It was a dark and stormy night. Just kidding. I have no idea what the weather was like, back in 1979. All I really cared about, as a five year old, was how fast I could get my bike (fully equipped with training wheels) to go while holding on for dear life. This, of course, resulted in an accident, several stitches, and a scar on my left cheek.
The purpose of this testimony is to show, by my life, how God can take a damaged vessel, reform it with loving hands, and cause it to become a sturdy and reliable jar of clay. There is probably some funny stuff, and some sad stuff, and it may be slightly lengthy; but I want to start by saying, throughout everything, God was not surprised.
The purpose behind the first paragraph is to introduce my first memory. It was around this time that my Mom and Dad had some very intense fights. After my accident, however, I remember being back home and noticing that the fights had been reduced in number, but the intensity had increased. Mom and Dad would only talk to each other if they were fighting.
My next memory is quite vivid. I remember seeing Mom run out of our house in Baltimore, take the car, and drive off. I tried to chase her down, but she turned the corner and was gone. When I returned, Dad and my sister were crying. Although I was only five, I knew what had happened. She had left. Time had run out on the marriage. I wondered if there was something I had done to drive away my Mom, and placed an extra burden on myself because of her departure.
I have a very limited perspective concerning the events leading up to the divorce, but here are some of the things I was told. We were living in New York City (NYC), but then packed up and moved to Baltimore. There was a controversy concerning the move. Mom was begging Dad to get out of NYC; while Stewart Traill, self-declared leader of the Church of Bible Understanding (COBU), was counseling him to “control his wife”. Dad then received counsel from Richard Wurmbrand, a Romanian missionary. to honor his wife’s wishes and move, which he did. But by that time, it was too late.
I don’t want to go into enormous detail concerning the divorce. Yes, there was a custody battle, and yes, Dad won. But in a way, nobody won. Mom lost the kids, the kids lost their Mom, Dad lost his wife, and she lost her husband. It was an incredible string of bummers.
After the divorce, we moved back to NYC, and then to New Jersey. Dad was always working, so we had many baby sitters. Now maybe other kids could get along with their baby sitters, but I was not one of those. I think Dad had to offer combat pay for watching me. I was incredibly strong-willed (some things never change). I don’t think it was just me, maybe it was because most of these poor women (or men) were too used to Stew’s doctrine concerning the “cute little snakes” to handle such a temperamental child as I was.
We also went to Christian school, which was probably not fun for the teachers with all the COBU kids coming en masse to Gateway. I know I had some incredible peculiarities, as we all did since we received second hand the harsh treatment the First Generation COBU members had gotten from Stew and others trained to be like him. I’m pretty sure the principle got more gray hair because of us than anybody else.
Close to my twelfth birthday, after waiting for Mom to return for more than seven years, Dad started taking an interest in someone in Baltimore. This was a definite no-no in the ‘Gospel according to COBU’. After all, he had been married and divorced already. Therefore, the church took it upon itself to rectify this potentially dangerous sin in Dad’s life before he decided to propose to her. So the babysitters stopped watching us (which was fine with me), and would no longer allow us to carpool to school with them (also fine with me).
Here was Stewart’s tactical error: if a man has an incentive to leave
the area and get married, you don’t want to take away his only incentive
to stay. We left for Baltimore and severed ties with COBU, and soon
Dad married the woman we will call Step mom.
(Please note that I will not use actual names since there are still some injuries that God Himself will mend in His time. Also note the name “Step mom”. I strongly believe that in heaven, we will be given new names, and will not be limited by a simple bond made by flesh on earth. We are all family, and part of our time spent on earth is spent learning how to be a brother, sister, mom, or dad in His family, since in His kingdom there are no second cousins.) She was also involved with COBU, and had scars to deal with. So did we. It was an interesting time, chock full of tears and laughter. It was also beneficial for us, because Dad wasn’t that great at brushing our hair, and there are only so many ways you can make hot dogs and macaroni.
As a teenager, I started going through some emotional problems. I never went to a doctor, but I am convinced I could have been diagnosed with depression from age 13-21. My self-image was very low, and I found out that the worst place you could be while searching for acceptance was in middle and high school. Several times I got into fights, and a few times I actually feared for my life. But God is our protector, and He protected me from those who would harm me. This convinces me that there is nothing that will stand in the way of His plan for us except us.
Yet through the depression my family stuck with me. One saying that was repeated almost daily was “Keep your eyes on Jesus”. We had many long talks, and some turned into lectures. But it was guaranteed that once they sat you down, the Dad/Step mom tag-team would give you an earful for quite a long time, which sometimes made me wish for some alternative form of discipline. At the time, I think my exact thoughts were, “Please just ground me or something easy!” But it was necessary for my parents to impart the knowledge and wisdom that God gives.
Throughout these years, the Lord spoke to me in various ways, with soothing
and loving tones. Just as Jesus calmed the storm at the Sea of Galilee,
He often said, “Peace, be still” to my heart, and the raging emotions,
along with the hurt, would subside. Yet it wasn’t until my senior
year of high school until I realized I was a little different than everyone
around me. I was a “COBU kid”. But what does that mean?
It simply means I walked the line between bitterness toward God and trust
in Him. The Lord reminded me He hadn’t forgotten about me through
a traveling minister. He completely read my mail.
(For those of you who may not be familiar with this, God spoke to this minister about me for the purpose of breaking down my defenses and laying a new foundation for my life.
The new one has tenderness as well as determination to follow the Lord in worship, praise, and servanthood.
Dad was a strong believer in the ‘be fruitful and multiply’ doctrine, and we soon had new, beautiful brothers and sisters popping up everywhere. I am the oldest of seven children. The youngest (poor thing), looks almost exactly how I looked when I was his age. (I’ll be praying for him about that) The family loves each other; my brothers and sisters are happy children. They are learning about the same Jesus who forgave sin and rewarded faith.
A funny thing happened to me during high school. The last day of my junior year, on the very last day, it just happened that I was walking with the family dog, Brownie. (The dog’s name wasn’t my idea. I would’ve given him something like ‘Killer’ or ‘Champ’) As we walked to the bus stop, a skunk began crossing the road. Brownie ran straight after the skunk, who turned around and shot Brownie several times with deadly accuracy. Next thing I know, Brownie’s running off with anguished howls hanging in the air. So I was standing about 20 yards from the skunk, and one of the dumbest thoughts came to my mind. “This is my last day. Maybe if I just keep my distance and run past him, he may just leave me alone.” Needless to say, I was shot as well. Fortunately, the deadly projectile only hit my sweatpants, and I was wearing shorts underneath. When I got to school, everybody was in the cafeteria. At that time, the odor was just beginning to get potent. Five minutes after I got there, everybody was in the lobby. This was about one thousand people. THAT’S POWER!! I realized that, without knowing it, I had pulled off one of the best practical jokes in school history. So I ran with it. I put everything that stank strategically in different teachers’ trash cans. The funny part about this is that no one knew who it was that brought a dead skunk to school. Oh, they let out school early, too. Once I got home, I threw away the clothes I was wearing and took a long bath. A very long bath.
Then came a fateful day for me. I graduated high school and left to live with my uncle in Albany, Georgia. Let me tell you, it doesn’t get too much more “podunk” than 5 miles in any direction from the center of Albany. Being a Yankee, it took some serious adjustments for me. I also started learning how to play music, and how to worship corporately with music. It was a rather exciting time, since I was working a lot paying bills, and at one point trying to hack a full load at a community college. Fun. (Note: I would like to recommend to everyone that they resist the urge to get two part time jobs along with 12 hours of classes. It isn’t very conducive to study anyway, because you’re always tired.) I fell quite a few times in sin. But every time I fell the Lord reached for me and pulled me up again. Like the Bible says, “Happy is the man whose sins are forgiven”.
Now, I am at the University of Georgia studying Management Information Systems. I use the musical talents God has given me to glorify Him, and I have fun in the process. I plan on graduating in May of 1999, and will try to work in a computer field. I can’t be sure where the Lord will lead me, but I know wherever it is, He will be next to me. I am not afraid to say that I love Jesus. He first loved me. He showed me love and compassion when all the world and COBU offered were sinful pleasures and condemnation. Please understand as you read this; my life isn’t perfect. If it was, I wouldn’t need Jesus, would I? But I do need Him, and He will continue to comfort and lead (and discipline when I need it) me until the day that I depart this earth. I only pray there is nothing that holds me here when He calls. I pray that my treasure and hope will be in Him.
My testimony can be summarized with a song my Dad used to sing to us.
You said You’d come, and share all my sorrows,
You said You’d be there for all my tomorrows,
I came so close to sending You away,
But just like You promised, You came here to stay,
I just had to pray.
And Jesus said, “Come to the waters, stand by my side,
I know you are thirsty, you won’t be denied,
I felt every tear drop, when in darkness you cried,
And I strove to remind you, that for those tears I died”.
I pray that through my testimony everyone who reads it will be moved to give the real Jesus a try. God’s will is that all should come to Him.
NOTE: Please feel free to email me if you have any questions or
would like to know more about my testimony. My email
address is firstname.lastname@example.org. God bless!
“Pain is temporary. Jesus is forever.”