I have been asked to tell the story of my conversion to Christianity so here it is.
Some of the details are a bit foggy because it all happened so long ago but this is how I came to accept Christ as my Saviour and start the journey that led me to where I am now.
My mother believed in God. I think. She never talked about Him or not that I can recall but she sent my sister and I to Sunday school every Sunday when we were small. She used to dress us up and send us to wait on the side of the road where the Sunday school teacher would pick us up and take us to Sunday school then drop us back home after it.
Mum never came with us though. I think her main reason for letting us go was to get a break from being a single parent for a few hours. Many years later she told me she only agreed to let us go because the Salvation Army did not have male Sunday school teachers so she thought we would be safe there. She didn’t know why she was worried about that until she was in her 40’s or 50’s and a repressed memory surfaced of having been abused as a child by a male Sunday school teacher. I guess the first miracle in my life was the one that made Mum send her kids to Sunday school so we could learn about God.
When I became a teenager the church told me I was too old for Sunday school and asked me if I would become a Sunday school worker instead. I was flattered to be asked and agreed so, most Sundays, I helped the little ones do their drawings or I read bible stories to them. I wasn’t sure I should be there but I went anyway.
I learned the bible stories at Sunday school and passed them on as a teen but none of it ever really touched my heart. They were just stories. I was suicidal from a very young age and had a lot of baggage from having been molested as a child. At fourteen I became sexually active with my boyfriend and the belief that I didn’t belong in the church grew too strong to ignore any more. I felt like a hypocrite and a fraud teaching children about God when I wasn’t sure I believed in Him myself anyway so I left the church altogether.
Things didn’t go well with my boyfriend. He only wanted me for sex and he kept trying to share me with his friends so I ended up going off the rails. I dropped out of school, ran away from home, got involved with drugs and even tried being a prostitute. I didn’t have much self-esteem before I became a teen but, as the years went by, I got progressively more self-destructive and hated myself more and more.
My mantra became “I don’t mind because I don’t matter!” I put myself in situations that led to all sorts of abuse including rape. I told myself it really didn’t matter if I was treated badly because I was utterly worthless and deserved it.
In 1976 I got pregnant and decided to keep the baby. My motivation for keeping him was simple and completely selfish. I wanted someone to love me and I thought a child would have to love its mother whether it wanted to or not.
So I had the baby and things changed. I could no longer live without caring about what happened to me because what happened to me would be happening to my baby too. I couldn’t roam the streets sleeping wherever I found someone willing to offer me a bed and eating whenever someone offered me food because a baby needed a home and a safe and stable lifestyle.
I was convinced I was worth nothing but I believed my child was precious and his needs set the standard for me to work towards. He needed a home so I got one. He needed a mother who loved him and put him first so I tried to be one. His birth gave me hope that there might be a good reason for my existence after all so I settled down and tried to give my son a good life.
It was an exercise in futility right from day one. I had complications during the birth that led to him being unresponsive which I interpreted as rejection. The one person that should love me whether he wanted to or not – couldn’t love me after all. It was confirmation of my worthlessness.
To my utter horror I found myself being everything I hated in my own mother and worse. I was cold and rejecting. I was abusive, critical and demanding and he was only a few days old! If I was this bad now how would I survive the coming years I wondered fearfully.
The situation was bad enough. I was just 19 years old. I had no idea how to be a parent at all let alone a good parent and I had so much baggage. I hated men so much for all the abuse I had suffered at their hands. I didn’t know just how much resentment and anger I had until I found it welling up inside me and spilling over onto my infant son. My internal turmoil went from bad to worse as I struggled to get a grip on myself and kept failing.
I had been having terrible nightmares if I slept at night long before my son was born so I had developed the habit of staying awake at night and sleeping during the day. To pass the night hours I would read and only go to sleep after the sun had risen.
When my son arrived this habit resulted in serious sleep deprivation as he was on a three hourly feeding schedule and daytime disruptions and duties did not allow much time for sleeping. Apart from the three hourly feeds I had to do the usual chores that come with a new baby. I tried washing the nappies at night at first but the man in the flat above me asked me to stop because the noise was disturbing him. It also seemed like everyone in the world came knocking at my door wanting to visit the new baby during the day. I tried sleeping at night but every time I tried I would have a nightmare that would plunge me into an abyss of terror that took ages to climb out of so I gave up trying. The end result was a very tired, cranky, abusive woman.
Giving him feeds at night was no problem since I was awake then but when he woke me for a feed during the day, while I was trying to sleep, I would lash out at him. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t control it. I would get up, still groggy and tired, and my hand would strike him as I went past his crib to get his bottle. As soon as it did he would cry and I would break down and cry with him as I made his bottle. By the time his bottle was ready he would have stopped crying but I would still be hating myself for hitting him so, as I fed him, I’d be crying and apologising.
It had to stop. I had to change. I knew that and I wanted to so badly. I wanted to be a good mother not an abusive one but I had no idea how to fix things so I kept running away from my misery into books. The only time my misery subsided was when I was lost in a book and caught up in the story it was telling.
As a single mother on a pension I had very limited funds but reading kept me sane so I used to go to the second hand book store and buy books for five or ten cents when they had clear outs. My favourite stories were science fiction ones but I would buy anything if it was cheap enough because I went through them at the rate of about one a night. Two if they were only slim. The bookstore allowed me to trade them back when I was finished with them so it didn’t cost me much all things considered.
One day I came home from the bookstore with my usual haul of reading material and got on with reading my way through them all. There was one book that I had thought was a science fiction one but, when I opened it and began reading, it turned out to be religious so I put it aside. It sat there for some time but, eventually, the night came when there was no other reading material left apart from that particular book so I picked it up and read it.
I really can’t tell you what it said for the most part. When I got the idea of writing about this I couldn’t even remember the title let alone the author. I racked my brain for ages but all I could come up with was two words I was sure had been in the title – Satan and Earth. I got on the internet and searched with those two keywords and found the book which was “Satan Is Alive And Well On Planet Earth” by Hal Lindsey with Carole C Carlson.
All I can remember about the book was that there was a bit in there about how Jesus died hundreds of years ago which meant he died for my future sins since I wasn’t even born then. The author said that sacrifice paid for all the sins I had already committed but it also covered all the sins I would commit in the years to come.
That made a big impact on me because I had no doubt at all that a piece of worthless dung like me could never stop sinning. It made it worth considering so I considered it. I spoke to God for the first time in many years. I told Him I wasn’t worth saving. I told Him I didn’t believe in Him any more. I told Him I was so desperate to change that I was willing to try anything but I could make Him no promises. I didn’t get any response either way so I prayed the prayer the book had given, handed my life over to God, and hoped it would help.
Over the next few days I had nothing left to read so I opened my family bible and began to read that. I tried to hear God. I tried to find some faith in Him. I kept my mind and heart open hoping to hear from Him or feel His presence but there was nothing and I did not change.
When I got paid I went straight to the second hand book store and replenished my supply of reading material. That night I settled down to read the hours of darkness away and I picked up a book. As I read the back cover I felt a quiet voice in my head say; “Don’t read that one.”
It sounded like my own thought but it didn’t feel like it was coming from me so it got my attention and I quizzed it.
“Why not?” I asked the voice silently.
“You have asked me to prove I exist and I love you,” it replied gently, “give me a chance to do that by offering me your obedience now. Don’t read that book tonight.”
I shrugged my shoulders. It was a reasonable request for God, if He existed and this was really Him, to ask of me so I put the book down and picked up another one.
“Don’t read that one either.” The voice said quietly. I shrugged and put it down too. The voice vetoed a few more titles before finally staying silent which I took to mean the book was OK to read. I read the night away and went through the same process the next night and the night after that until I had a pile of books I had been asked not to read on one side of the bed and a scant handful of books I had heard no comment about on the other side.
The night came, of course, when all that was left were the vetoed titles so I picked one up.
“Don’t read it.” The voice said firmly. “There is nothing else left to read”, I protested. “Read the bible” the voice said gently.
“I’m tired of the bible”, I whined, “I don’t want to read that tonight.”
“Then sleep,” the voice suggested.
“I can’t sleep!” I wailed, “I wish I could but you must know what happens if I try to sleep when it is dark!”
“That was before you gave yourself to me,” the voice said firmly, “I am here. I am watching over you. You are safe. Sleep.”
I was not convinced but, again, God asked me to give Him a chance to prove Himself to me so I turned off the light and went to sleep. And I slept! I actually slept without any sign of a nightmare! It was a miracle but I thought maybe it was just a coincidence. When the miracle was repeated the next night I convinced myself I had just talked myself into believing God was watching over me and that was what had broken the cycle of nightmares.
I was still reading every night but only until I was tired so I wasn’t going through the books as quickly by then but the day eventually came when the only ones I had left were the ones the voice had vetoed.
I picked one up and listened for the voice but nothing came so I thought it must be OK to read it now and, as it was only a slim novel, I read it before falling asleep. Big mistake!
I woke up an hour or less later with my heart pounding and terror paralyzing me. I burst into tears as I frantically scrabbled to get the light on and I immediately accused God of lying to me.
“You said you would protect me!” I sobbed.
“I can’t protect you from yourself.” He replied gently.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I demanded petulantly.
“I told you not to read those books.” He said sadly.
“You didn’t say no tonight.” I argued.
“I can’t stop you from going against my will if you are determined to do it.” He said firmly. “You knew I didn’t want you to read that book. You chose to ignore me and now you have learned the hard way that what I ask of you I ask for your benefit not mine.”
He had a point I couldn’t argue with so I got rid of the rest of the books. I haven’t had a nightmare since and that was the start of a long and rewarding relationship with a God whose existence I no longer have any doubts at all about and whose love has become the most treasured thing in my life today.