Pardon Me, I Should Have Begun with My Testimony
When I was a little girl – I would go with my parents to the summer cottage in the Cape. Oh how I loved to kick my shoes off and feel the heat (or the coolness depending on the time of year) of the sand under my toes. There was a rocky pier that I would go out and sit on and think. And oh how I loved the spray of salt water that would sprinkle me whenever a wave would crash against the boulders of the pier. We would go usually in the Fall. A time when the cottage would be empty of renters and people. How I loved the quiet solitude of those days. I think even before I became a Christian at 21 I was always a “thinker.” One of the first introductions I had to “God” was the book – “Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret.” By Judy Blume. On the brink of womanhood I read that book and I learned soooo much. I began to “talk to God” – “Hi God, its ME – Kelly.” Growing up in a predominately Jewish neighborhood the daughter of parents who were agnostic they never forced a “religion” upon us. We were free to explore and learn and choose. I started going to church by myself when I was a teenager. I felt something “lacking deep inside of me.” A need to feel closer to God. I chose a church that had solar windows (I thought that was cool). I would go by myself Sunday after Sunday – but the Reverand of that Church only spoke of the history of the Church. There were “prayer books” in the pews but I didn’t understand them (there were no Bibles in the pews). The people were kind enough – but still something was lacking deep inside of me…
Ever since I can remember – I wanted to be an actress. Since the age of three. Talent shows, musicals, plays, make believe – whatever involved theatre – I just had to be a part of. I knew when i grew up I wanted to be an actress. There was no doubt, no changing my mind – that was it.
When I was in College I was the only Theatre Major in a school filled with women that were going to be teachers. It was an all girls college – I had been told that I would be able to take my theatre classes at Harvard. Not sure who it was who told me that – but it ended up not being true. Talk about a square peg fitting in a circle setting. I didn’t see the need for college – I wanted to get an agent, head out to California and begin to act. Oh how wise I thought I was at 17. How little I really knew. However – again, there are times we go through things for a reason – even if we don’t know what that reason is.
I loved my father (my earthly father) very much. But he was very strict. It wasn’t until I was a freshmen that I discovered MEN! And ohhh the men that would come to my college because it was an all girl school! I became a sweetheart (little sister) to a nationwide Fraternity. Parties galore – studying? What was That?? I even tried to pledge a sorority – but was appalled by the things they did to us while pledging and couldn’t possibly consider someone who spent weeks and weeks tearing me down during the pledging process being someone I would WANT to call sister when it was said and done. My whole pledging line – quit.
How interesting it is to see how the Lord allows things to form – to set up things that occur to sometimes bring you closer to Him. While on my way to a pledge meeting (before I dropped out of the line) my sister pledgers and I were walking down a semi-tough section of town. I had grown up in an expensive part of town – so I wasn’t familiar with this neck of the woods. A man was running towards us – not to us – but in the same direction. In his hand he had a gun. Another man was running after him. Yelling, “He robbed my store!” We quickly got out of the way and someone (I think called the police). We continued walking to the Sorority Sisters House we were expected to appear at. But I was crying and I was trembling. It really shook me up. Three weeks later – I was at a “under 21 club” with the same group of friends. A fight must have broken out within the club and someone yelled in the darkness of the club “He’s gotta gun!!!” Again I was in the midst of unfamiliar terroritory and worse – caught up in a stampede of people trying to get out the exit door. And yes – it was just like what you see in the movies – when you see cattle charging for whatever reason… How weird it was to feel oneself being pushed along with the crowd everyone scared and wanting to get out as quickly as possible. For a young woman who had not witnessed anything violent – these two experience shook my foundation to the core.
I have lived a very sheltered life, you see. I’m not ashamed of it and I love my parents for all they tried to shield me from. But when i faced things I wasn’t familiar with it was like a genuine culture shock to my system. It absolutely terrified me. I felt small and vulnerable… Shortly after that time – my grandfather died. Now in a Portuguese family the grandfather is really the head of the family. I loved my grandfather. We had a very dear and special relationship. And although my family will laugh and probably each of us grandchildren will say the same thing “I was his favorite.” (Of course I’d be the only one telling the truth… Winking at you).
When my grandfather died – I was at the end of my rope. There HAD to be more than just this. It was at this point I was approached while waiting for the bus one day – by a certain cult we are all very familiar with and I shall not name. They asked me if I wanted to study the bible and I agreed. I began to study with them – much to the dismay and fear of my mother. She was so fearful that she made an appointment for me to meet with the Reverand of the Church I had gone to by myself as a young girl. She even went with me to talk with him. He sat behind his large cherry wood desk and began with the religious stain glass windows behind him. Smiled at me calmly and said – “So Kelly, your mother tells me you have questions for me?” And I did indeed. You see the cult I had been studying with had prepared me for this conversation. I turned to him with my first question and I asked – “Do you believe we are descendents from Adam and Eve?” He looked at me and said (this is the truth) “Well, I don’t really know… We could be descendents from Monkeys for all I know.” I looked at him and blinked. I asked him my next question – “Do you believe that there will be a judgement day?” He looked at me again and answered “Could be… Could be not.. We may all be blown up in a nuclear war – who knows?” I looked at him astonished and I grew even more confused. I felt like why was he a Reverand if he didn’t believe things that were key to his Christian faith? At any rate – the meeting with him made me determined not to go back. But an interesting thing began to happen. Although I had not become a “member” of this cult – I did continue studying with them and as I did – i became fearful. They were causing me to separate more and more from my family and my parents and my brother meant the world to me. I felt.. uneasy… So I finally told them I wouldn’t study with them anymore – and Ohhh how ANGRY they were. And at that point – since I wasn’t a Christian yet – my response was what anyone with a Portuguese temper would be – PISSED. And after she told me where she thought I would go – I told her what she could do with her little book. And from that point on – I determined in my head that my relationship with God – would be JUST THAT. My relationship with God. No one else’s business. It wasn’t until a couple of years later – when I transferred over to another University and they were having a fleamarket day – I was inbetween classes and walking around looking at the different booths. I came across a table with something called – tracks on it. a girl my age was sitting behind the table. She asked me if I wanted to talk about God. I looked at her with an eyebrow raised and said firmly – NO. She indicated to me that she was a member of Campus Crusade for Christ of the Intervarsity Fellowship program at the school and I was welcome to join them for prayer or Bible study early in the morning. I looked at her, blinked and said… “Ahhhh… no…” And kept on walking. How odd it was that a few weeks later I had gotten into school early. I wandered around the university and found myself outside of the chapel. I went inside so I could “talk with God” by myself. I felt an emptiness inside of me and no matter what I tried to fill it up with – auditions, Shakespeare, Plays, partying, friends, men – there was an emptiness deep inside of me. I felt as though there had to be MORE to life than just THIS. Along came “Julie” the girl I met on the fleamarket. She came quietly and sat beside me and said, “I’ll leave if you want me to – but it might be helpful if you share what your feeling with someone.” And so I did. I shared with her all of what you have just read and she told me she wanted me to meet the Director of the Intervarsity Fellowship Program, would I come back tomorrow? The next day – I came back. It was early morning. Students were gathered around in a circle reading from the Bible. There was only one seat left – available. It was next to this very tall, very slender waayyy older black woman. I looked at her and thought “Good for her! College is for any age!” And I sat down next to her. The reading was over in a few short minutes. Julie approached me and said, “Hi Kelly! Glad you could make it! I want you to meet the Head of the International Varsity Fellowship Program. She turned to the woman next to me. Who smiled at me warmly gave me a big hug and said with a wonderful southern accent. “Praise the Lord Kelly! Ahhh have heard all about’cha. I’m sooo glad you came to join us today…” She looked at the little red book I was carrying in my arms. You see – the foundation the cult had set in me was still there. Because no one had ever taken the time to share the Bible with me. Sarah looked at the book and asked me if she could see it. I handed it to her. “She flipped through the pages with a knowing smile. She glanced up at me and she said… “Ahhh have one question for you.” Her beautiful dark brown eyes looked at me wisely. I looked up at her thinking about that Reverand I had met with and I smiled. Ready for her to be as much as a pushover as he was. She paused for a moment before she continued. “Who wrote this book?” My face crumbled… Such a simple question. Unexpected – and yet there I stood not knowing the answer. Feeling like a fool because there I was believing these beliefs and NOT knowing who’s beliefs I was believing in. I may be many things – but I’ve never been a stupid woman. I’m much smarter than people think… But in this circumstance, my face crumbled and I began to cry. I felt alone, I felt confused and I felt very, very lost. Sarah looked at me compassionately, took both of my hands in hers and said with her musical southern accent, “Kelly, ahhhhh wanna tell you about someone who loves you very much.” (I glanced up at her wondering if she knew one of my fraternity brothers…) She raised my chin with her finger and said, “His name is Jesus Christ. ” (Now you have to remember – I grew up in a predominately Jewish neighborhood. Wonderful rich culture. And while I had learned much about the Jewish faith – I had never learned about Jesus. He was more like a “Christmas fable” to me). Sarah began to tell me about how Jesus had died on the cross for forgiveness of my sins. How he would never leave nor forsake me. How He defeated sin and death by His victory over the cross by rising again. She told me that it wasn’t “church” or a “building” that would save me. She told me she wouldn’t “make me” go to a certain church. She told me that all I had to do – was to believe in my heart and confess with my mouth that Jesus was Lord and I would be saved. I didn’t see what difference it would make, so i went over the Sinner’s prayer as that goes something like this:
I now believe that Jesus Christ is Your only begotten Son, that He came to our earth in the flesh and died on the cross to take away all of my sins and the sins of this world. I believe that Jesus Christ then rose from the dead on the third day to give all of us eternal life.
I honestly didn’t know at the time what a difference that prayer would make in my life. I had NO idea what was taking place in the spiritual ream while I prayed that prayer. And I also thought to myself – “Lord if you are REALLY REALLY REAL – I need you to reveal yourself to me.” Sarah gave me a Bible. She had indicated to me – that I could go out to any Christian bookstore and buy a bible myself. I think it was important to her that I realize that I wasn’t being “forced to learn something, join something or go somewhere” to be close to God. You see when someone has a cult type experience its important that they not feel “pushed” into something. I was overly cautious and very appreciative that she was not “making me join a certain church” although she encouraged me to find a church where i could worship and have a body of other believers around to support me. For the first six months of my new Christian life – i didn’t join a church. I hungered for the Bible. I couldn’t read enough of it. Learn enough about Jesus. The Apostles – the stories in the Old Testament. I understood what I was reading. I fell in love with the Lord. His Word I hung onto deep within my heart. You see – its not about being “religious” its about having a “personal relationship with the Lord.” One where you can be REALLY REALLY REAL. And the most wonderful thing about it – is that He in turn, is REALLY REALLY REAL right back at you… All of that was 22 years ago. So hard to believe how quickly time has gone. I have learned soooooo much – but I have yet sooo much MORE to learn. That is the most amazing thing about being a Christian – you never stop learning, growing in Him. There is a peace that passes all understanding. And its not something I can describe to you because the Bible says – “Taste and see that the Lord is good!” (Psalms 34:8). Its like trying to describe to someone who has never seen – what the color “blue” is. You can’t. But once you know Him – you really do realize that “He is the Way, the Truth and the Life.”
As I indicted in the beginning of my blog – I don’t have all the answers… I am far from perfect (especially during THIS time in my walk) but I can point you towards the One who IS Perfect… His name is Jesus – and while people will disappoint you all the time – HE NEVER WILL.