25 Sep FROM RELIGION TO RELATION
I was raised in a Catholic home where I was dropped off at Sunday School and picked up after church. We had a Bible in the home, but it was a “family heirloom” and no one was to touch it or take it out of the box without supervision. Essentially, I knew OF God, but I didn’t KNOW God.
As an adult, when my mother was ill and passed away, I began to question everything – my faith, God and all that surrounds both. About that time, through a direct sales company, I met Elaine. Elaine was one of those “Jesus freaks.” She had more than her fair share of trials and tribulations in life, but she never wavered in her faith. She was continually joyful. That was the only word to describe her.
At the time, I was struggling with my belief in God. My mother was rejected by the Catholic church during her last days on earth. I equated church with God (how wrong I was! The church is made up of people. People who do good, but sin). Elaine suggested that my kids might enjoy the Vacation Bible School at her church and that I should sign them up. VBS sounded great, but I wasn’t so sure about sending them to learn about God at a non-denominational church. I had been taught that “those” types of churches were cults. Elaine assured me that not only were they not cults, but that they lived and taught the Bible and how to have a relationship with God, not “religion.”
I was intrigued, but decided that before I would consider allowing my kids to attend this VBS, I needed to check out this church, just to be sure. That Sunday, I took my boys to church at Princeton Alliance in Plainsboro, NJ. For the first time in their lives, neither of my boys complained about church. In fact, they asked if we could go back. Wait. What?
We started attending the church regularly and began to learn more about God and the Bible. The first time we attended and they asked us to open our Bibles to a certain chapter, I was lost. They might as well have been talking Mandarin to me. I had never been taught how to read from the Bible, much less know where to find a chapter or verse. Growing up in a Catholic church, we had missalettes. You simply opened up to the date and the passages, prayers, and songs were laid out for you.
Each time that I spent time with Elaine, she mentioned God. It wasn’t in a preachy way, but He was clearly intertwined in every area of her life. I didn’t challenge what she said, but I didn’t ask questions, either.
She was planting seeds and God was watering them.
During this new, exciting season of my life, I was watching television in bed and saw a commercial. I can’t even remember who sponsored the commercial, but they talked about having a relationship with God. A relationship? How is that possible? I jotted down the phone number, called for the free brochure and went to bed. The next day, I called Elaine and asked her about it. She eloquently shared the Gospel with me. She eloquently explained that God does not want religion; He wants a relationship with us.
This was a new concept to me, but over the next few weeks as I was spending time reading His Word daily, things started to make sense to me. One night, as I was talking to God while trying to fall asleep, I felt a presence in my room. I felt Jesus sitting in the rocking chair near my bed and Him laying His hands on me. He was telling me that He was there for me and not to be afraid. If I gave my life to Him and believed in Him, He would never leave my side and that I would be with Him in heaven. I wasn’t afraid at all. In fact, I felt incredible peace.
At that moment, I kneeled next to my bed and prayed for Jesus to come into my heart. I asked for forgiveness of all of my sins and acknowledged that I needed Him. I felt the Holy Spirit envelope and enter me. I was changed forever.
When I was baptized in water, Elaine spoke at my baptism. I will forever be grateful that she wasn’t afraid to share her love of Christ and be bold in her faith. I think of the impact that Elaine’s sharing the Gospel with me had on my life. It moves me to my share my faith to this day.
From then on, my children were raised as Christians and I worked hard to be the wife and mother that God created me to be. My husband, also raised Catholic, thought I was crazy, and my passion for Christ became an issue of contention in our marriage. A few years later, my husband left the boys and me for another woman and a few years later, before our divorce was final, he passed away…but that is a story for a different day.
Over the course of years, as my relationship with Our Heavenly Father grew, and I became more intimate with Him through His Word, I learned to hold on to the promises of God. Life has its share of troubles – we all do. As I lived through the peaks and valleys of life, I clung to two of my favorite verses:
And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us…
Isn’t it so comforting to know that God knows our needs before we do? He not only KNOWS our needs, but He provides for them to those who believe in Him.
God desires for us to carry out His will on earth. He loves you and He has a good plan for your life. He wants to bless you so you can fulfill His plan and purpose…so you can really enjoy your life. And in His Word, He tells us who He is and how we can access everything we need through Christ.
***Susan is the founder of Woman of Noble Character, a blog that offers resources to equip and encourage women to effectively minister in their homes. She is passionate about helping women lead a Proverbs 31 life in a modern world.