I Thought I Was a “Nice Girl,”
But I Was Blind to My True Condition
My name is Jill Brooks, and this is my story. I was born in Massachusetts in 1961 and baptized as an infant in a Methodist church. When I was two years old, our family moved to New Jersey. We had a nice house in a nice neighborhood and went to a nice Methodist church. We were a nice family. My mother explained to me that God made the world and taught me to appreciate nature and all living things. As I grew, I had a lot of questions. Where was I before this? I remember asking my mom, “Where did I come from?” She answered, “Massachusetts.” Sometimes the answer to some of my questions would be, “Don’t question God,” because that’s what her mother told her.
We were raised to do all the right things (according to society). We were taught that it was good to be good and bad to be bad. I learned that Jesus died for me on the Cross, but I didn’t know what that meant to me personally. I had all kinds of friends growing up in school. I was taught to be nice to everyone. Some of the friends I chose were nice, but did wrong things. This was confusing to me. How could someone be nice and bad at the same time?
When I went to High School, it was the same. I tried to make nice friends from nice families. I never considered measuring my life next to God’s standards. In my estimation, I kept all the commandments, and I was pretty good (compared to some people). This is what I thought. I didn’t see myself the way God saw me, and I really believed that I loved God. God was up in Heaven and I was down here, and maybe He heard my prayers and maybe He didn’t. I’d probably go to Heaven because I always tried to be nice. I made my decisions based on what I thought was right – trying to please the most people. I never wanted to hurt anyone’s feelings. I wanted to be good. “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the ends thereof are the ways of death.” (Proverbs chapter 14, verse 12)
When it was time for college, my parents packed me up for Penn State. My guiding parents were not there to weed out friends for me or help me make decisions. But I was happy about that. Now I could make my own decisions (or mistakes, whichever you call them). And I did. But I was not happy.
“I rebelled more and did things that I knew were wrong, although still wanting to consider myself not so bad. I felt guilty before my parents.”
Then I met an old friend on campus who invited me to a Campus Crusade for Christ meeting. I said, “No.” But after bumping into him several times and rejecting him, I finally said, “OK.” He assured me that I could always leave if I didn’t like it. Thinking I could get him to stop bothering me, I went. I did not look forward to going. I was sure everyone would be boring and nerdy. However, I was surprised by the enthusiasm of the students. They were there by choice, and everyone seemed normal. I was actually impressed. This was different. I liked it and went back.
Several weeks later, my friend shared a tract with me. He said that because of Adam and Eve and their sin, I was separated from God and that only Jesus was the bridge to a relationship with God. He asked me if I would like to pray for Jesus to come into my heart. I said yes, and he kind of helped me through that prayer. I began reading the Bible. I could understand some things and considered myself to be born again. (Note: salvation, saved and born again are Biblical terms referring to the forgiveness of sins by God and the rescue of a person from the power and penalty of that sin. This is God’s requirement for everlasting life.) I was happy—until I heard someone say something unkind about a woman preacher. I didn’t understand. Then he quoted to me a passage in the Bible about women being the weaker vessel. I didn’t understand that either.
I questioned my worth to God. I thought He loved me. In my confusion, I felt rejected by God. So, I rejected the Bible and God—I felt so alone. Somehow I knew God loved me, but I just didn’t understand Him. Meanwhile, I married, and we joined a church and had all the children baptized as they were born. I began to pray again and read my Bible more regularly. My husband said the prayers before evening meals, and our children said their bedtime prayers.
“I figured that I was still born again based on my prayer when I was 20.”
My husband and I did not have a good marriage relationship. When we would fight, I would go to bed sad and read the Bible. I felt that I had let God down. I would pray for God to help me fix it. I didn’t want to get divorced, but I didn’t want to stay married like this. After 13 years of marriage, I couldn’t fix it, even trying to be nice. I asked around and got all different opinions, most telling me that God didn’t want me to be unhappy. I gave up. I wanted proof. If God wanted me to stay married I would, but if His Word told me I should get divorced, I would.
Meanwhile, we separated. My husband contacted one of our friends from church (which surprised me). She told us that her neighbors across the street counseled couples for free. I reluctantly met my husband at their home, and the counseling began. The counseling was actually a Bible study. I didn’t think that I needed it—but I was wrong. There was a lot that I needed to know. For one thing, they told me that God wanted me to stay married. They invited us to their church where God’s standards were preached. We eventually left our old church and started attending their church. My husband came back home, and things seemed to be getting better, but something wasn’t right with me.
Around Easter the preacher said a few things that made me think hard about Jesus being the Lamb of God. “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John chapter 1, verse 29) He also said that we need to see our worthless condition before God. I didn’t like thinking that way about myself. And what’s all this talk about blood? It was bothering me that the sermons were bothering me.
“One day I was driving and thinking about sin (especially all my husband’s sins) when God gave me a glimpse of my own: like opening a clam shell and seeing black tar.”
It was ugly, and I was ashamed to think that I was comparing myself to my husband. “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.” (Isaiah chapter 64, verse 6) I was not above him in God’s eyes. I was worse. I didn’t want to admit my sin. It wasn’t just Eve’s sin that separated me from God, it was my own. I had been trying to hide my sin to myself. “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” (Proverbs chapter 28, verse 13) I was trying to protect myself from seeing the real me. My husband came back home, and things seemed to be getting better, but something wasn’t right with me. Obsessing on his sins was distracting me from my own. But God knew. I felt so ashamed.
Late one morning in April, I grabbed my Bible and went out on the deck. The question in my mind was, “What hinders me?” I flipped through the pages in my study Bible and landed on a testimony in the back. I read it over and over. What jumped out at me was that Jesus was our Passover Lamb. This was what the pastor was preaching about. Jesus’ blood shed for me was my only hope for salvation. Just as the Passover lamb’s blood was applied over the doorway to the Hebrew’s homes in Egypt to save them from the plague of death, I needed the blood of Christ applied in my life. I cried to learn that after all these years I finally knew Who Jesus was and what He did. I had to make a decision. In the Bible study I had learned that sin must be punished by death. I could die eternally and go to Hell, or I could accept Christ’s offer. Would I allow Him to pay for my sins?
I know this sounds dumb, but I hesitated. I didn’t want Him to have to die for me (as if it would add to His burden). But I did want to be obedient to God. Christ was crucified for me to save me from Hell. To not accept this gift would be disobeying God. I felt like something or someone was pulling at my shirt tail saying, “No.” But I said, “Yes,” and cried out to God to save me. Then I cried, relieved that I was now saved. That day was April 7, 2005. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans chapter 10, verse 13)