I lived two lives growing up—one was a good girl who was active in a Southern Baptist Church with her parents; the other was a girl who tried to cover up for sexual abuse. For ten years I strived to do my best to please others and do what was right, and at the same time live with the shame and fear of being sexually abused by a trusted family member. As a young girl, I had contracted polio and I also lived with the pain, treatments, and after-effects of that disease. “I felt trapped in a world all alone.” I felt trapped in a world all alone.
When I finally escaped to college I thought I was free, but the memories and pain continued to plague my life. I got married and had two children, but after fifteen years my marriage fell apart and ended in divorce. I started over two years later with another marriage, and later adopted three little girls.
All this time I continued to be involved in church. I was actively teaching Sunday School, leading a Ladies Bible Study Group, and volunteering wherever I could at church. Twice in my childhood I had made professions of being saved, once to please my grandmother, and the second time when I was 12 to get out of trouble and escape hell. I did my best to live a good life and be a good person. I really did not see myself as a sinner who deserved God’s wrath and punishment.
I started attending the Lehigh Valley Baptist Church and heard some straight-forward Bible preaching about salvation. (Note: saved, salvation, 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.) “I began to question my earlier experiences and to compare them to what the Bible clearly teaches about repenting of sin and turning to Christ in faith.” I began to question my earlier experiences and to compare them to what the Bible clearly teaches about repenting of sin and turning to Christ in faith.
After many months of soul-searching, the Lord brought me to the end of myself. In 1993, our church had revival meetings and the evangelist preached clearly about salvation. He pointed out Matthew 7:21-23 which reads: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.”
“I began to understand that there are many who profess to be Christians and even do many good works, but they do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” I began to understand that there are many who profess to be Christians and even do many good works, but they do not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Without that relationship with Him, I was lost in my sins and on my way to an eternity in hell. Even what I considered as my good works, or works of righteousness, were repulsive in God’s sight. In Isaiah 64:6-7 we read how God views our self-righteousness: “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. And there is none that calleth upon thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of thee: for thou hast hid thy face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities.”
God began to show me just how wicked and vile my sins were in His sight. I realized that Jesus would have died for me if I had been the only person on earth. Not only did that mean I was a great sinner, it convinced me of His great love for me.
One morning during the revival meetings, I met with the evangelist’s wife. It was difficult for me to admit that I had been “playing that I was a Christian” all my life but I didn’t have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. She showed me from the Bible how I was an undeserving sinner, but also how Jesus died to pay the penalty for my sins and give me the free gift of salvation. “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
That morning I recognized my self-righteousness as unrighteousness. I repented of my sins, asked God to forgive me, and trusted Christ to be my Savior and Lord. Since then I have had a peace and a growing relationship with Him. God has changed my life in many ways, and even gave me the grace to finally forgive my childhood perpetrator.