The Joy of My Salvation
During a church revival, I came under conviction and asked many questions, on the way home. I remember the fear of not wanting to go to hell.
It was my father that came into my bedroom, which was kind of odd, being that dad and I had never talked about much of anything. But, mom wasn't saved, yet, herself. So, she reneged on this one.
Though, it wasn't bad at all ... our first meaningful conversation. Dad brought a kitchen chair into my bedroom, I sat on the bed, and we talked. He explained several things and led me as to how to ask Jesus into my heart.
It has been said that I began carrying my Bible everywhere and that I went to every house, in the neighborhood, to tell others about Jesus (also with Bible in hand). I have no idea how I might have used that Bible, if called upon to do so. But, carrying it seemed the Christian thing to do.
Though, I wish I could remember that, the Joy of My Salvation. But, instead, I was sort of robbed.
There were many preachers and evangelists at the church, this week. They had come for the revival. And, they all wanted to meet me. My parents did ask if I would agree to the meeting, for which I did. But, still, it was a bit intimidating, having to answer to all those giants.
You see, they didn't believe I was yet at the age of accountability. They thought I was too young and said that it was almost unheard of. Their concern was that I wouldn't understand what I was doing.
I may have only been six years old. But, they were wrong.
Then, once mom got saved, her and dad began mission work. Today, it's called 'church planting' and, of course, laborers were few. Thus, new converts were often my teachers. It was the era (error) of Hell, Fire, and Brimstone preaching and that was the only God these new converts knew.
This was also the age when it was, yet, the common and expected thing to do ~ to go to the altar, seeking forgiveness. It didn't help to not even have a memory of the Joy of My Salvation. So, there were times I questioned if I had been saved at all.
One of our preachers even testified that he had been called to preach, but had not yet done so ~ and that God told him He could even take his children if he didn't agree.
Thus, my concept of God gradually developed to envision a monster that couldn't wait for me to mess up, so He could hit me over the head. And, I was sure that is what happened when my marriage turned into an abusive nightmare.
Truly, there was much deliberation between 'kill or be killed', as there didn't appear to be another out. To 'take my chances with God' didn't seem to be a viable option. Only, with death or prison the only other solutions ~ with the support of family and a team of officers, I took a flying leap into the unknown, escaped, and filed for divorce.
In my training, divorce fit right up there with the unpardonable sin. Even though he had also been unfaithful, I was more than shocked that God didn't strike me dead.
There had been no prior training to be anything other than the virtuous woman. A child had been conceived in rape, which was my only hope of not living my remainder years alone. Another marriage wasn't within options God allowed, or so I thought. I hadn't prepared to be the breadwinner. Really, I thought my life was over ... and I was only 18 years old.
For three days, I sat in a trance while listening to the record "Like a Bridge Over Troubled Waters'. Only, the song had never been explained to me. I thought I was that sinking bridge, as I just couldn't be that strength anymore.
Books on overcoming the effects of abuse had not yet been written. The only answer I could come up with was this ... if I just did all the right things, I would never have to live like that again. In such thinking, I began to adopt the lifestyle of legalism.
Still cold and dead inside, none would be the wiser. Only, God knows what service is from the heart ... and I didn't have one. If I didn't feel, no one could ever hurt me like that again.
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In time, I did remarry and, eventually, a miracle child was conceived ... and I was sure this was the child God would take.
Labor did not produce birth and, with each contraction, the baby's heart rate diminished. Hour after hour, doctors deliberated as to whether or not to do a c-section, then still did nothing. This was the beginning of the new (barbaric) era of natural child birth.
Only, there was no doubt, death was imminent; mine, the baby's, or both. Unknown to anything else, mom said she had felt it, too ~ and she was miles away.
Fully understanding that I deserved for this baby to die, I was prepared to accept it. But, this was my husband's only biological child and he would not understand why God would do this to him.
Thus, I asked God to preserve the relationship between Him and my husband. The baby didn't yet know me. So, she would not know to suffer my loss, as was my thinking. I was prepared to go, even if in her place. Only, I had another child that really needed me and there was no other answer for that.
All considerations were in love and I was ready to live, die, or whatever God decided. Maybe that was a good thing, that I had opened my heart to love again.
Though, once I had finished talking with God, I began to make a scene. Nurses had said that, if the mother became under stress, the doctors would then act. So, I behaved very badly (on purpose) and they couldn't get me into surgery fast enough.
It was then that peace came. It would be alright, now, whatever that meant.
Anesthetics kept me asleep for most of the first 24 hours. Though, between each spurt of alertness, I watched people, carefully, trying to determine if they were telling me the truth. Finally, I pinned a nurse down and asked, straight forward, "Why won't you bring my baby to me?"
The nurse promised that, as soon as I could stay awake (so as to not accidentally injury the baby), they would bring her to my room. Except for being in an incubator the first days, precautionary being that she was so small, all appeared to be well; with no heart problems either.
Only, a hard year followed. Baby and I took turns at being ill. A year later and my strength was, still, at the stage of crawling to get up the stairs.
Finally, I determined that Satan was never going to allow us health to go to church, again, and I knew just the thing for that. If neither of us were running a temperature, we were going ~ no matter how bad we looked or felt.
It was then that things started improving. Within six months, baby and I were able to attend church regularly and I joined our church choir.
My piano teacher had, once, taught me how to feel the music when I'd play and I had used those same tools to spiritually go there, to imagine and feel whatever I was singing.
Then, one day, while participating in the choir, in the middle of a song, God said, "You know how to feel it. Now, I want you to see it."
I thought, "Ok. But, I have no clue how to do that."
God said, "Find a spot on the wall and focus. Envision seeing Jesus."
"But, all we have are pictures. I don't know what he looks like."
"Whatever you envision him to look like will be fine. Do you see it?"
.............................................. "Yes, I see it."
"What is he doing?"
"He's suppose to be doing something? I don't know."
I looked up, at that picture of Jesus, and studied it for a few seconds, to see whatever I might see. Honestly, I had no idea what I was suppose to be looking for. But, God had said to look.
Keep in mind, we were still standing in the choir ~ singing. Then, suddenly, I noticed Jesus changed from a portrait to a full body image, making him appear farther away. He was holding something. But, I couldn't make out what it was. So, I watched closely.
Now, keep in mind, I was on live television, in that choir. I have no idea if I kept singing or not. But, the image gradually came closer and closer.
I thought, maybe Jesus was carrying a lamb. Yes ... it's ... it's a lamb. Ok. But, wait. The image is a little fuzzy. Something is happening. It's transforming. What is it? I studied carefully ... until ... Oh, no! Oh, NO! It was my baby!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I do not know if or how I maintained composer. I must have done ok, being that I didn't get scolded for messing up the televised program. But, my knees felt so weak that I don't know how I even remained standing.
Jesus had my baby in his arms and he was giving her back to me. Tears rolled and flowed, and must have turned into an avalanche. Jesus, JESUS, ... JESUS had become My Lamb and I will never be the same again!
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My God is not a God of Hell, Fire, and Brimstone. He is a God of Love. Love is who He is.
He has saved us. He continues to save us. And, He will save us. And, now, I have the memory of a true salvation experience. I pray God grants me the mental capacity to always remember the Joy of My Salvation!
And, now that I 'know' God's love, I love God enough to live for Him and, through hard times and all, I can be a bridge that won't fall ~ because, the joy of the Lord is my strength.
Yet, each Christmas, all else aside, one of my favorite places is to return to Bethlehem, to envision caring for God's baby.
God gave an even greater love than Himself. He gave His Son. It's the least we can do, to love him, too.