The One True God Actually Answered Me!
Six and a half years ago I was lonely, insecure, hurting, depressed, confused, haunted by childhood abuse, agoraphobic, violent, sometimes suicidal; a drunk, a liar and, although married to Tim, a lesbian... and then I met JESUS!
Although my parents were not Roman Catholic, I was baptized as an infant in a Roman Catholic church in a depressed steel-town in Pennsylvania. My father was sent to live with nuns for a while as a little boy, because times were very hard for my grandmother and she needed to send him away. While at this convent, one of the sisters asked him to promise her that if he ever had children when he grew up, that he would have them baptized into the Church. That is probably the only promise my father ever kept in his life. Although he was incredibly abusive to me and my two sisters, all three of us were indeed baptized Roman Catholic, and even sent to Catholic schools.
As a little girl, I was taken in by the beauty and awesomeness of the Catholic church. I loved some of the dear sisters who taught me, and I totally believed, with my innocent, childish faith, in God as He is presented in Roman Catholic theology. I was SO thrilled to be able to take my First Holy Communion, as well as the other sacraments... Nevertheless, the years passed painfully under the thumb of my violent, raging father; and neglect by my passive but kindly mother.
During high school (all-girls, private Catholic school), with my father finally incarcerated and my mother quietly drinking the days away, I was free to take a breath and ponder my life. Like most teens, I soon began to question my "faith". (Why do we believe this thing or that thing?) But nobody could answer my questions: not the sisters, nor the priests. And nobody ever shared the "Good News" of the Gospel with me: that God is perfect, that we are all separated from God by our sins, but that we can be forgiven of our sins once and for all through Jesus Christ, and even know God personally, and have a relationship with Him!.. Sadly, there was no Gospel in their religion-- just the blind following of rules, and striving toward some unreachable God, like in any other "religion"...
By my senior year in high school (1984-85), I began to realize that I thought very differently from most of my peers-- I was always questioning everything -- I was searching for truth, or at least some authenticity-- and wouldn't take "I don't know," for an answer. I abhored conformity, and my endless questions (and finally my mohawk!) drove my teachers crazy... I was very altruistic and had my own moral code, always siding with the underdog-- although my "morals" were based on nothing and even I could not live up to them.
Finally, disgusted with hypocrisy and longing for acceptance, I immersed myself in the punk subculture, where I did find like-minded friends-- as well as sex, drugs and alcohol... "Underground" music soon became my passion and my identity-- I had a pretty incredible collection of vinyl-- from Generation X to the Germs to GBH-- tons of punk, ska, indies, lots of late 70s British stuff, imports, original pressings, colored vinyl, rare stuff-- I even got Henry Rollins to sign one of my Black Flag albums (as well as my shaved scalp!).
Soon I got heavily into punk ideology, and I began to read anarchist literature. I soaked up bands like the Dead Kennedys, MDC, Crass, and A.P.P.L.E. (Autonomy and Pacifism for Peace, Liberty, and Equality). This led me to begin reading Karl Marx, and I soon thought perhaps true communism was the answer to the world's problems (and my own?)...
By my freshman year of college, I was an agnostic. Soon my punk band broke up and I became disillusioned with the punk movement, and with trying to change the world-- we couldn't even change ourselves!.. Next it was feminism. I read Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem, became a card-carrying member of N.O.W. (the National Organization for Women) and subscribed to "Ms." magazine. However, I soon discovered that feminism, as well, was not "the answer" I was looking for.
As the years of my early 20s unfolded, now with no direction or purpose in life, my life spiraled downward, and, while trying to ease the pain, I quit school and became involved in things too terrible to mention. I felt oppressed by my small town and my past, and dreamed of moving as far away as I could. In my despair I also studied and tried every kind of religion...
I had wanted so badly to believe there was a reason for my being here, and I had searched for God, or any kind of truth, for years. By this time I was 26 years old and working as an executive secretary in downtown Los Angeles. Yet I was still haunted by my abusive past, chronically depressed, promiscuous, drinking too much, prone to fits of rage, and very suicidal. In addition, my marriage to my high school sweetheart, Tim, was crumbling as I continued to act out my homosexuality.
The funny thing is, by the world's standards Tim and I should have been really happy. We had just moved from a cool apartment in Silverlake to a cooler apartment in Los Feliz. We formed an alternative-rock band that was just beginning to break into the "better" Hollywood clubs (Coconut Teaszer, Club Lingerie, The Whisky). I also had a great day-job in downtown Los Angeles in the white color world of municipal finance-- where they actually let me get away with having hot pink hair, etc! (We didn't deal with the public.) Tim was happily employed in the film industry, and Tim's own sculpture was beginning to take off. All of our dreams were slowly coming true-- yet everything was meaningless to us, and we were miserable.
Meanwhile, I knew I needed to change or to die, so I tried to help myself through therapy, hospitalization, religions (including attending Mass again), psychiatric drugs, you name it. But things only worsened... Tim and I were making plans to divorce. Finally, we tried a 12-step group. The first step included having to believe in a "higher power," but we just couldn't.
There was a man in my office who gave me a Christmas card that year. He was a very kind man, and different from his peers; he had a quiet peacefulness about him. This card was pretty "Christian-ey," which scared me, but I asked him about it, thinking maybe he had a "higher power" that I could relate to. However, much to my dismay, he told me he was a born-again Christian! Of course, I was "offended." I thought I couldn't stand "born-again Christians"! Aren't they the guys on TV with southern accents and big hair, crying for money? I asked him if he actually believed the Bible, etc. He then invited me to lunch to talk about it.
Over tuna fish sandwiches, he shared Campus Crusade's "Four Spiritual Laws" booklet (written by Bill Bright). I was so offended-- "Who does this guy think he is, telling me I'm a 'sinner'?" I thought, "He doesn't even know me! I'm a good person, I would never hurt anybody, I love children, I pay my taxes..." I didnt see my need for a Saviour (!!!). God's entire plan of salvation went right over my head...
"This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." (Romans 3:22-24)
He was such a nice guy, though, I didn't want to hurt his feelings; although I thought he was completely nuts, or stupid. He finally got to the end of the booklet and asked me to pray with him, to invite Jesus to be the Lord of my life. I told him No, thank you-- to be honest, you're making me very uncomfortable. He replied, Donna, right now satan is fighting for your soul! Well, with that remark I was convinced he was crazy, so I "prayed" just to appease him. He was thrilled and gave me a New Testament to take home. He told me to begin in the Gospel of John, and to share it with my husband. Little did he know we had already decided to go our separate ways.
That night the book sat on my bedside table, staring at me. I thought, "Well-- I've studied everything from the Koran to the Bhagavad Gita to the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church to the Saxon Book of Shadows (Wicca)-- I may as well take a peek..." As I read the beautiful book of John, the Holy Spirit began to melt my heart. At first I thought, "Wow-- Jesus was so cool, not at all how I perceived Him..." Of course, I didn't believe yet, but I was growing to love Jesus as a person. I was excited by what I was reading-- how Jesus showed love and mercy to the hurting and downtrodden, and how He stood up against the hypocrisy of the religious hierarchy of His day-- and I kept on reading, skipping around the other Gospels, too... The Bible was unlike any other "holy book" I had studied.
I later heard somebody say "religion" is all about man reaching up to God; but Christianity is all about God reaching down to man. That's what I was beginning to understand from reading the Bible.
At this time I also suffered from an inexplicable, agonizing rash of hives that would come on each night at bedtime. I suffered with this for years. Each night I'd scratch and scratch myself to sleep, only to be awakened in the middle of the night with another round of it. Sometimes I'd run into the kitchen and grab a fork to scratch myself with. I know it's gross, but I'd scratch until I bled sometimes. I had been to doctors, acupuncturists, allergists, etc. I tried yoga, deep breathing, creative visualization, "crystal therapy," and even drinking good old warm milk before retiring, but to no avail.
I had just read Luke 8:42b-48, where a woman was suffering from a hemorrhage for twelve years, but no one could heal her. It struck me how her faith was so great, she believed if she could just touch Jesus' garment, that she would be healed. Well she did, and she was! Jesus said to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace." Before I could talk myself out of it, I prayed, "Jesus, if you are truly God, please show me by taking these hives away from me so I can get one good night's sleep."
Well, the hives left me instantly. I was undone! I had prayed to dozens of gods in the past, but none of them actually answered me!!! Yet, I was still unconvinced (!!!). I thought surely I must be imagining it. So for a couple more nights, each time the hives came on I prayed in Jesus' name, and each time-- the hives left me. I wish I had written it all down so I would know the exact date, but after a few nights like this I realized, "There IS a God! This Christian God, Jesus, is the True God-- and I am not right with Him!!!"
I scrambled for my purse, filed through all the papers and junk, and found the crumpled "Four Spiritual Laws" the gentleman at work had given me; I smoothed it out, got down on my knees, and asked the Lord Jesus into my heart and my life.
I didn't understand much, especially how much sin I had become involved in! But over the following days and weeks my eyes were opened-- and I was completely transformed. I can't even describe it. I was a completely different person-- an entirely new person!
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (2 Corinthians 5:17)
The lesbianism-- gone; alcoholism-- gone; depression-- gone; rage-- gone; suicidal tendencies-- gone; agoraphobia-- gone; post-traumatic stress syndrome-- gone; and yes, the hives-- gone! etc., etc., etc... I had met the true, living God of the universe! My search was over. My sins were forgiven. My marriage was beautifully restored. My heart, once filled with hatred, was now filled with peace and joy. God helped me to show love to my abusers, and others who had hurt me. God also helped me to ask forgiveness from those whom I had hurt, too. I was finally at rest...
I was by no means made perfect, but these huge chains that hung around my neck were just suddenly lifted-- poof! I even called my current therapist to tell her I would no longer be needing her services. I tried to explain what Jesus had done for me, but she didn't hide the fact that she thought I had finally, indeed, lost my mind. However, the truth was, I had just found it, in Jesus!
"When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind..." (Mark 5:15)
Where to go from there? Well, I had had enough of doing things my way! Where had that ever gotten me? So I decided to let GOD show me how to live, and I began prayerfully studying His revelation to us-- the Bible. At first, this was a scary idea to me. I was accustomed to running my own show, yet I knew it was now time to let God take over. I didn't become a Christian because I "agreed with" the Bible-- I became a Christian because God proved to me that He is real; and when I discovered that God is real, and that He has something to say, I had to admit that it was my own thinking that was in error-- not the Bible! God created the whole universe-- so I know it's safe to put my life in His hands! His Word to us, the Bible, is like our "owner's manual"-- He created us, and He knows how we best "operate"!!! I may not always understand God's ways, but it brings me peace to know they are the right and true ways...
"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is-- His good, pleasing and perfect will." (Romans 12:2)
"...He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion..." (Philippians 1:6)
As I yield to His Holy Spirit's leading in my life, and obey Him, God is transforming me into the person He created me to be! Yippee!!!
"And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit." (2 Corinthians 3:18)
Have a blessed day!!!
In His service,
Donna Ellis :)