became an expert at trying to please people in order to make new friends. I was obsessed with the way people saw me and the fact that they “liked me”. I guess that’s how I saw God too. I knew about God, and had grown up being taught that he loved me, but I had a sense that I was causing it to be that way. Afterall, I had NEVER DONE ANYTHING WRONG. I had not murdered anyone. I was not in the habit of lying. I was a great kid at home, had a good relationship with my parents, and got straight A’s in school. I never even tried smoking or drank a drop of alcohol until much later in college.  I was winning at being righteous in my own mind and I thought that this was why God must love me so much.

I maintained this “game-like” attitude well into college and early in my marriage. I married my high school sweetheart because he was interested in me,  he grew up in the same religion as I did, and I thought we were truly compatible. He and I had a long distance relationship for 6 years while I lived 500 miles away in high school and college and most of our relationship was through letters and the occasional long weekend 3-4 times a year. It’s hard to get close to someone through letters, and I found myself having a lot of false expectations once we got married. We ended up getting to know each other better as a young married couple and realized that we had some differences that didn’t come out in our “written” relationship. One of those differences we had was having kids early. I wanted one right away to please myself, and I thought it’s what married people were supposed to do shortly after getting their first house. I found out I was pregnant the week we moved in and had Anna 8 months later. I was elated and thought I had everything working flawlessly, but my husband didn’t feel the same and differences became apparent when he became detached and withdrawn from me and my new baby. He left the church that he had been going to since he was born, and that we had been attending since we were married. He felt like his whole life he was being forced to believe in something he didn’t, and that church just wasn’t “fitting” for him anymore.

Another thing that was happening to strain our marriage at this time was incredible stress at my new teaching job.  I accepted the lead High School Band director position with dollar signs in my eyes. I was making at least 10k more than my college friends back in MO who were teaching in rural K-12 jobs. I felt like I had it made, but the job was way more than I could handle and I was facing turmoil every time I went in. The kids were hard on me as a first year teacher and my staff did not respect me. I had such a hard time “controlling” the system like I had in the past that I fell into a deep depression. In November of 1999 after being unable to get off the couch one morning, my husband checked me into the hospital and I started taking anti-depressants just to get through the year ahead. I went through pshychotherapy and discovered that I had an anxiety disorder as well as obsessive-compulsive behaviors. I balked at the doctors and told them I didn’t wash my hands excessively and I wasn’t afraid of germs or anything. I learned that obsessive worry and my compulsion to please everyone around me including myself was worse than hand washing or any other physical compulsions.

I went on medication and started to turn back to my life, but my marriage was falling apart around me. My husband found a new friendship with a woman at work and it enraged me that he wanted to spend more time with her than me. She was fun and adventurous and I felt broken and unloveable. Church was not helping me, and I was feeling like it was more like a job to go to choir practice, sing solos, and pretend to be a good Christian wife and mother. My daughter was approaching the “terrible twos” and it seemed like I was failing in that department. My self esteem was incredibly low and I felt like I must have done something to displease God and He was punishing me. I tried desperately to search for things to console me. I tried marijuana and alcohol to try to fit in with other people and feel better. It didn’t help. One night, after getting high and drunk after a wedding reception, I hit my husband and placed all the blame on him for making me feel so bad about myself. Our marriage was at its lowest point.

My grandpa died soon after all of this and I found out that he was reading “A Purpose Driven Life” by Rick Warren just before he died. He had led a pretty spontaneous, messed up life, and I thought he probably wasn’t going to be in Heaven since he was an alcoholic, was verbally and emotionally abusive to my mom and grandma growing up,  got about three tattoos and his ears pierced in his late 70’s, and didn’t act very Christian to me. I started reading Rick Warren’s book and learned that what I had been believing about my grandpa and myself was a complete lie. I learned that we all have a purpose to have a relationship with God and that my grandpa only had to believe that Jesus died for his sins to be in Heaven. I sincerely hoped that this was true before he died, but I wanted to know more. I wasn’t satisfied with the lack of answers I was getting at church, so I left to find a new church that I could really dig deeper. I found Grace Church through a friend and started attending during a sermon series on the popular movie “The Passion of The Christ”. Every sermon seemed to speak to me personally. I learned who Jesus was and the circumstances of his death. I rented the movie and watched it alone in the privacy of my basement one night when my husband was away, since he had been vocal about not wanting to watch it. I saw Jesus being tortured and led to the cross and I felt an aching in my soul. After balling through the movie, I went to my room and knelt down by my bed. I pleaded to God to forgive me for thinking that I could “play the game” to make him love me and to get into his favor. I told God that I knew that Jesus died a terrible death on the cross for me and that I have been sinning all this time, when I really thought I was being so perfect and good. I asked for God’s forgiveness. I asked God to come into my life as my close friend and recommitted my life to Him. I didn’t feel the Holy Spirit descend upon me or anything like that, but it was significant.

Things began to change after that day. I felt peace from my anxiety about pleasing others. There was no need to be perfect now that I knew God thought I was perfect and beautiful already. I was able to wean off of the anxiety meds and learned how to control my anxiety through prayer, diet, and relaxation techniques. Slowly, my career stress went away as I realized that God was placing me in situations where I could be of greatest help to young urban kids.  I felt a peace going to work and knowing that I had Christ with me. And the best part of this love story is that my marriage was strengthened. My husband saw me relax physically and emotionally. He came back to me and even agreed to go to a Family Life marriage conference with me. We reconnected on another level and continue to grow closer even though he still does not feel comfortable going to church. I know he is a believer in Christ, though, and what matters to me is that he will be in Heaven with me.

So I bet you’re wondering how I know this? How can I be so sure that I will be going to Heaven when my life has been less than perfect? How can I know that my husband will be there, my grandfather, my mom and dad, and maybe even you? Well, because God told me! He wrote about it several times in the Bible and I read these verses over and over in different texts and heard them in sermons my whole life, but never really understood them until I was ready to give total control to God.

God says we are created for Him. He wants to have a relationship with us. He calls us His beloved. (If only my husband would say that to me every once in a while!) He is like that fantasy I always had in junior high where I’d want a cute guy to pursue me and pay attention to me all the time. God pursues us and wants us to love Him back.  I was taught this, but like a blinded, lovestruck, obsessed teenager, I tried so hard to please those who loved me so they wouldn’t leave me. I thought that if I just looked a certain way, or dressed a certain way, or acted a certain way, then I could control the love that came from God and be positive that I would be with Him when I died. How could he not want me?

But the harsh reality I learned was that I am not perfect. My life is not perfect. No matter how hard I try to control my life and those around me, I will always fall short of the holiness God requires to be in His presence. Romans 3:23 says, “for ALL have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God.” I am no exception to this rule. And unfortunately for me, I cannot do anything to correct this.  Romans 6:23 told me that  I will have to die in my sin, for the wage of my sin is death. I am doomed. But there is more to that verse. There is good news. You see, God loves me so much that he is sad for my eternal fate and wants to give me a gift. (I love presents!) The gift he gave me was eternal life in Christ! ‘Great! So what do I have to do?’, I thought. Turns out nothing (Ephesians2:8,9). God had it planned that I was not going to die in my sin, but be given this gift of eternal life in Heaven, but He had a problem. The payment still had to be made, so he sent Jesus to Earth to live a perfect life and then die, bearing the weight of all of my wrongs, and everyone else’s too! (And if you are thinking, like I did, that this was no big deal, watch the movie and see what it was like-  he was BRUTALLY beaten and bled more than anyone could and still be alive- and he did absolutely nothing wrong, it was MY sin he was paying for…2 Corinthians 5:21.)

And so here’s what it says we have to DO…………. Nothing! Simply believing that this happened is all that is required to receive the gift of eternal life that God has given us. It’s FREE (and I love a good bargain!) That seemed too easy, I thought, but I have been told this over and over.

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in Him may not perish, but have Eternal Life. John 3:16 (NIV)

Every preacher uses this verse and I’ve even seen it at wrestling events and football games. I had heard it my whole life in church and at Christmas. We sometimes don’t understand or want to believe what is right in front of us. I believe it now. I know for sure I am going to Heaven because God says I will. (John 5:13) I have no reason to doubt Him now that I know He has loved me all this time and has a purpose and a plan for my life. I placed my life in His hands and now know for sure that after my death I will be Heaven Bound!

So that’s one story of me. Since the time of this writing I have had many thoughts on other areas of my life that fit into this testimony, but I’ll leave it at that for now. Hopefully all of this makes more sense why I am the way I am. And if it made sense to you on a spiritual level and you would like to experience the same peace and security that I have, here are a few suggestions.

First, sit down and talk to God. You don’t have to say the Lord’s Prayer, or anything fancy. Just say something like, “Hey God, I know you’re listening and I know I’ve messed up. I know now that nothing I can do can bring me closer to you. I want you and need you in my life. I am willing to accept the fact that you sent Jesus to die for me and I am grateful that you did. I trust and believe in you as my Savior. Thank you.” Saying this prayer doesn’t save you, and it’s not about the words you say, it’s about really believing what you say. So if you’ve said something like this, and believed it, you are on your way to Heaven. There probably won’t be any fireworks going off anywhere and you will not feel different right away, but God will start his relationship with you in a positive way!

Second, find a church or a group of Christian believers to hang around. Some common marriage advice that I’ve heard is for young married couples to seek out older married couples to hang out with and learn from. The same is for “young” believers. Now it took me 8 months, and over 2o visits to different churches to find the style that “fit”. Not every church was created for every believer. I am attracted to churches with contemporary, invigorating music, ones that minister to my kids, and ones with caring staff that can help me grow. I didn’t find this everywhere in Denver!! I went to churches with good music, but no nursery. I went to one with a great children’s ministry, but did nothing for me spiritually. I even went to one that entertained me with a rapping preacher, but he spoke in rhyme for over 2 hours before I had to walk out! What ended up working for me won’t work for everyone either. My dynamic church has everything I need, but someone else might like a calmer, less evangelical environment. That’s why God created different PEOPLE to start all kinds of churches. There are no perfect churches, just make sure the one you choose is preaching the clear message of the Gospel and that you are able to grow as a Christian.

Lastly, email me or leave a comment below if you got to the end of this testimony and it made sense to you. I’d love to hear from you. 🙂

It’s been a pleasure to share my story. Thanks for reading!

~Sarah

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  1. Nate Simons Said,

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I hope that many people will read this and be encouraged by your words and the words you share from God’s word.

  2. Natasha Said,

    Thank you so very much for your honesty and a desire to help people! I am an Urban Music Educator in Baltimore, Maryland. I found your professional website first and saved a link on my desktop because I plan to return to it many more times. I will return to your personal message also many more times because it really speaks to me and I find it very helpful.

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