The Long and the Short of It

My testimony is long, because my journey to Christ lasted more than 12 years, from the time I decided that there might be a God until the day that I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour.

I will give you the short version here, and if you believe you would like to know in more detail what God has done in my life, I have included a more detailed version here.

This is it in a nutshell:

I am a wretched, wretched sinner with a past that would curl most people’s hair were they to hear details.

In 1969, at the age of 14, I ran away from home. From the age of 14 until I was 33, I was a heroin addict and an alcoholic, a thief and a prostitute. In fact, if there was a law that I didn’t violate, it was not out of any set of principles or a matter of conscience. It was because it had not presented itself as a way to make money. I had a daughter whom I ignored and for much of her youth, allowed someone else to raise. I had abortions, I stole from my family, I habitually lied.

I knew very little about God, despite the fact that I had been surrounded at various times in my life by Christians who tried mightily to tell me about the love of Christ. I wanted very much to believe that I was the one in charge of my life.

At the age of 33, I came out of prison and, through no plan of my own, I ended up in a two-year residential treatment program. I stayed for five years. In that program, I learned how to be honest and how to care about other people; I learned about myself, and I learned that life was something to be lived on its own terms. But I had absolutely no idea about who Jesus Christ is or of the fact that in Him I would find happiness.

At the age of 38, concerned that I might lose the 5 years of sobriety I had under my belt, at the suggestion of a friend, I went to a 12-step program. I loved it there. There were other people who had the same sort of background as I did, and they had all been sober for years. There was one problem, though: There is a requirement in those programs to have a belief in “a higher power.”

Boy, I didn’t want to believe in that!

I had spent many, many years refusing to believe that God would judge me for my lifestyle. In fact, I had created my own god to worship so that I did not have to look honestly at my life vis-a-vis the Word of God. I was so entrenched in my agenda to not have to change my lifestyle that I stepped up my defiance incrementally over the years until I must have looked like a totally heart-hardened lost cause to all but Jesus Christ Himself.

But through the grace of God, I was allowed to live long enough to come to my senses, understand that the god that I made up is a false god, and confess my sinful life and beg His forgiveness for my sins, and His help to change my "natural inclinations".

Long story short: God had been throwing Christians at me at every turn for 12 years. I had come to believe that there is indeed a God, and I was not Him. That’s about as far as I could take that line of thinking, though.

One of the Christians He put in my path, Traci, told me about a book she had read. She told me about how the book started, with all of the Christians being taken away from earth in an instant; planes falling out of the sky, cars slamming into one another, people dying in monumental numbers. It sounded like a great book, a bit like a Stephen King book, I thought. She had to explain the premise and what “the Rapture” was, and I found it a bit strange, but I was fine with that. Anything for a good story.

It was 1998 when I read that book. It was called “Left Behind,” and I had to buy a Bible as well, so that I could check what I was reading with what it said in the Bible. Fascinating, and although I didn’t really understand much about the theology, I could see that it was possible that the things in the book could happen, if one could believe the Bible.

A couple of years passed. I met and fell in love with a kind and gentle Christian man, whom I later married, Ken. It’s strange to think about, but I had no idea he was a Christian, though I can see now that it shines in everything he does. But I didn’t know that Traci was a Christian. In fact, looking back now, I can see that I had no idea how many Christians He had put into my path!

Although I had not accepted Christ into my life, I was well on my way. I was learning more and more about Him, but I kept putting the decision off. I literally thought to myself, “I’ll think about that later.”

In 2000, I married Ken, even though I had not yet made my decision. On Valentine’s Day, 2001, he gave me a boxed set of the “Left Behind” series, containing volumes 1 through 5. Again, I read the novels with a Bible open. Shortly after that, I was driving down a particularly long and straight road in south Texas, on my way to the store, when my mind wandered. I pictured what it would be like if the Rapture happened right then. I saw it as if it were a video.

In one of those moments of clarity we all have from time to time, I realized the simple fact that I needed to make a decision immediately, because I was not promised tomorrow.

That was March of 2001, and I was 45 when I finally decided to surrender my life to Jesus Christ, when I confessed to Him that I am a sinner and that I was badly in need of His grace. On March 18, 2001, I was baptized

I am lucky. So wretched was my life when I finally turned it over, that anything would have been an improvement.

I have followed Christ since that time, although I will admit to some obstinacy and disobedience, which I will no doubt have to detail here later when I write about my “Jonah years.” But God knows my weaknesses better than I do, and He works patiently with me on them, and little by little, I am overcoming them.

The long and short of it is that I am happy, not in the run-around-and-scream happy, but a constant kind of happiness that brings serenity and satisfaction.

It’s funny how drastically I can misunderstand things! Because I heard so much about being a Christian making people happy, I used to think that following Christ would allow me to have the things I wanted. If only I believed, I could have a new car every year, all the money I wanted, and that I would no longer have difficulties in my life.

In the past few years, I have come to realize that most of the "betterment" has nothing to do with this world, but rather the spiritual one. Instead of wanting that new car and easy money, I want to please God.

And amazingly, the more I do that, the more I want to do that. It’s just that simple!

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