Today's testimony comes from one of my newest friends. Lenette and her family joined our church I think about 2 years ago and she is one of the sweetest people you will meet. She is always so kind and always has a smile on her face. I'm thankful to know her and so thankful she was willing to share her story with you here today.
Hey everyone, I’m Lenette. I know that there are probably people reading this who have had a bad experience with church sometime in their life. You may see Christians as judgmental and hypocritical. I get that. There is a lot of that in our world. I hope by reading what I have to say today, that you might soften in your thoughts/beliefs. Maybe you can give church and God another try.
I don't remember a time that I didn't go to church, but I’m not one of those people who grew up in a wonderful Christian home.
I believe being in church kept me from straying too far down wrong paths in my life. I certainly did not always choose the right path but, I believe without God's conviction on my heart, I may have ventured into some very bad places.
During my high school years, we started attending a new church. A lot of times, I felt somewhat uncomfortable in services. Back then, I thought that was either how I was supposed to feel, or that I was just weird.
I felt like I had to try very hard to do everything right; that I had to be like the people I saw in church and I needed to pray and to worship like them. I really lived under the assumption that I had to always be “prayed through” or if I died, I might not make it to heaven.
My perception was that if I had sin in my life or wasn't doing what I was supposed to do, then I could be a "backslider,” and wouldn’t go to heaven.
There always seemed to be lots of “rules” and “judgments” from members of the congregation.
This pressure, conviction and guilt were a lot for a teenage girl. I never felt like I was being "good enough."
When we graduated high school and headed to college, most of us, sadly, went separate ways. I did live in the dorm my first year with one of those friends, but after that, we didn’t see very much of each other.
College was a hard transition for me. It was a time where I left my sheltered life in a small town, my family, and most friends. I was pretty much on my own, had very little guidance and definitely made many, many mistakes.
Some of those mistakes are still very hard to think back on. There are so many things that I wish I could re-do from those four years. I’m sure people who knew me in college could very well attest to that. I strayed from God and church and did things that I absolutely knew were wrong. Any kind of mess that you can imagine a college age girl getting into, I have probably been there.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28I believe that.
Through all of my bad decisions and mistakes, God was pursuing me. He never left me or gave up on me.
I know that I was meant to meet my husband Tim in May 2002. I am forever grateful for that. The choice to marry him completely altered my life.
I attended church so irregularly in college, but after we were married in May of 2003, I felt the need to be back in church. We lived 45 minutes from the church I grew up in, but most Sundays we would make the journey.
Even after the kids were born a year apart in 2005 and 2006, we still made the journey as often as possible. I didn't feel quite as awkward in church there as I had as a teenager, but some of the un-comfortableness remained.
Tim got a job in my hometown in 2007 and we continued to attend church there. Despite how I inwardly felt, I did love that church. I felt God there, and loved the pastor and the people. However, I believe that my feelings of worship and my memories of not feeling good enough from my younger years kept me from experiencing God in a deep, real way.
That was the hardest time of my life. I felt more alone than I ever had in my life. I questioned God and even began having panic attacks.
There was no pressure to be a certain way. They were not “not saved” because they still had sin in their life.
I learned to accept that it is not the things I do that save me, but God’s grace. God has forgiven me and I don’t need to be concerned of what others think about my soul. I know it seems strange to hear that from a person who was raised in church their entire life; I had just never quite understood the simplicity of God’s grace and mercy.
The things I have learned in my life as a Christian:
- It is a journey. It’s ever changing and evolving and I don’t believe that I will ever feel like I have “arrived.” I hope God keeps changing me and drawing me closer to Him.
- He loves me no matter what I’ve done, where I’m at, what I’m wearing, etc. The world does not always give us these mercies but God always does.
- It’s not a church that makes your relationship with God, BUT having people in Christ love you and accept you can mean the world in your walk sometimes. That’s why I feel it’s so important to be compassionate to others. Yes, we can stand for our beliefs, but ultimately it’s our purpose to share the Gospel, not to condemn others. Pray and ask God to lead you to a church that is right for you.
- My faith has brought me through so many trials. Being a Christian does not ensure a pleasant life. I know there are/will be tough times, but I’m so thankful for the hope that I have.
- In a way, it’s refreshing that the realization of God’s grace happened at this point in my life. I just want to share about it all the time and I hope that it helps me express salvation to my children.
- God has a plan for our life. Even if we don’t have any idea what it is, He is always working behind the scene.