I was eight years old when I first began doubting the existence of God. It would be years before I’d ever explicitly deny His existence at all. But as a kid, I just thought it was too much to believe that there was someone there designing the cosmos. Somehow, the idea that a single particle exploded and created infinity existence made more sense, but that’s a story for the sequel.
I don’t know why it was so hard for me. I was raised in church. My dad talked to me about the Bible. I even remember a couple of times he read Scriptures with me, but it just never all clicked together. It should also be said, I was raised in a decaying church, but I didn’t know anything at the time about deadness and complacency. I didn’t know religion was all I was seeing. I was told every week to get saved and accept Jesus into my heart, never knowing he wanted more than my heart.
That’s how it works, isn’t it? People come to the altar and say an ABC sinner’s prayer, and they become part of the Christian club. We give them a new Bible, a t-shirt, some mints in a gift basket, and then we schedule a day for them to get baptized in someone’s swimming pool. Then the next week, we get to change the numbers on the church’s attendance board.
I found out you can go to church your whole life and never know who Jesus is. ‘Cause I sure did. And by the time I got to college, my best friend had become an atheist, and I didn’t know Jesus enough to tell her she was wrong. When she would spit out all these random facts, I didn’t know how to argue. I’d been on the fence about God’s existence for so long that by the time she got done with me, it was really easy for me to get jerked down to the side that said He wasn’t real. I was tired of not knowing.
Home had been really difficult when I was growing up. My dad was gone most of the time working, and my grandmother was very hateful towards me. She was a good woman, and I think she loved me, so I don’t say that with any resent in my heart. I know she was very ill, and had dementia when she died. I can look back and see where she’d probably had it for years, which I believe contributed significantly to how she felt about me. She used to say things about me to other people that just crippled me. But the one thing she said that stood out the most was when she was on the phone talking to one of her friends, and I heard her telling the story about how my parents just wanted one baby, and my mom pitched a fit until my dad gave in and had me. After telling the story, she said, “And look what we got.”
The first baby they had was my older brother. Growing up, he had Bipolar Disorder and ADHD, and probably some other things going on, too. There are two types of Bipolar Disorder, and he had the kind that made him very violent, defiant, hypersexual, and angry. So growing up in that environment, there was a lot of fear that he was going to hurt somebody, kill one of us… He used to get angry and threaten to kill everyone and burn the house down. I spent years knowing in my heart he would really do it one day. He never did, but when you spend your whole life preparing for something you know is about to happen, the trauma is as real as if it had.
Typing the words to explain what else my brother did is, even now, very hard. I’m sure you can read between the lines and figure it out… I was twelve when it started, and I began to really act out, which threw gasoline on the fire with my grandmother. I started cutting, hanging out with a bad crowd, and became suicidal. I was really messed up. By the time I graduated high school, I wanted to go to college just to get away from home, so that’s what I did.
It was my first semester when I decided there was no God. Then with my entire life preceeding me, I did the only thing I knew to do in order to cope, and I started drinking. Heavily. About that time, a new friend come into my life who was a Christian. She kept inviting me to go to church with her on campus, and I always turned her down. One week, I finally gave in.
The church was very different from anything I’d ever heard before. For the first time, someone was telling me I needed to get saved and told me why. I began to hear for the first time about unconditional love, and how strong it was for me. I heard about the love of a Father. And what really got to me was when I heard Jesus didn’t have to go to the cross out of obligation to his Father. He did it in love, and love for me. He could’ve walked away, but he didn’t. Why not? That became the million dollar question in my mind. Why would Jesus, if he was God in the flesh, NOT call angels to come take him down from the cross? Either he was unable to cry out for rescue, or he loved us enough to die. There could have been nothing in between.
Jesus had been a real man who walked the earth. I never doubted that. So between the drunken nights, I set out on a mission to discover if he was who he said he was.
I was in our campus pastor’s office every week asking questions. He never got angry with me, and was so patient. He always answered me in a way that left me thinking. He gave me a few books, Scriptures to look at, and always prayed for me. For the life of me though, I couldn’t figure it out. I couldn’t find the faith that would overcome what I believed to be facts and logical explanations. Nothing in me could believe it. Nothing.
One night after service, I asked the pastor what someone actually had to do to become saved. He asked me if I’d ever heard of the ABC sinner’s prayer, and I said, “No, I know what that is… But how do you get saved? It can’t be that easy.” He offered to pray with me, and I declined.
I began walking around my little college town, really torn and lost in thought. I didn’t know it was God trying to get my attention. I said a prayer in my head to the God I didn’t believe in and said, “If You’re there, prove it.”
I called the friend who had invited me to church and asked her to meet with me. After a trip to McDonald’s, we retreated to the playground and talked for a long time about her mom and how we’d had similar stories. She said she and her mom had both been praying for me. I still had so many questions, but I couldn’t find the words to ask any of them. She finally looks at me and says, “Jessie… God is knocking on your heart. If you don’t answer, your heart is going to harden, and it’s going to get a lot harder to hear Him. You need to talk to Him.”
I said blankly back to her, “I don’t believe in God.”
After she left, I continued my walk. I found myself in the residential part of town going down main street. I passed by this house with a for rent sign in the front yard. I had been looking for a new place, and the door was standing wide open. No lights were on, no cars in the driveway… Even though it was after midnight, I thought, why not? I looked around to see if I saw anyone, and I didn’t. So I proceeded to the house.
As I make my way up the three steps to the front door, I kick something. It was too dark for me to see what it was, so I got my phone out and looked down. Of all things… It was a Bible. I made my way through the rest of the house, checking it out and making sure that the coast was clear. When I was sure I was alone, I went back to retrieve the Bible. I took it to the corner of what I believe was the bedroom, sat down, and started to read by the light of my phone. There was a little bookmark sticking out of II Corinthians, so I opened it up to there first.
I began at chapter 10, and knew from my research that I was reading Paul’s words. I read about how he was shipwrecked, beaten, starved, imprisoned, and tortured for preaching the gospel. I read how he knew he couldn’t boast for what he had done or take glory in it because he knew it was the power of God that enabled him to do what he did. It didn’t stop him from begging The Lord to take away a thorn Paul kept in his side. Who in their right mind would want anything that caused them so much pain? We don’t know exactly what Paul was referring to when he talked about the thorn, but we know God’s answer to his prayer was perfect. When Paul asked Him to remove it, God said, “My grace is sufficient for thee. My power works best in weakness.”
In that moment, it dawned on me what Paul was saying, and what the Holy Spirit was saying to me. Paul willingly went through what we went through for no other reason except he saw The Lord. And I don’t mean saw Him like the disciples saw Him. Paul had an experience with God on his way to Damascus that completely changed him. It was so real and so theology-altering, it left his heart with no other choice but Jesus.
Here I was having my own experience. I felt doubt and fear falling off of me. For the first time, I felt like I was really encountering the real, living God; the one who went to the cross only because He loved me. And like Paul, my experience was leaving my heart with no other choice but Jesus, too. No one would willingly go through what Paul went through unless they had seen God. And how could a man willingly bear the cross unless he had truly been The Lord?
The Holy Spirit directed my attention to II Corinthians 12:10, in what would be the perfect final blow to my doubt. In my entire belief system caving in on me, what was crushing me the most was the idea that I wasn’t good enough for God. Then I read what Paul said to God’s answer: “Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
I found my knees, and I cried out the most pitiful prayer I could come up with. I realized I didn’t even know how to pray, which was not a good time to learn that. Still, I prayed. I prayed the only thing I could think to say. I’d heard our campus church band playing Hillsong’s From the Inside Out weeks before, and I asked God to consume me right there, to forgive me, to save me… And when I left the house, I left a dead man in the bedroom.
The whole night had been pretty bizarre. I called my friend first thing in the morning to tell her what had happened. She was overjoyed, but thought I was nuts for leaving the Bible there. I put it back in the doorway because, even though I hadn’t been a Christian for very long at that point, I figured stealing a Bible was probably a sin. So we waited until she got done with her classes that morning, and then I took her to the house where it happened.
The door of the house was still open, and the Bible still where I’d left it. In a moment of bravery, I decided to call the number on the house’s for rent sign and see what was up with the strange find. I was careful in my questions, because I didn’t want the lady to think I was too crazy. But I did ask her why the door was standing wide open. Apparently, a neighbor had called her that morning to let her know the door was open. She said that something had come up that prevented her from getting to the house to lock it. As for the Bible, she didn’t have any explanation. Everything, she said, had been cleared out of the house months before, but I was welcome to keep it.
Before we left, my friend got the idea to try and find out who lived there before to see if the Bible had actually belonged to them. We looked in the mailbox to find names (careful not to take or damage anything), and we found two. A quick search on Facebook and Myspace proved one to be an atheist, and the other a pagan. The Bible definitely wasn’t theirs. I remembered that most Bibles had a page at the front where names and dates were written. The Bible seemed to be in decent condition, but two pages were missing. Guess which ones.
Sharing testimonies is to the church what Baseball is to America. It’s a pastime. We all do it. And I guess if I were telling this story behind a pulpit, this is where you’d expect the ending. But if I’m honest, the only thing that happened at 1101C Main Street that night was I realized I had been wrong to doubt God. That’s been seven years ago, and I have days when I feel like I don’t know anymore about Him now than when I started this journey. I have days when I’m still trying to figure out why He loves me. I have days when I am so weak… I don’t know what Paul’s thorn was, but I know what it’s like to have one. I’ve spent my whole saved life praying and waiting for God to come in and take this thing away, and it’s never happened. I get frustrated and angry and sad, and I’m guilty of trying to dig the thorn out myself, simply because I have days where I can’t take it anymore. And I ask God why it’s there, and I beg Him to remove it. Yes, I definitely have my days…
I set out on a mission to prove God was real. As far as I’m concerned, I succeeded. But my testimony hasn’t ended, because when that mission was complete, I set out to prove my story was real, and what happened in that house was real. I had to prove it to other people, and to myself. I find time and time again that I can’t prove it because I keep failing in life. I keep falling down, over and over. No matter what I do, I can’t get it right. All because of this stupid thorn.
But, that’s okay. Because we overcome by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony. As I walk with Jesus through this oftentimes ridiculous life, I learn that testimonies are little more than markers of a point in time when we looked to Jesus with our hearts in our hands, crumbling and weak because we’d tried to care for it ourselves, and said to him, “I don’t know what to do with this anymore.” And that means I have a new testimony every single day, in every single moment of weakness, because I am constantly having to give my shattered heart back to God.
So, like Paul, that’s what I boast about. Most of the time, I am weak, I am broken, I am sick, numb, hurting, angry, distraught, and probably crazy. It isn’t that I was messed up; it’s that I AM messed up, and thank God I am. My story doesn’t come from an abandoned Bible or an open house. It comes from my brokenness. And that’s the testimony that sets me free.
Now, I’m going to share one more thing with you.
This website first launched in April of 2011. It’s been a crazy time, for sure. I’ve loved every subscriber and random reader I’ve had, and I’ve treasured you dearly. All I ever wanted to do was share something, anything, that would make a difference to your own walk with The Lord and your lives. I don’t know if I accomplished that, but I’d like to think five and a half years of writing, I’ve done something to be worth it all.
When I first started this website, it was for my music. God quickly shifted it into something way more wonderful than I ever could have imagined. And I’m honored to have had the support and encouragement you all have given me to continue all this time. I can’t say enough how grateful I am.
I’m not going to say “unfortunately,” because we know when God is on the move, nothing is unfortunate. But I’ve been praying hard into different things lately, and I feel like it’s time now to call this website complete and move on to other things. If I’m meant to be nothing else in this life, I’m meant to be a worshipper. I have stacks and stacks of music, and that’s all I have. I’ve never been able to take it any farther than paper.
Now, I’m fine if all God wants me to do is sing in my closet to Him. If that’s the only reason He wants me to write, I’m okay with that. But I’m not okay with not walking in my calling. This website could go viral tomorrow, and be useless in the Kingdom if it wasn’t in His plan.
I’m going to be focusing on my YouTube channel, and probably launching a new site soon. Once those things are up and going, I’ll be back to share links. Anyone who wants to follow me on Facebook can do so. You can find me by searching for my email. It’s email@example.com. If you have trouble finding me, just email me and let me know. In the meantime, I have no plans to delete this site. If there’s anything on here you’d like to use in your group, church, blog, whatever, then please feel free.
If I can leave you with one thing, it’s this: Love The Lord. Love Him with everything you are, and pursue Him. Scripture tells us to seek first the Kingdom, and all things will be added unto us. We make it so complicated when we try to live and think in our own flesh and understanding. God is a massive, powerful, mysterious King, but we never had to climb the mountain in hope of figuring Him out. He came down to us. So don’t overthink it. Jesus made it so simple. Just love Him. Everything else will come and happen and be, so just love Him.
Thank you again. You’re all so amazing.