Often people wonder why we Christians choose to follow Christ, and what difference it makes in our lives. (They also wonder what, if anything is different from us versus anyone else, but that's a whole other topic altogether!)
Today I want to share with you my mom Diane's story, how she came to Christ, and what change occurred in her life as a result...
I was born in 1952 to a Sicilian mother and Swedish/Norwegian father. My sister Jan and I were 10 months apart, and 9 years after I was born, my baby brother Mark was born. Unfortunately due to complications with the pregnancy, Mark was born mentally handicapped, but my mom and dad worked very hard to provide for us, and we lived in a middle class neighborhood in New Jersey.
Though my mom was brought up Catholic, my dad was raised Lutheran, so I was baptized Lutheran as a baby. As I grew older, it became time to choose schools for me, and since my birthday was so close to my sister's, we would have been in the same grade! But my mom pulled some strings for me to be in a different class, and I started at a Catholic school.
Unfortunately it didn't quite work out at the Catholic school -- the nun overseeing the class got upset with me that I couldn't write my name, but that's why I was there -- to learn! So my mom took me out of Catholic school and put me into public school.
I was a very shy child, while my sister was outgoing and loved talking to anyone. My mom was often upset with me because I wasn't outgoing like my sister. She and I had a lot of struggles; I always felt like the outcast of the family.
My first real encounter with faith was a vacation Bible school I was invited to as a child. I went and we did things like memorizing songs and Bible verses. It was a fun time, but back then I didn't know what it meant to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Fast forward to when I was 19. My mom and I's struggles had escalated, and she ended up hitting me with a power chord and kicking me out of the house. I was frightened and felt very rejected. I met a young man and we fell in love, so we decided to get married. Thinking back on it though, I was too young to know what I was doing, and I was also running from my mom's treatment of me.
He was Baptist, so we got married in a Baptist church. We lived in a tiny little house with no heat in the dead of winter, so when I became pregnant I miscarried. It was a tough time. Eventually I left him because I knew he wouldn't be able to provide for us. I got a job at a bank and then went to work as an engineer on the railroad in California.
During those years, I didn't know it at the time, but I was pretty lost. I struggled with my weight and took uppers to help me keep the weight off. I also struggled with depression. I didn't know what I was doing with my life and I didn't know what my purpose was.
As far as my relationship with God was concerned, I knew of God, but whenever I read the Bible it was like reading a phone book -- it had no real meaning to me.
One day, I became very depressed, and also suicidal. I decided I would overdose on my upper pills because I didn't see the meaning in life. I didn't believe I had a purpose. I was asking God, "God, please make yourself real to me!"
It was then I felt a strong urge to open the Bible, and this was the verse I opened it to:
"Lo, I am with you always, even until the end of the age." -Matthew 28:20
Then I heard an audible voice say, "This is how I speak to you, through My word."
I had encountered God in a very real way. I said, "Oh, the Bible is real!"
From that moment on, it was very different for me. It was like my 2-D life became 3-dimensional. When I read the Bible, words jumped out on the page. It was like a veil was lifted from over my eyes, and everything became more vibrant and clear -- like I had gone from black and white to color. My perspective had completely changed, and I felt God's new life within me in my heart.
From there, I went to a Bible college, where I met Charis' dad. But that's a story for another day. What I want you to know is, if you are struggling today, ask God to make Himself real to you. Read His word, and continue to seek Him. He promises He will be found when we seek Him with all of our heart.
(To be continued…)