There is something so wonderful about hearing a person’s testimony of how they came to accept Christ into their heart. Something so undeniably ‘wow’ and so undeniably powerful about it.
A friend of mine sent me her testimony to look over, as she was preparing it for reading at her baptism yesterday. I couldn’t help but be encouraged and in awe of what God has done in her life, and is still doing.
So grab yourself a coffee, sit down and take five minutes to read Juliet’s story…….
When my parents met they were an unlikely couple, only chance of circumstance joined them. Namely, my ‘untimely’ arrival. Neither fully accepted the role of parent. Dad was a severe alcoholic and often distances himself from actively partaking of difficult decisions in his children’s lives. Mum was often abusive physically and verbally. When I was 12, Mum gave up completely being a mother and I became my Dad’s sole responsibility.
As you can imagine, my childhood was pretty bleak. Dad was also in the navy at a time when they were sent for 6 month trips away from home, so my sisters and I were often left alone with a mother who I now realise was suffering post natal depression quite badly. The only times there was joy in the home was when Jeanne and I (later Carol and Amanda) were together.
As a teenager, I began to search for the love I felt was missing. I had endless embarrassing crushes. Then as I left school, I started a cycle of unsuccessful relationships. Several times, these men abandoned me at crucial times in my life. One of these relationships did end in the gift of my oldest son, Liam. Who, for many years had the unwitting responsibility of ‘looking after Mummy’. I was often depressed and miserable; filled with self loathing and anger. He was the only joy I could see. When single, I would bury myself with work, or watching TV, trying to cover up the emptiness I felt inside.
When I turned 30, I gained a stalker – one of the parents of a student in my class. This drove me to make some major changes in my life. I lived in fear, so slept with a knife under my bed. I changed my cell phone number twice and moved to another part of the city. I also began to reflect on how my life had become like it was. I knew I had to change how I was living, but had no idea how to go about doing just that.
I tried hypnotherapy to change my mindset. This just gave the illusion of calmness in my life. I also decided that my circle of friends was too small, so I joined an internet dating site. This introduced me to a more seedy lifestyle of casual relationships. But it also brought me into contact with Andrew; the first act that I consciously recognized as God’s doing! He was already a Christian, strong in his faith. Like many of the people I have encountered throughout life that have a strong faith in God, he was calm, gentle and loving, and made me wonder what was so special in their lives. As our friendship grew, I knew he was a man who didn’t judge me for my past and just wanted the very best for me. When Andrew and I finally started dating, I knew that all those times I had cried in the night for a partner that someone had heard me.
About this time, my work environment was increasingly unpleasant. My skills as a teacher were called into question and I felt like I continually had to look over my shoulder. Two Christian women in the school took me under their wings and would pop into my classroom at the end of the day. Sometimes they would just listen, or they would help me get my work done. And other times, they would pray for me. This touched me deeply, especially as they weren’t in my team and I hadn’t socialised with them at all! I also had a wonderful friend who I virtually adopted as my Mum. She would look after Liam, cook me meals, give me advice and generally do anything that I needed.
These people all showed me the love of Jesus. And my hard heart started to soften and wonder about him.
When it became obvious that Andrew and I were going to get married, I decided I needed to do something about all the baggage I carried around. So I went to a Christian councillor. In one of the first sessions we were praying about the abuse my sister and I suffered when we were little. Here, I was given a vision from my past of me holding my sister and protecting her from my mother’s rage, just as I remembered it. Except this time, Jesus was protecting us too. He had his loving arms around us. Until that moment, I had thought it was my sisters and I against the world. As you can see, it still has a huge impact on me. (Probably crying by now). I felt such an intense feeling of being loved and accepted as well as a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. It was that moment that I was given new life and asked Jesus into it.
In many sessions of counselling after, I continued to be shown God’s actions in my life and received healing for all the damage I had done to myself. And I also discovered how much grace and forgiveness Jesus was willing to give me. This also meant having to go and forgive my mother and father and to drastically alter my lifestyle. I had managed to persuade Andrew that it was okay to live together before we were married. This changed, and for a time he lived in the spare room until he moved into his sister’s house until our wedding. The hardest part for me about my faith in God was forgiving myself. One wise Christian said to me, “if God has forgiven you, who are you to not forgive yourself?”
Since my new life, I have been blessed with a husband and two more gorgeous boys. I started taking Bible in schools and led a small home group. I enjoy the fellowship of Northwest Baptist and have taken training in facilitating Lifekeys courses. I am no longer teaching and am able to stay at home and nurture my boys. I no longer stress out if the house isn’t ‘perfect’, and put relationships first. I’m more conscious of society pressures and am able to turn from them. I don’t feel anxious or lonely. I know I have a friend who is beside me and knows my thoughts and needs and is full of love for me. Now, I consciously think of Jesus before I act and I rely on his guidance and help. I see the joy that a child sees in a fly buzzing around or flowers growing in a field.
I know that I’m here because of God’s grace and I have turned my life away from my past. I want to put my trust in Jesus. I’m honoured that he would want me!