Tuesday, April 03, 2007

My Testimony:

(This post was inspired by a call by Tim Challies for Christian bloggers to post their testimonies on their blogs. So, for this “Testimony Tuesday”, here’s my story:)
The short story is I was saved while reading an old “Radio Bible Class” booklet by the late Dr. M.R. DeHaan, that my great-great aunt (my great grandmother’s sister, “Aint Willie”) had loaned to me, entitled, “Eternal Security”. While reading Dr. DeHaan’s explanation of the gospel, God sovereignly shined in my soul, giving “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6), and I was born again. That happened sometime during the summer of 1980, between my junior and senior years of high school, when I was 16 or 17 years old. The only reason I don’t remember an exact date is because I didn’t write it down. Nevertheless, I do remember the moment when, as it were, the “light bulb came on”, and I “got it” for the first time: Jesus took my place, bore my sins and suffered the wrath of God that I deserved, in order that, through faith in Him, I might receive His righteousness, the forgiveness of my sins and acceptance with God. My life has not been the same since that moment.

Like I said, that’s the short story.

The longer version of my testimony goes all the way back to 1963, when I was born to a 15-year-old girl from North Chicago, Illinois (a far north suburb of Chicago). My father, who was 19 years old at the time, was driven off by my incensed grandmother (she threatened to kill him), so he, understandably, stayed away and was never a part of my growing up years.

Although today, many hold a very casual view of out-of-wedlock sex and pregnancy, at the time I was conceived, these things still carried a social stigma. My grandmother—“Ma Becky”—being one who was very concerned about “keeping up appearances”, decided to take my mother out of high school, and send her off to stay in a home for unwed mothers until I was born, at which time I would be put up for adoption. So, following my birth, I was given over to the care of my foster parents, Mr. and Mrs. Hawkins, an older Black couple in Markham, Illinois (a south suburb of Chicago).

From this point, who knows where my life could have gone. The statistics on children born out-of-wedlock (we were called “illegitimate” in those days) have never been promising. I was told Mr. and Mrs. Hawkins were good people who took very good care of me. But, perhaps I could have been bounced from foster home to foster home. Maybe I would have been adopted. Only God knows all the possibilities. However, in God’s providence, He had other plans for my life.

My grandfather—“Daddy”—had never been in agreement with putting me up for adoption; he wanted to keep me in the family. In what, perhaps, was his only act of defiance against Ma (unfortunately, Ma “ruled the roost”), Daddy obtained legal guardianship of me and arranged to bring me “home” to North Chicago, in order to place me with his mother and step-father (all without Ma’s knowledge). And so, it happened that at 2 months old, I came to live with my great grandparents, “Grandma” and “Pa Bill”. Grandma, at this time, was almost 67 years old; “Pa Bill” was 58. I don’t know how long it was planned for me to stay with Pa Bill and Grandma, but, as it turned out, my stay with them became permanent. Although they never had legal custody of me, I lived with them until they died (Grandma died in 1986, when she was almost 90, and Pa Bill died in 1989, only days before what would have been his 84th birthday).

Here’s what I think is so awesome: God “fixed it so” that I was not raised by my mother (who was not, and, to date, is not, a Christian). Neither did He allow me to be raised by Daddy and Ma (who, although church members, were only nominal Christians). Rather, God reached back three generations and got my great grandparents to raise me. Because of God’s intervention, I was raised in a Christian home where God was respected and honored as the Creator and Judge to whom all are accountable, where the Bible was regarded as true, where heaven and hell were accepted as real places, and where the only way to get to heaven was to be “born again.” By God’s plan, I was placed in a home where Christianity was fully embraced, where the Church was respected, and where salvation through the cross of Jesus Christ was considered an essential for life and eternity.

God placed me in a home where I was nurtured by a wise Christian woman. It was my privilege to see Grandma read her Bible every morning. I had many opportunities to sit at her knee and ask (and have answered) any question I had about the Bible, about God, about the things of God—anything I wanted to know. What Grandma lacked in formal education, God more than made up for in the solid wisdom that she possessed. In Grandma, I had a rock-solid guide and mentor. Also, Grandma spent much time in secret prayer. Often, she had trouble sleeping at night. She told me, when she couldn’t sleep, she would pray. I know she prayed for me.

As far as Pa Bill: In all honesty, I’m not absolutely sure about his salvation, because I’m not sure in whom he trusted for salvation. In many ways, Pa Bill was very legalistic. However, I think that was because he didn’t know much in the way of Christian doctrine. And he didn’t know much because He rarely read the Bible. And, he rarely read the Bible because He could barely read. So, Pa Bill was wrong about a lot of things. He could see other’s sins, but he often seemed to be blind to his own sins. Nevertheless, Pa Bill did do many things right. For one thing, he set an example as a faithful church member, who never missed a Sunday. He didn’t send me to Sunday School, but he took me and sat with me in class (He really was more comfortable reading with the young children who were learning to read, and so when I got older and moved up to the higher grades, he stayed with the young children and became a Sunday School helper). Pa Bill taught me that God “sits high and looks low” and “sees the deep secrets of every man’s heart.” Therefore, “He knows who serves Him right”; and “He knows who serves Him wrong” (That may not seem like much, but there are millions today, with far more education than Pa Bill, who don’t have enough sense to acknowledge these basic truths!). When I was a little boy, Pa Bill taught me to pray, and prayed with me every night. And, finally, Pa Bill was an example to me of what a real man should be: he worked hard and provided for his family; he was a man of integrity and a man of his word; he was responsible, respectable and respected by all; and he was not a flirt: He was faithful to Grandma for 51 years, until her death.

In this day of single-parent households, absentee fathers, and divorce, I thank God for placing this here “illegitimate” child in a stable, solid and peaceful Christian home, with a “mother” and “father” who loved me and were committed to each other.

I thank God, also, for the “bonus” blessing of “Aint Willie”—Grandma’s only sister, Wylodine. Aunt Willie was my third “parent”. She had been a widow since Uncle Ed’s death in 1957, and lived alone, next door to Grandma and Pa Bill. At the time I was brought home, Aunt Willie was 65 years old. The Lord blessed me to have Aunt Willie in my life for 35 years! To me, she was the epitome of the godly widow (1 Timothy 5:5):

“She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day.”

Aunt Willie and Uncle Ed had no children, so she was “truly a widow.” Like the apostle instructed, she spent untold hours in secret prayer and intercession. I know she spent much of her free time reading God’s word or reading about God’s word, or listening to Christian teachers on the radio in order to learn about God’s word. Besides Grandma, Aunt Willie was my other source of wisdom and instruction, especially instruction about God and His word. And, as I said at the outset, Aunt Willie was the messenger God used to bring the gospel to me, when she loaned me that booklet by the late Dr. M.R. DeHaan. As it turned out, when Aunt Willie died in 1998, at the age of 100, it was my privilege to preach her eulogy.

My story is a testimony to God’s sovereignty over unbelief and nominal Christianity—and the sexual sin, out-of-wedlock pregnancy, and misguided plan to have me “sent away”, that were the result of that unbelief—in order that I would not only stay with my natural family, but be placed in a home where I had the opportunity to come into a true knowledge of Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. To God be all the glory.


Rosesandtea said...

Thank you so much for posting your testimony today. It was a real blessing to read. I was encouraged to read about how God put you in a Godly family.

I smile at the "aint" part - because in my mother's family we have "aints" too.

What a blessing to be a young child and to learn that God sits high and looks low. There's a lot of theology in that right there.

Nikki said...

What an amazing testimony!! Thanks for sharing.