the Boat - Just for Me
50 years of searching for answers
Was I saved? I sure thought so until November of 1998 after being in church my entire life and believing for the last 20 years of my life that I was. Then, just as surely as God "troubled the waters" in Genesis at Creation, He started to "trouble the waters" of my heart by allowing (or causing) some events in my life to force me to look at what He saw in me.
When I was three years old, my parents started attending a little church in Memphis, Tennessee where I and my sister were dedicated to the Lord by our parents. I was born in 1949 and from 1952 until the present, I have never been out of the church. I've never known anything but a love for the church, God's people and His word. I was taught a love and respect from my earliest memories. The little church I grew up in was a loving family and the teachings were right as far as I knew, as they were all I had ever known. I remember as a little girl sitting in revival meetings and hearing old saints talk of "praying through," and staying until wee hours of the morning waiting for someone to "find the Lord." I know there must have been some truth taught way back then because I remember it wasn't easy from a "flesh" perspective to get saved. There were many people who would pray for long periods of time at the altar and go home unsaved, only to come back the next night and seek again. I always knew there was right and wrong, light and dark, black and white, the broad road and the narrow road. God had a standard - holiness, but the trouble was, I never seemed to be able to measure up to what was expected.
When I was around 8 years of age, I went to a church camp. I don't remember what was said specifically but I do remember feeling very stirred in my heart. We were in a huge tent and in one of the night services several of my friends from church went to the front altar, which was a long bench. My heart was so stirred as the preacher had been explaining to us about heaven and hell. I didn't understand a lot but I certainly knew I didn't want to go to hell, so when my friends went to the altar, in tears, so did I. I can still remember the smell of the sawdust and how it felt on my knees as I knelt in prayer, not even really understanding why I was there and certainly not knowing what to do. I just remember crying a lot and getting up after they told us we were now saved, and I believed it. I was as sincere as a little girl knew how to be.
That experience carried me to my teen years when I began struggling with rebellion. There were so many do's and don'ts and somehow I began to wonder what was so wrong with some of the things that were being withheld from me. After all, my parents were too strict, too prudish, too old-fashioned in their ways. I wondered why they couldn't be like my friends' parents. I began to do lots of things in order to be accepted. I would go to church on Sunday, lead a children's choir, teach Sunday School, sing solos and sing with my sister, and try to do all the "right" things. I was well-respected by most everyone who knew me and considered to be one of the "good girls" of the church. But my heart would not let me rest. Every time a revival would come, my heart would condemn me and I would go to the altar again, not for salvation because of course, I was already saved. I would go for "sanctification" - I needed my flesh crucified so I would not struggle with this anymore. I would cry and pour out my heart to Jesus and get up with a new resolve to "do better" but never one time did I feel a true change in my heart. It was the same feeling I had when I was a little girl at camp - better, but knowing nothing really happened but choosing to believe it must have because the preacher told me it did. I resolved myself to the struggle of the flesh as being a normal thing in the life of a Christian because the Bible said we would always struggle with the flesh, didn't it? The answer is yes, but there has to be a point of salvation, a birth. I had no real understanding and I had a lot to learn.
Things rocked right along and when I was 15 I met Hank. I loved him from the start because he taught me to laugh because my life had been much too serious. We were married in July of 1967 and all things were well for several years. We both went to church every service, paid our tithes, I continued to be involved in the work of the church, teaching, singing, anything they needed me to do. Our first two children were born and when my oldest daughter was five and the younger one two, I began to become very restless and unhappy. I couldn't put my finger on why but I just was very discontented with everything so my answer was to work more. I should have been very happy because I had everything I had dreamed of as a little girl but I was miserable and I didn't understand why.
Billy Graham Crusade came to our town one year and my church Pastor asked me to be one of the people who would go and represent our church as a counselor. I went to the first meeting and all I remember was sitting in a huge auditorium of hundreds of people and looking around at this sea of faces and hearing a voice inside say to me, "You don't belong here"...and I knew I didn't. I felt empty inside and I knew my heart wasn't right. Knowing what I know now, their hearts probably weren't at peace either - just going through the motions, trying to do what was right, just like me. So, I left early and went home. I remember going to my car and sitting in the parking lot crying and wondering, 'what is wrong with me?' That night, after I got my little girls in the bed and told my husband goodnight, I sat up in the den praying and asking God to help me understand what was wrong. I wanted my heart to be different. I wanted to be happy and I was tired of hurting, and nothing I had ever tried seemed to give me any comfort. I still, somehow believed that I was saved, but because I couldn't get free and be "good enough," I just wasn't measuring up and saw no way I ever could. Satan came and sat right on my shoulder and whispered in my ear, telling me I was not a good wife or mother, that my family deserved better than me and after all, if the end result of my life was going to be hell anyway, I couldn't stand the thought of going on the way I was with no hope for ever getting out of this pain. All I ever wanted in life was to be a good wife and a loving mother and be what God wanted me to be but I was failing at it all, and there seemed to be no one who could help me. I cried and asked God to let me know if He loved me at all. All I wanted to hear was, "I love you - it will be all-right." I don't know if I expected to hear an audible voice or what, but I heard nothing. There was nothing but silence and darkness and death hanging over me. If God didn't love me, nothing would be all-right. So, I went to the cabinet, took out every type of pill I could get my hands on, wrote my husband a letter explaining why I had to leave and some of the turmoil I was in, telling him that he and the girls deserved a better life than I could give them, and one by one, took every pill, believing with everything in me, this was the only way for them to be ok. How deceived we can become at the hands of Satan and how wrongly we begin to think.
The next thing I remember is waking up in an ambulance on the way to the hospital and being really scared that I was going to die. All of a sudden, I realized I really didn't want to die - I just wanted to stop hurting. But now, I had really made a mess. I was put on a psychiatric ward in the hospital for approximately two weeks, assigned to a doctor, and was petrified. After several days of sleeping, the reality of what I had done began to settle in. I asked Hank to bring my Bible to me. I read and prayed and remember saying to God, "All I wanted was for you to tell me you loved me," and I heard Him somewhere in my thoughts say to me, "I loved you enough to save you from yourself." My heart was instantly flooded with joy simply because God had talked to me. I couldn't believe that He really did love me. When I told my husband, Hank, he told me that the night of the suicide attempt, he was in the bed asleep and he felt something on his arm. He thought it was one of the girls awake but when he looked, no one was there, so he went back to sleep. Then, he felt it again on his arm, this time a little harder. This time, he was awake and felt something was wrong. Something, or Someone, told him to get up and check on me and he found me in the hall floor. So, that was it - that was the answer I was looking for. God really did love me - He loved me enough to save me. I had been taught all of my life that when a person is a sinner, the only prayer God hears is a prayer of repentance. So, I came to the conclusion that because He heard and answered prayers and talked to me, I must be saved - that was my proof but I later learned something very shocking. God talked to many people in the Bible who weren't saved and answered prayers for them, such as in Luke 17:11-19 which is the story of the 10 lepers. He saved men asking for mercy for their health. God heard and answered their prayer - unsaved! And what about Abraham, and Cornelius, and the Ethiopian eunuch? I had confused being "ok" with God with the fact that He talked to me and answered my prayers. I had a lot to learn. From that point on, I fell right back into Satan's trap of "doing" to be righteous. No more crying, no more begging to be changed - only a resolve to make up for all the times of failure and hurting my family.
For the next 20 years of my life, I "lived for the Lord," doing all the same things I had done before, only better. I was determined to make up to my family and God all the pain I had caused them. The saddest part of this whole story, is that this time I believed the lie myself. I stopped short of what God had for me, walked right back into my old learned patterns and never "prayed through." We changed churches in an effort to find "more of God." I was involved in everything you can possibly imagine concerning church life, but always looking for something more and feeling somewhat empty, convinced I was searching for more of His Spirit. More work, and with every step, convincing myself how valuable I was to God; after all, look at what I was doing for Him! I had many "experiences" with God but I never could get away from the reality that my heart had never really changed, and always had this haunting feeling something was not right. I knew, under it all, I was still the same person. One of the scriptures that had always puzzled me was in Matthew 7:21-23 - "Not everyone 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 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 workers of iniquity.'" I couldn't explain it but somehow I knew, underneath it all, that was me. In those 20 years, there were countless times God let me see my heart and what was really down deep, under the "white-washed tomb." Matthew 23:27 says, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness." "Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity." But, I never, even once, thought I was lost and because I was convinced I was saved, this must be the devil. My actions changed; I'd pull myself up by my own bootstraps with a new determination to "live better."
I would go to many pastors for counseling and help, only to be told it was either a flesh problem that needed to be crucified or a demonic problem. Not one time, in all these 20 years did anyone ever ask me about my salvation experience or question it, not even a pastor, when I was crying out for help. I now stand amazed that no one even asked. I suppose because I was in the church and had a heart for pleasing God, that it was assumed I was saved. Maybe some of them actually knew I wasn't saved. I had people pray for me and would go through a season of tremendous relief only to find myself repeat the same cycle again.
Now, it's the end of 1998, we've been extremely hurt and disappointed in a church situation and the joy and desire to be involved in church was gone. My heart was constantly questioning - how would I ever know what was the truth? I knew many people who wore the name of "Christian" but yet didn't seem to live the lifestyle that the Bible speaks of that Jesus lived and it just never make sense to me. If the Bible speaks of peoples lives being changed, becoming "new creatures" in Christ, why didn't I see that lived out in people's lives? I knew one thing - somewhere there was ONE truth. I wanted to know and I began asking God to help me sort out what was wrong, why it was wrong, and to help me find the truth.
One Sunday afternoon, I was talking to my family and said to them, "I just need God to restore to me my joy." Our son Casey, had met Bro. Greg and Janet Moffitt and their sons Stephen and Joshua, who lived across the street from us. Even though they were younger than he, Casey loved the boys and loved spending time with them. Greg pastored Lighthouse Baptist Church. Casey started visiting on Wednesday nights almost a year previous to our leaving our last church. One Sunday night we decided to visit Lighthouse. There were just a few people there but we felt at home and enjoyed Bro. Greg's preaching. In his sermon, he made the statement, "Some people want God to restore their joy, but they don't read the first part of the verse which says, 'create in me a clean heart, Oh God, and renew a right spirit within me.'" (Psalm 51:10) I couldn't believe my ears; it was as if he was a fly on the wall of my house and heard me say those words. I had been around people who had words of knowledge from the Lord before so this "knowing" wasn't knew to me but even though God sees and knows everything and there are probably times when He does tell specific things to pastors about specific people but in that situation, I don't believe Bro. Greg actually 'knew' anything about that afternoon at my home. But, I do believe God knew what I needed help with and spoke through Him to me. I had no problem believing and thanking God for speaking directly to me that night. Little did I know the bomb God was getting ready to drop on me!
After church that night, our son Casey, who was 19 at the time, came to me and put his arm around my shoulder and said, "Mom, I really want to come back here." For the first time in my son's life, I saw God touch him and even though I wanted nothing to do with another church right now, my heart went out to him. He had been in church all of his life too, but God had never really moved his heart, at least not like this. He had seen a lot of emotionalism but there seemed to be no passion or backbone to it. We sure didn't know what God had in store for me and my family.
We went to church a few more times at Lighthouse and one night Bro. Greg said God had laid it on his heart to preach on the scriptures in II Corinthians 13:5, "Test yourself to see if you are in the faith. Examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you - unless indeed you fail the test?" So, he called a three-day revival, Monday thru Wednesday, in which he was going to examine these scriptures. No problem, or so I thought. This would just confirm I was ok, so I wasn't in the least afraid to take the test, especially when he said it was ok to ask questions. He said it was only when you couldn't find answers to the questions that you were in trouble. During those three days though, I became really troubled. I wasn't getting answers to my questions; I was just getting more questions and there was an emptiness inside I couldn't shake and I was afraid of going down just one more path of more of the same. I began to pick to pieces what I had called a salvation experience but I couldn't put my finger on what was wrong with it. That week, I also had been painting my kitchen. One day I painted the same spot 3 or 4 times and could not get the paint to cover. I heard the Lord say to me, "This is exactly what you've been doing all your life - trying to cover up." Bro. Greg said that in Genesis God stirred the waters and that He starts working in us by disturbing us. He was doing a good job of that, and I didn't like it. I started talking to my family a little about my questions but tried to remain cool and collected. Then my daughter Amy started questioning. There was no way I could believe she wasn't saved. I had seen the Lord use her many, many times in miraculous ways, so that was impossible. I even asked her one day, "Amy, if you aren't saved, how could you have heard so clearly the voice of God in your life? If that wasn't God, how will you know the difference?" No sooner had I gotten the question out of my mouth than God reminded me of the scripture of Nicodemus in John 3:1-9. He had come to Jesus at night, asking some questions. He asked Jesus, "How can these things be?" and Jesus answered and said unto him, "Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things?" It was as if God was saying to me, "You mean you have been in church all your life and you claim to be saved and you don't know the difference?" Good question, huh? Thank God, there comes a point in each person's life that God's voice gets bigger than the voice of those around us!
But, I still just could not accept that I wasn't saved. One of my biggest questions was, 'why would a loving God allow me to go all those years, blessing our family and answering prayers, knowing I was going to use that as proof I was saved?' He knew I would do that. (Now I see that He alone knew how long it was going to take to break me and get things in order in my circumstances so I would be able to hear Him. He gave me just enough to keep me at least faced toward Him, until He could help me, until I was really ready to listen.) I started asking God to help me be honest about my life. God answered that prayer and began to help me get honest, but oh, was it painful. Me - only religious? Me - a Pharisee? Me - lost? The first thing I remembered was that I had not called what happened to me during my suicide attempt 'salvation' until many years later. I had just had a good long cry and felt better, again.
The next thing I finally agreed with God about was that my heart had never changed. Oh, my life, my actions, did change. No one who knew me could deny that fact. I thought I wanted more than anything to please God. My heart was beginning to soften to some extent but I had not become a "new creature," like in II Corinthians 5:17. "Therefore, if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature. Old things are passed away; behold all things are become new." I had just became a better old one! I started searching the Bible for answers and painfully saw myself in every sinner mentioned. No more hiding or justifying - I needed help. For the first time in my life, I became very honest and didn't care what anyone else thought. I thought I had kept the Ten Commandments until I took a closer look at Matthew 5, 6, and 7. Jesus' definition of things like murder, adultery, etc. had been much different than mine. And, I had taught two Bible studies on I John - How to Know if You Are a Christian. I had propped myself up there for years too. I really thought I loved people, until God started probing a little deeper at my motives. I remember one day making a statement that I loved people and a little small voice within me said, "No, you don't."
The third thing I agreed with God about was that I did not have peace. Every time I would hear someone say "Do you know where you'll spend eternity without a doubt?", I could never say "without a doubt, I'm sure."
The fourth thing is that I've not known true joy. I've been very happy and to a great extent, content, but never truly joyful. I learned to make myself happy and content, saying this was just my 'cross to bear', but I had never had any real joy bubbling out of me. I came later to understand that "happiness" is much different that real "joy."
The fifth thing God showed me was that I've never been at rest. I did not know what it meant to have a quiet mind and to lay my head down at night and truly rest.
The sixth was, I'd never been without guilt when somehow I didn't measure up. God was out to get me and I viewed Him as angry and unloving because He hated sin and I thought me. The only way to please Him was to read my Bible more, pray more, have quiet times every day, study consistently. There was no freedom, only bondage. Anytime I would try to talk to anyone about how I felt, I was told that I had to daily "crucify the flesh" and that all Christians struggled with those same problems. There is truth to all of that reasoning, but underneath it all was the same message - just do the "right" things better and God would be pleased with my effort. I remember talking to Bro. Greg one day and he said something that rocked me on my heels. He said, "Lynda, if it had anything to do with 'you', Jesus' death would have not been enough - it would have been His death on the cross, plus what Lynda could do." I had never thought about it in those terms and it really got me thinking. That was a major turning point for me - to realize it wasn't what I did or didn't do at all - it was all of God and what He did.
At this point, I began to get a little desperate and began going to talk to Bro. Greg even more. I began to see little cracks in my entire belief system. I wrote out my testimony and asked Bro. Greg to talk to me about it. By now, I was ready to listen. Bro. Greg shared with me that my recollection of what God said to me after my suicide attempt had been misunderstood. He believed that when God said to me, "I loved you enough to save you from yourself," He meant that He loved me enough to snatch me right out of the hands of Satan - he had me, and God said, "No, not this one!" When Bro. Greg spoke those words to me, things began to make sense for the first time. I was beginning to get a glimpse of His love and plan for my life; it was still out of my grasp but God wasn't through yet. God was building a case against me and
I began to have a softened heart at the mercy of God in my life and the 'close calls' I had experienced on many occasions - how many times He had shown me love and undeserved mercy. I even began to see my parents' restraints on me as a young person as tremendous blessings of God. I was just now beginning to understand the scripture that says, "the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance." Romans 2:4. Soon after that, Bro. Greg preached a sermon on "Godly Sorrow vs. Worldly Sorrow." The text was II Corinthians 7:9-11. In part it says, "Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a Godly manner...For Godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death." How could I possibly have read the Bible all of my life and studied and been a teacher myself and never seen those words? The instant I read those words, worldly sorrow, I knew in my heart what had happened to me when I was a little girl. I now was beginning to understand that there has to be some level of understanding to be saved; otherwise you don't understand repentance and you can't get saved without it. I knew all the right words to say and the answers to the Sunday School questions about why I was saved. But, I came to realize repeating a prayer doesn't save. I couldn't possibly have gotten saved as I had absolutely no understanding of what I was even doing or why. My parents and church family had been instrumental in God's hands to keep me somewhat straight on the outside but only God knew my heart. Turned toward God, yes, but saved, no.
Casey made me a footstool to use in church and wanted to put a Bible verse on it for me. I asked God to help me find just the right one to "put my feet on" and came up with Ezekiel 36:25-27 "Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you and you shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them." That's what I wanted, a new heart. That was my promise from God.
I was still asking God every day to show me if I was really lost. My view of God was so wrong that I kept expecting Him to beat me over the head or make me feel even worse about myself. It was so sweet to me how God showed me. I would go to bed every night with the request, "God, please show me if I'm really lost; I don't want to be but if I am, I need to know it." I would wake up every single morning, as soon as my eyes would open, with the words very gently and softly spoken in my heart, "you're lost." God was so gentle with me, never angry and harsh like I expected. There are still those who would argue with me that it was the voice of Satan trying to confuse me but why would he do that? It seemed to me he would delight in me still thinking I was ok; he wouldn't want me to believe I was lost because I surely would try to get some help. For some strange reason, I was happy about the possibility of being lost - happy to finally understand what was really wrong with me. I understood for the first time the turmoil of my life.
Bro. Terry Owens came to Lighthouse and preached a revival during April and the sermon I remember was on "Contrary Winds." He talked of how Jesus came to the disciples walking on the water and "He would have passed by' had they not cried out to Him." (Mark 6:48-49) "And He saw them toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them: and about the fourth watch of the night He cometh unto them, walking upon the sea, and would have passed by them; But when they saw Him walking upon the sea, they supposed it had been a spirit, and cried out..." I didn't understand it then, but God was going to make that scripture clear to me and would prove to be another major turning point in my understanding. My job was to keep rowing and trying to help myself but the secret behind it all was to show me that it was hopeless in my own effort.
I had always seen God as a big angry God, waiting to beat me over the head. Somewhere in this process, Bro. Claude Mills preached a sermon on Judgement and Mercy. I remember the example he gave about shopping for a diamond, of how the salesman always puts the diamond on a backdrop of black to magnify it's beauty. He explained how God never ever wants to exercise His judgment, but He would not be a righteous judge if he did not exercise judgment for sin but he shows us mercy on the backdrop of judgement so we'll see how absolutely wonderful it is. When I saw that truth, it changed my whole perspective of God.
Bro. Greg preached on Abraham and how he heard from God and walked in obedience to him many years before he was saved. I had never seen that before. Then another Sunday he told the story of Cornelius, "Religious, but Lost" - how he was a devout and religious man, he and all his household, but not saved, and how God sent a man to him in an answer to his prayer (an unsaved man!) so that he and his household could be saved. That sermon pierced my heart because God let me see, that's what I had been all these years, religious, but lost. I had heard many preachers preach on "religious" people before and I always knew who 'they' were but this day, I really heard and I had to agree with God again. I was one of those people. Now, for the first time, God was opening my ears. I went through a short period of being angry at God for waiting until I was 50 years old to show me. Why now, after my children were grown and I had lost my opportunity to help them. Was that a loving God? But, He soon brought me up short to the realization that He didn't have to tell me anything - He didn't owe me anything. He could have let me go right on and never know the difference. I still don't understand it all but I know His timing is perfect. I wasn't meant to be the answer to anyone and I know if I could have been the answer, I would have taken the credit for it. God wanted to shine, not share His glory with me. I was beginning to understand that we all are at the mercy of God's goodness and love. If He doesn't move on us, there is no hope.
I was getting very discouraged and began to doubt that I would ever be saved. One Sunday morning, I was depressed and had planned to stay home from church with the covers pulled up under my chin. I was tired of trying. But, I awoke to Hank saying, "Get up, get up, get up this could be the day, this could be the day!" For some reason, hope filled my heart and I became afraid God might come that day and I'd be home in bed. So I didn't miss another service after that.
One other person who helped me tremendously on this journey was Bro. Tim Rutherford. One afternoon I went to talk to him - I was struggling with feeling like I had lived such a good "religious" life all these past 20 years and wondering if I was going to have to go back and be sorry all over again for all the sins I had committed, knowing that I had not felt guilty for those sins for years. After all, God understood all my years of trying so hard to please Him, didn't He? Bro. Tim's statement rocked me on my heels. He said, "You need to understand something; if you are convinced you have never been saved, your sin still remains. You don't have a past...your past is still your present." He looked at me and said, "a light came on, didn't it?" All of a sudden, it all made sense. Even if I could have lived a totally perfect, sinless life for the past 20 years, because I had never been forgiven, I was still guilty. I was the Pharisee, the religious one. so quick to see everyone else's sin but not my own and my own righteousness was all I had.
One Sunday afternoon, some old friends came to visit. I had purposely not told them of my lost condition because I was afraid of what they might think and try to talk me out of being lost and I just didn't want to deal with it. But for some reason, when I saw them come in the door, I knew I needed to tell them what was going on. Even though I was lost, that excitement in my heart came back as I told them how I had arrived at this conclusion. I think it must have had something to do with just openly admitting my agreement with God about the matter that began to build faith in my heart. I wanted what was real this time and I would wait for it. Our friends didn't seem to really understand, but the more I talked, I could feel my heart filling with hope. I could actually feel it filling me up. I didn't know how or when God would save me but I was beginning to see His love and mercy in even showing me my condition, and I couldn't help but believe He would finish what He started because His word said He would. Bro. Greg would always tell me, "Lynda, God would have never shown you that you were lost if He didn't want to save you." Sometimes that hope was all I had to hang on to.
I don't remember a thing about the sermon that night, but at the end I asked Bro. Greg if I could say something. All I said was, "this is the first day I have actually been able to believe that God wanted to save me." Looking back on the situation now, it's almost funny to me. The instant I said that it was like watching a cartoon or something. The entire church almost simultaneously, bent over and bowed their heads and started praying for me. I didn't expect that so I bowed my head too. Everything happened so quickly it's almost hard to believe it's possible to have so many thoughts instantly go through your mind. But, in a flash I remembered the sermon about the contrary winds and Jesus walking on the water. I knew He had passed by me many times before - I had felt Him come and felt Him leave, without me, and I did not understand that verse that said "He would have passed by if they had not cried out" but all of a sudden I became aware that yes, He had passed by but He had always come back around. I could almost feel myself looking out of the corner of my eye, waiting for Him to circle that boat I was in, frantically rowing. Then, in my heart, I became perfectly still. He was there and I knew it - He was coming around again and this time I wasn't going to miss Him. If He came around again, I was getting out of that boat and going with Him! In a split second, I became aware of a most important element of salvation. Jesus had always been a story in the Bible, a character in someone's mind. But that day, in the twinkling of an eye, He became a real person to me. He was there for me that day - just for me! I had not said a word. I didn't ask Him to save me. I didn't repent anymore and God didn't bring up one single sin. Before I could get anything out of my mouth, I felt this tremendous heaviness on my shoulders lift and a calm I'd never known before. After a few seconds, I started laughing. I was a little embarrassed because I was taught that was irreverent, (I wouldn't have dared ever do that in church) but I couldn't stop! I felt as light as a feather and just laughed and laughed, and then I began to hear other people get tickled. Then I stopped to think about what had happened, and afraid to believe it, began to struggle again. Hank told me later that he could see me begin to strive again. It had just happened so "quick"! I was afraid to believe that it was really salvation. I couldn't be so happy if it wasn't so I had to get serious. It couldn't actually be over, could it? The whole tone of the service seemed to lighten; nobody moved, and finally Bro. Greg motioned for me to come to the front and talk to him. He was so careful not to tell me anything but wanted to know what was going on. I told him what happened and he asked me if I still felt that same heavy burden on me and I told him "no'. He asked me what I wanted to do and I told him I didn't know. So, he said if I didn't feel like there was anything else to be done tonight, he would just go on and dismiss everybody. I asked him if it would be all-right if Janet sang a song I had heard her sing a few times that said something about Satan singling you out. I had always felt 'singled out' by Satan and my escape had been to run from the attacks and the pain. He recognized the song as "Under His Wings" and had her sing it. The first of the song says,
My way was filled with danger, I felt alone
The enemy had singled me out to do me wrong
And when he drew near, my heart filled with fear
Then I heard someone dear calling me to His side
And I ran under His wings
There He covered me and now I can see
And the enemy still looks for me
But what he can't see
Is that I'm under my Lord's wings
Under His wings!
Then, all of a sudden, God flooded my heart with joy and I started laughing and crying again, all at the same time. Bro. Greg later helped me to understand that this was the "sealing" of my salvation. In all of my 50 years I've never known what it was like to have a mind at rest and for the first time, my mind was still and at peace. Until that moment, I had never understood the true meaning of the word "peace." "Thank you Lord, for saving my soul; thank you Lord for making me whole; thank you Lord for giving to me, Thy great salvation so full and free."
The morning of my salvation, October 10, 1999, Bro. Greg had baptized several church members who had been saved for quite some time. It was such a sweet service. He said that afternoon he went over to let the water out of the Baptismal and he heard God say, "Why are you letting the water out?" He said he just made a turn and went right back and put the plug back in, not knowing why. He remembered the man in the Bible who said, "What hinders me to be baptized?" He laughingly said that if anyone asked that question he didn't want to have to say, "because there is no water." I knew Bro. Greg normally doesn't baptize people right away so I asked him if he would be reluctant to baptize me right then. He just grinned and said, "Let's do it." So to top off my wonderful salvation day, I was able to be baptized as a glorious witness to the new life God had given me. I now have that changed heart. One of the best parts of all is found in Romans 10:4. "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth." No more law!
My heart's desire is that somehow, in the Sovereignty of God, this testimony of what God did for me will be used to help someone else find Him. I know I wasn't unique in my lostness; I was more of the norm. If He ever "troubles your water," it's because He wants to help you, not hurt. And, like Bro. Greg says, "He always has more people in mind when He saves one." It's all His work and He gets all the praise! Thanks be to God for all the people He brought across my path to freely give what God had given them. I love what Peter said in Acts 3:6, "Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee." God had to go back in my life and help me "unlearn" so many wrong things.
Now, I can say, like the blind man in John 9:25,
'I don't know about all that,' ... "but one thing I know, that whereas I was blind, now I see."
Lynda Kaye Hoskins
50 years of age
Troubled & Questioning November 1998
Lost - February 1999
In Labor - April thru October
Birth Day - October 10, 1999
Baptized - Same evening
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