I guess you can say that I grew up in the church. I sang on the choir. I played Gabriel in the Christmas pageant every year until I was too tall to blend in with the younger 'angels'. I was meek. I was quiet. I was just an all around "good kid".
When I was in the 7th grade, I decided that I wanted to get baptized. I'm not even sure what got into to me to want to be baptized. I don't remember the exact date like most people do, but I do remember the day after like it was yesterday. As I was riding on the bus to school, I felt different. I no longer wanted to do the things that the other kids did. I remember a consciousness of sorts in my mind that "I am baptized now. I have to be different. I have to live like a Christian should live" -- whatever that meant. I wasn't quite sure what it meant at the time. I just knew that cursing and thinking bad of people just wasn't the way to be. My pressing conscience was seared soon after. I stopped having a pressing conscience, but I always strived to be "good" to the best of my abilities.
During my high school years, I faced some really discouraging times (which I will write more about in a future Testimony post) and I got myself into an inappropriate relationship at the age of 17. That secret became exposed. My mom was absolutely livid and it seems as if my reputation was marred in the sight of my church members. I felt judged and unloved by many of the members there. After some time, I began hating church and everything about it. I hated the stares. I hated the whispers. I hated the judgmental spirits. The things mothers said to their daughters about me indirectly, but loud enough for me to hear. I hated how hypocritical the people were. I could not wait to get away from there and head to college in hopes of never returning.
I went to college with a freedom in my heart that I was free and can and will do whatever I wanted. I went to college with that liberation mindset, but sill had a bit of conscience left. And with that bit of conscience, I sought out a church and I chose to live on a substance-free floor my freshman year of college. I lived pure that entire year with the exception of a party every couple weekends or so. With the start of college, I thought I had gotten away from my home church for good, but during school breaks, I had no where to go or stay but home. My mom always went to church on Sundays, so I never got out of attending service. Nothing changed when I went back to my home church. I still felt rather bitter towards the members and I still felt as though they could not look past my mistake. I felt like they didn't love me
The next couple years in college. I moved from the freshman substance-free floor to a dorm with upper classmen and I found friends. Other than the one church service I attended freshman year, I never attended church again during the months I spent away at university. I became more open to trying things and got into drinking and partying with my friends just about every weekend. My conscience was still there however because I would never go more than one or two days without praying. (Ever since I was a child, I found that if I did not pray before going to sleep, I would have nightmares at night. This fear of nightmares caused me to keep a line of communication between God and I-- even though I had no relationship with Him outside of it).
At the start of the Spring semester of my Junior year in college (January 2009), I began talking to my sweet Beau. He shared his personal testimony, and something about it spoke to my heart. I found myself wanting less of partying and drinking with my friends. Whenever my friends and I went out, I found myself bored to the point of wanting to fall asleep (seriously!). I still mingled with them though. I never quite knew how to just drop friends or explain to them why I no longer desired to do the things they were doing. A part of me wanted to live pure and clean for the Lord and to allow my relationship with Beau to blossom, while the other part of me also wanted to continue doing what my friends were doing for fear of having to explain 'why not?'.
Fast-forward to 2010 when I finally graduated college and started graduate school in Connecticut. I felt like I was finally able to live a clean, pure life. I searched for a church the day that I moved in and attended it the very next day. As I walked through the door and into the entry way, a woman there greeted me with great smile and a big hug. And as I entered the sanctuary, everyone greeted me with a smile and a handshake/hug. I left there thinking two things:
(1) 'Wow. Beau and I were about 2 out of 4 Black persons in that church today'...
(2) "Wow.... those people were so warm and loving."Weeks went by. I fell more and more in love with the church. The service was shorter than I was used to (I attend a Caribbean Pentecostal Church-- so, you know), but every sermon seemed to have sparked my interest and left me wanting more. I found myself wanting to attend just about every mid-week service; if not to learn more about the Word of God, then to bask in the fellowship of these loving people. My heart was so full. These people, who did not know me from a can of paint, accepted me into their church and loved me. They invited me to their homes for casual dinners, annual holiday parties, Christmas brunch, Thanksgiving dinner, etc. They prayed with me and for me. One person even prophesied over my life that very first day I was there.
My time at Cornerstone Church ended after grad school and I moved back home. I received a gift card as a graduation gift and used part of it to purchase a Study Bible. I bought it thinking that I need to read the Bible more and since I was having a hard time trying to find a job, it also gave me something to do. I started reading it and discovered truths about the Bible I had never known before. I was able to fill in the blanks to Bible stories I had heard about as a child, but never knew in full detail. I read through Genesis for the first time ever, and then embarked on also reading through Exodus. As I got to Exodus 6:2-3, I broke down into tears. It says:
2 And God spoke to Moses and said to him: “I am the Lord. 3 I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name Lord I was not known to them.
You see, God has always been that all-powerful, all-mighty being to me. I recognized this when I decided to get baptized in the 7th grade. I knew this when I had a conscience regarding doing right and wrong. I knew it when I prayed to Him only to keep my nightmares at bay. I even knew this when I sought a church while attending university. I knew this. I understood and accepted that He is God. That He not only exists, but He is worthy enough to be deserving of obedience and powerful enough to keep away those bad dreams. Yet, I only knew Him as such. I did not know Him as Lord... Jehovah. Yahweh. The I AM. In that moment of reading those two verses of scripture, I felt the Lord asking me to make Him Lord of my life. To make Him the I AM over every situation in my life. That whatever I sought at the time (a job, love, deliverance from abuse) , He is.
I can't quite explain how, but I am absolutely positive that everything that occurred in my life, both good and bad all played a role in bringing me to God. As I read those verses in Exodus, I decided in that moment to give up trying to do everything on my own and many things began falling into place over a short period of time, including purchasing our home, planning our wedding and having peace of mind. As I continue to dig into the scriptures, I uncover so many truths. I discover the sovereignty of the Lord, Jesus Christ, and the unconditional love He has for us. I am then reminded that all those times I felt unloved by others around me, and those times when I fell into sin, He loved me.
God loves you too... Even when you feel hated and rejected by those you feel should love you... Even when you feel as though there's no one there to love you. Yup, even if you mess up...
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace