I know that I share a lot of my life here, but I usually keep my faith out of my writing entirely. I don’t want my readers to immediately recognize who I am or what I believe by reading my works of fiction. If they do, I believe I’m doing it wrong. One of the best compliments I’ve received is that one of my books (An Unassigned Life) has been called both too Christian and anti-Christian by different readers.
Recently, though, an acquaintance asked me about my walk with God and I took the time to share my story with him. After I had done so, I realized it was a story that was both very personal and universal at the same time. I am not saying that what I believe is what you have to believe. I merely want to share my spiritual walk with you.
When I was young, my parents took me to a small home church. One Sunday, I felt pinpricks in my heart during the altar call, but when I tried to go forward, my mother held me back, believing I was too young to understand what I was doing.
After that, I sought spiritual fulfillment from other sources. Eventually, I turned to the occult, even studying astrology and reading tarot cards — quite accurately, as it turned out.
In 1997, I married my first husband. Within his extended family were five preachers. The next year, I volunteered to compile and edit the family stories for their reunion. Within those stories were numerous testimonials to the power of Christ. I was moved by their words, and I began to wonder if Jesus was who I was missing.
At the reunion that summer, I met some of the most wonderful people. During an impromptu praise service on Sunday morning, I swear that the believers were glowing! The unbelievers, however, looked like dark spots in their midst. I came home determined to figure out who Jesus was. I promised myself that I would read one chapter a day, starting in the New Testament. By the end of the week, I had sought out a woman at work who glowed like my husband’s family did. I asked her where she worshiped and she invited me to her church. That Sunday, I went — alone. My husband refused to go. Sitting in that strip-mall makeshift church, I felt the pinpricks again, but I didn’t go forward. I managed to keep my composure until I got out of there. I spent the rest of the day in tears.
The next day, I made a deal with God (note to self: don’t bother…He always wins). If Mary (my glowing coworker) was still at her desk when I finished working, I would go talk to her. At 5:15, she was still at work. I found more to do around the office. At 5:30, she was still there. I took care of some tasks I’d been putting off. At 5:45, Mary still hadn’t budged. I walked over and sat down at her desk. I told her I thought I needed Jesus. She was a little flustered — that was the one day she didn’t have her Bible in her purse — but she found a Romans Road tract in her desk drawer and led me to Christ right there!
Because I felt it was important to understand fully what I was professing when I called myself a Christian, I read the entire Bible in the next nine months. My husband claimed to be saved, so I hoped that our marriage, which was a little shaky, would be strengthened by my new belief. Unfortunately, it was not. After a few more years of misery, I finally decided to divorce him.
My divorce earned me disdain from many of my fellow Free Will Baptist congregants, but I persevered. Then, one Sunday, the preacher’s wife used a passage from the Old Testament to “prove” that God disapproved of interracial relationships. I disagreed — vocally. That passage was clearly meant for the Israelites, whom God considered a race apart. The New Testament, on the other hand, says that all believers are equal, no matter their race.
After that, I left the Free Will Baptists. I have attended a number of other churches, but I haven’t found a place that feels right to me. I still hold my faith in Christ close. I maintain strong friendships with good Christian men and women. But that doesn’t mean I exclude non-believers from my life.
I believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross to save me from my sins. I believe he did that for every man, woman, and child who has ever lived. However, I also believe that this salvation is a gift that every human must accept for himself — we, as Christians, cannot force our will on our fellow beings. To do so is to usurp God, who gave us free will in the first place.