My Testimony

I can really relate to Jonah’s prayer when he says, “For You had cast me into the deep… But You have brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God.” It is my testimony in a nutshell.

I grew up in church. I was a preacher’s kid. I prayed to receive Christ when I was four. I never moved beyond the Sunday school understanding of avoiding the punishment of hell and being rewarded with heaven. I never had a real understanding of grace, of God’s love being free and deep and impossible to earn or lose. My relationship with Jesus was shallow and restricted to the times He was discussed among other believers. However, when I got married and moved away from home and we bought a computer, I started out using it to witness in chat rooms and message boards, even met a few times with one of the people to whom I was witnessing, but in the process I discovered there are a lot of doubts about Christianity, and I added those doubts to my own. I remember the night when the scales tipped and my doubts outweighed my faith – I had a nightmare that I was in the passenger seat of a car speeding through a hilly stretch of road and I could not make the driver slow down. I woke up terrified as the car launched off a cliff into the blackness of night. I was a lost, prodigal sheep for around five years. Even though I considered myself an atheist, I do not say I lost my salvation (I prayed to receive Christ at four), because God’s unmerited love never changes. I just didn’t have a very real understanding of what it means to need saving and be saved until God brought me back. The way my brother says it is that my walking away from God was “just a chapter in the story” of my life as a Christian. I emotionally abandoned my family, paying as little attention to them as I could get away with, and invested all my spare time into philosophy message boards. I did a lot of selfish things I rationalized to be okay at the time as long as no one knew, but now I look back on those things with regret, because they caused a lot of pain, left a lot of scars – nothing that is genuinely good needs to be hidden. Really, I knew that, but I was ignoring what I knew, and God gave me over to that sort of delusional thinking.

By the time He brought me back to Himself, I no longer thought about God because I didn’t think there was a God to think about, and was pretty apathetic about life. I was teaching my kids that believing in God was like believing in the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, and the Tooth Fairy, and butting heads over it with my believing husband. He had been saved when he was deployed to Panama six years earlier. There was the nagging question of why something exists instead of nothing, but it bothered me because I couldn’t answer it, not because I thought there was an answer. When I got tired of lying to my husband and stopped doing things that I had to hide, hoping my marriage would get better, I became a zombie, merely existing, and would’ve gone on that way into old age if God had not intervened. I wished I could believe like my husband believed, but I couldn’t. But God didn’t leave me there.

On September 22nd, 2005, God broke through to me. I am leaving out a lot of details, but He influenced me to tell my husband everything I had ever done, which felt like throwing my whole marriage and our being parents together up in the air and trusting God to catch it and help it all land safely on the ground. Although my husband was not walking with Christ by that point, he still believed in God and it turns out that he had broke down and prayed two days before that I would find God and that our lives would get straightened out. He already knew that I wasn’t completely present in our marriage, and when I told him the truth, he wanted to leave, but God put it on his heart to stay. Besides telling my husband the truth that day, God helped me quit smoking and other addictions. It wasn’t all sunshine and roses—things got much worse before they got better, but God was on my side and carried me through the storm of insanity. I refer to it sometimes as the fiery whirlwind. It was how God broke me, sifted me and refined me. It reminds me of a line in a song: “Father, I’m stronger than when I first believed.” By offering me His hand and giving me the choice to be saved out of the mud when I was still in it, is how He made His saving love real to me. And observing the transformation God brought about in my life, confirmed for my husband what he had learned in Panama six years before: that God is real and cares about our needs and hears and answers our prayers. So we went from being on the nightmarish brink of divorce, to being best friends in love all over again and united in Christ. “For You had cast me into the deep… But You have brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God.”

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5 Responses to My Testimony

  1. I am sitting here with tears running down my face. I remember those days when my son would call and tell me his fears of loosing his family. I was having my own delimas at the time, but I would get off the phone and just pray. Even though I had my own doubts and fears. I knew God was trying to work in my life but I was too was like Jonah, because I ran. When I realized I couldn't run anymore. When I hit bottom I realized the only way I would survive was to reach up to Jesus' hand reaching down to me. I am so greatful to God for his grace and goodness for saving you and my kids and grandkids lives. I love you and I believe in what you are doing. I don't tell often enough.

  2. It was great to read your testimony. I feel like I know you so much better!

    Your words, “it is impossible to lose your salvation and I was saved when I was four. I just didn’t have a very real understanding of what it means to need saving and be saved until God brought me back” made me think of something I looked up earlier this week…

    “The ransom has been paid, and when a ransom for men has been paid by the Son of God, what He bought IS coming home! He does not purchase meaninglessly or in vain. Not one drop of blood will be wasted!” from Sovereignty of God, John Piper


  3. Anonymous says:

    My “testimony” as an atheist is similar, except that I first fell away from my simplistic childhood Christianity without becoming an atheist or thinking of myself as such.

    And then, in my twenties, I had an experience similar to yours in which I finally broke down, became a “real Christian” and an avid studier of scripture, etc.

    This lasted several years until I began to realize that some of the things which I believed about reality, and which were the rational underpinnings of my faith, were simply not true. This led me to begin a process of searching out the truths of the matter in as objective a way as I could manage, and after a couple years of this, I came away with no religious beliefs left standing.

    Or to paraphrase somebody else, when I got done siphoning the bathwater out of the tub, there was no baby there.

  4. Hi Anonymous, did you find your way here from the Facebook group “Serious About Ideas”? I was thinking of posting some excerpts of that discussion here, so…here they are:

    I personally deconverted from Christianity (actually my limited understanding of it) and converted to atheism, then deconverted from atheism and (re?)converted to Christianity (for reals this time). I won’t be reconverting to atheism…perhaps some think this clouds my judgment/perspective, but actually I think having been in both sets of shoes is why I am able to see atheism as a belief when others do not. I have met a few atheists that do admit to believing, though.

    I “lost faith” (how I thought of it then…though atheism takes faith as well, as I know now) because my doubts outweighed my reasons. My basis for believing in Christianity as opposed to 'against' Christianity, had mostly to do with believing what I was taught. I didn’t have the reasons I do now. I never actually doubted atheism before I deconverted from it to Christianity. That kind of came out of nowhere, like a mountain-moving slap in the face—after that initial slap is when I started doing better research into the reasons (started doing apologetics). Still, I could do better (for others’ sake), but the slap was enough for me.

  5. Sam Pakan says:

    Thank you so much for your testimony, Maryann. I understand both your deconversion and your reconversion quite well.

    I too accepted most of what I was taught as a child since those offering their beliefs were authority figures that hadn’t failed me to that point. I began to question my shallow understanding of those truths in high school. The questions became deeper and more persistent at university so that long before I graduated, I had discarded the fables that had bound me through childhood. Or so I thought.

    After leaving the university and getting kicked around for a while, I returned to graduate school assured that all knowledge, at least all knowledge available to man, was safely locked within my cranial vault. I had nothing to fear and the world to gain.

    I have to admit that while I enjoyed toying with every argument and thought system I came across, none reached my then confirmed agnosticism. What did reach me was failure. Though I was excelling in the academic environment, I met a young woman who stole both my pretense of rationality and my heart. After initially denying that I would ever choose to be married, thereby distancing her, I came to think that there might be some utilitarian reasons for the institution and the commitments required to sustain it. By that time, however, it was too late. She was gone, and I was heartbroken.

    The ensuing embrace of my somewhat estranged Christian parents drew me to reconsider the nature and source of love. What evolutionary development had caused them to react with such beneficence? I was a grown belligerent to their life and faith (with fully developed arrogance glands). I could offer them nothing for their nurturing. Moreover, they were positioned to enjoy a considerably fuller future without me, yet they took me in.

    I have no doubt that God speaks through argument and reason. In fact, I spent a few years reading C.S. Lewis and G.K. Chesterton in an effort to grasp a fuller understanding of the nature and necessity of God. But I also know He mirrors His nature through the expressed love of His children, and that can sometimes be the most powerful argument of all.

    This was not what I intended to write, though I hope someone might find it helpful. I intended to tell you that I really appreciated your reference to the lyric: “Father, I’m stronger than when I first believed.” That is SUCH a powerful truth! All the questions, the MANY questions, that caused me to stumble and quake after my conversion have or are being answered–most incompletely, but more fully with each year that passes. Not only that, but those questions that remain are losing power since I’ve learned that answers exist and will come in time (or eternity). I’ve also learned that those posing the questions are often not asking questions at all but jabbing at the face of a God who has disappointed, or as they perceive it, betrayed them. Their anger and arrogance is so like my own that I can only pray that they, too, might be loved into the Kingdom after they fail.

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