Born into a Roman Catholic family–infant baptized and later confirmed–I began attending an after school flannel board Bible study during second grade. In a public school in 1959, I acknowledged Jesus was the son of God and that he died for my sins. This “mental assent” according to Protestant (protesting Catholic) theology constituted salvation, my ticket into Heaven. Belief equals salvation, and once saved always saved! Why, I’d even experienced my very first miracle, learning to tie my shoelaces. I was born again! At least, that’s what I was taught.
Now, from that time on, born again or not, I did hear a little inner voice, usually in the form of a warning: “Don’t do that!”, “Better not!” Thinking it my conscience, sometimes I listened, but more often did not.
Still the Hound of Heaven stalked me, relentlessly nipping at my heels.
Right after graduation in 1970, a good friend of mine, Louise, went off to college, a nominal Methodist. She returned at Christmas a born-again believer. Radically saved! Arthur Blessitt–who in the 1970’s carried a 12 foot wooden cross, evangelizing on college campuses–had visited her school. The rest, as they say, was history.
That vacation, in December of 1970, Louise had me throw out my Ouija Board. She gave me a brochure about this new group–Jews for Jesus—which I instantly thought was cool, and she filled my head with visions of Christians disappearing during something she called the rapture. While Louise was home, it was easy to be fired up for the Lord. But after she left my fervor waned. Soon I began thinking of Louise as my friend “the Jesus freak.”
And from that time on, I was plagued by Jesus Freaks, always wanting to pray for me. I didn’t know why. I believed in Jesus, and I’d tell them so. I knew He was the Savior. I knew he died for my sins. I was saved! Wasn’t I? I just didn’t want to become a fanatic! That little voice I thought of as my conscience didn’t speak much anymore. At least, I couldn’t hear it.
I spent my 20s, as the song goes, “looking for love in all the wrong places,” until I finally married at 24 and had my son at 26. In my mid 30’s, I started calling myself an agnostic. Why not? I was educated, about to graduate from college. And I was angry. Very angry! Especially with my (soon-to-be ex) husband!
“If there was a God,” I arrogantly declared one afternoon to a practicing member of the Assemblies of God church, my cousin Margaret, “He certainly has messed things up!” Horrified, the next day Margaret added my name to her church’s prayer list, aptly titled: “Hostages of Satan.”
Not long after that, the Hound of Heaven cornered me. By then, I had sunk deep into depression–one of my own making, as is usually the case. My plunge began a few months after graduating from nursing school in 1986. On the same day that I received my RN license in the mail, I got my divorce decree. To celebrate, I partied that night at a disco in Ft. Lauderdale.
It was there I met Richard, and fell madly in love. A few weeks later, he moved in with me and my 8 year old son, Jason. My euphoria quickly morphed into depression. I wanted marriage. Richard did not, proving once again, that enjoying the pleasures of sin will last only for a season. (Hebrews 11:25)
Over the next several months, Richard frequently flew to California seeking work in the nuclear power industry. Eventually he lined up a job. It called for a move to Yugoslavia. My depression hit critical mass. It was a weighty, murky cloud, under which I went to work, came home, and neglected my son, totally absorbed by my own pain. I would rock on the porch, chain smoking, and silently crying out, “God, make it stop hurting.”
Knowing now what prayer is, I can assure you I wasn’t praying. It was rhetoric, a mere expression of my misery. But YHVH, who knows the end from the beginning, in His unmeasurable mercy answered my unworthy appeal just the same.
I was supposed to go look at a townhouse with my best friend, on the day the miracle occurred. I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to do anything. I wanted to sit, smoke, and feel sorry for myself. But my best friend, Marcia, reminded me that I never wanted to do anything with her anymore. She guilted me into it.
While she changed clothes up in her apartment, I sat out by the pool, marinating my ten-ton misery in the hot Florida sun. Then, all of a sudden, that cumbersome cloud disintegrated. The atmosphere became crystal. Very light! I could move. Motion no longer felt like running in quicksand. One second I was weighted down, the next, I was free. The situation with Richard was the same. But I was different . . . and I didn’t know why.
Marcia came down about then. In a flurry of words on the drive over to look at this townhouse in Mission Wood, I tried to explain that I was inexplicably no longer depressed.
I still loved Richard, and he still planned to move to Yugoslavia when he returned from California. Only, in spite of all that, I was glad to be alive! I didn’t hurt.
After several seconds of stunned silence, and with hands gripping the steering wheel, Marcia said, “You’re Bipolar! And obviously in a manic phase!”
She was still trying to convince me of her diagnosis as we pulled into Mission Wood. The “by-owner” sellers were brother and sister. Bonnie, the sister, a woman in her thirties, was getting married, and the brother, Mike, didn’t think he could afford the place by himself.
On a shelf in the kitchen above the sink sat a small wooden cross. Suddenly, out of my mouth gushed a question. And a rather strange one at that, I reflected sometime later, since a cross in our culture is mostly decorative.
Still, “Are you Christians?” I asked.
Bonnie beamed! Immediately she proceeded to tell me about her best friend, Jesus. Now she didn’t actually call him her best friend. But the way she spoke of him–all the miracles he’d done for her–it was as if she were talking about a flesh and blood person she visited with daily. A personal friend! Not some remote God of theology. As I listened–something I would not have been capable of doing while bound by depression—I got the revelation: Jesus burst the cloud—that murky fog of my own making.
In His mercy, Yeshua attended to my cry. Before I left that townhouse that Sunday afternoon, I had said the sinner’s prayer. That night, I went to church with Bonnie and Mike. But it was after service in my apartment that I surrendered my will. My Savior became my Master (Lord). I told Yeshua that night that I’d really screwed up. I was sorry, and I was ashamed. And I promised that with His help, I would strive to do things His way. Now, I didn’t always succeed, but He has always faithfully gotten me back on track.
Some twenty years later, in 2008, I had another revelation.
How could I do things His way, when I had only a sketchy idea of what “His way” was? I had to read the front of His book for instructions, His TORAH!
But I must finish the story of what happened in 1988 . . .
Before Richard returned, I phoned him and told him I’d made arrangements for him to stay at a friend’s. I had moved all his things. Bonnie and I have been friends ever since. Although she doesn’t quite get the Hebrew Roots movement – I’m still praying. Mike decided he could afford to live alone in the townhouse, and remained there for several years.
My best friend Marcia and I were the only two people whoever responded to that tiny ad Mike had placed in the flyer to sell that townhouse in Mission Wood. It was all a part of God’s plan. It was a “divine appointment.” And today, some 26 years later, I know the significance of YHVH’s appointed times and divine appointments.
I also know that simple mental assent, believing that Yeshua died for my sins, is not the same as being born again. Scripture tells us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. The demons believe and tremble. But demons don’t obey.
Once I trusted God, and that’s what faith is, I wanted to obey! I trusted that He as the Creator knew better than me. If he said don’t eat pork, I wouldn’t eat it! It he said keep the Feasts forever, I would keep them. If he said love my enemies, I would strive as best I could. I knew I couldn’t con Him, and that I’d have to keep it real!
It’s an evil attitude I hear expressed by some Christians who falsely claim we don’t have to keep God’s commandments because we can’t keep them perfectly. It’s perverted!
Yeshua kept the law so that you could break it? Heaven forbid!
Yeshua said, “If you love me keep my commandments.” (John 14:15) Whoever breaks the least of them will be least in the kingdom of Heaven. (Matthew 5:19) In Revelation Yeshua addressed the churches. He warned them, over and over, that only those who overcome will eat of the tree of life–those who have faith and keep his commandments. They won’t be hurt by the second death. It is they who will eat the hidden manna, receive a white stone, be granted power over the nations. Overcomers will inherit all things. Overcomers will be called sons of God.
(Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26)
God created the natural world as a type, a shadow of the spiritual. Before one is born, one must be conceived, then gestate to full-term. And so it is with the spiritual. Merriam Webster defines gestation as “the time when a person is developing before it is born.” What I used to think of as being “born again”, I now think of as conception. And remember life begins at conception! Our walk of faith is that gestation period. As a fertilized egg must develop into a full-term fetus before it is born, we also must grow and change into the image of our Everlasting Father. Scripture admonishes us to be conformed into Messiah’s image, complete the course, and finish the race.
We must not self-abort!
Then, at the last trump, our water will break. Yeshua will return! The dead will rise. Death will be swallowed up in victory. And we will be born again. Incorruptible!