These are personal testimonies collected years ago at a Christmas ornament exchange.  True stories; only the names have been changed to protect privacy:

Debbie’s life was chaos, owing to a dysfunctional family: abusive dad, passive mom, no system or order in the household.  Her father made plenty of money, but she remembers walking to school in clothes so old her teachers thought she was a  charity case.  She came to the Lord sweetly and naturally, through high school friends who sought her out (she didn’t realize until later that they were evangelizing her).  Her life since has had its dramatic ups and downs, but she is ever “in his grip.”

Donna’s life was ignorance.  Her father wasn’t around much, especially after the War began.  At the age of three she was evacuated from London because of the blitz, and lived with two families for most of the duration.  Looking back, she can see the seeds planted in her early life, such as an occasional Sunday school, that finally sprouted when she read a gospel tract her husband brought home.  It struck like an arrow, filling her heart with joy. She was elated, and believed at once, eagerly kneeling to accept Christ as Savior.  Over the years, she’s become more grounded, learning that being a Christian doesn’t solve all your problems.  But she’s not going anywhere else.  Her favorite verse: “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

Linda felt unloved and insecure.  Her father died before she could know him and her step-dad, whom she called Daddy, never took her to his heart; when his own kids were born his favoritism was obvious and hurtful.  When a chain of circumstances brought Daddy’s mother to live nearby, this godly woman took Linda to church.  Though hostile to faith, her stepdad welcomed the Sunday-morning time he could spend with his “real” kids.  They never came to the Lord, but Linda did.  If her earthly father didn’t love her, she knew her heavenly Father did.  Love was at the center of her conversion, and ever since she has felt secure.

Melissa’s life was darkness.  Drug abuse, alcohol, and violence ruled the house where she grew up; she knew little else.  Certainly no gospel.  Somehow she got through high school and scraped up enough ambition to go to college.  It was there, while partying on the weekends and looking for love in all the wrong places, she met some Christian girls who started inviting her to church and Bible study.  Her conversion was quick and complete.  No backsliding; she changed like that (snap).  Her language cleaned up, her sleeping-around stopped, she was delivered from darkness into the kingdom of his glorious light.

Tabitha’s life was marked by fear.  She was afraid of everything: danger, death, hell—and this at five years old!  She knew about God because her parents taught her, but somehow she missed hearing about God’s provision for sin.  This is the classic sequence for conversions in the past: first the wrath, then the grace.  She was a tender plant, extraordinarily sensitive. Her conviction was real, even at that age—she remembers lying in bed, unable to sleep after a heinous (to her mind) misdeed that day.  She had to get up and confess to her parents, who, in the middle of the night, shared the rally good news with her.  She has believed ever since, and her life now is marked with confidence.

Tami was always Christian—can’t remember a time when she didn’t believe.  But somewhere between youth and adulthood faith is tested and personalized and purified of baby idols; for her that happened with a traumatizing church  split that put a chasm between her and close friends.  Who quickly became former friends.  She’s grateful for the ways this crisis shored up her faith and reinforced her walk, but the walk itself seemed a foregone conclusion.

As for me, my life was complacence.  My family saw to it that I was in church three times a week.  I knew all the answers, memorized the verses, sang all the verses (or at least the first, second, and last) of all the standard hymns by heart.  Sometimes I got the impression that being a Christian was pretty easy: here’s what God wants, just follow these rules.  But meandering along path, not paying much attention, I tripped right into sin.  And self-justifying, which is even worse.  I could have used a little fear of the Lord, but I never stopped believing—at the back of my mind was always a conviction that what I’d been taught was basically true, and “to whom else can I go?”  I walked back the same way I’d walked away, but this time knowing much more about myself and the depth of my need.

We hear that “There are many roads to God.”  Actually, no; but there are many paths to the one road.  Out of seven women, only three of us grew up in anything like a Christian home, so family isn’t always the path.  None were influenced by a husband or boyfriend, so romance isn’t always the path.  For two, friends in school showed the way; for one, a step-grandmother; for Tabitha and me (though at vastly different ages), it was the direct and pointed conviction of the Holy Spirit.

“This promise is for you and your children, and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself” (Acts 2:39).  Near by and far off, he calls.  At this minute, and the next, and the next, He’s calling to himself.  I sometimes think about all the murders being committed, all the outrages, all the unspeakable crimes going on right now.  Somewhere in this world it’s always midnight and someone who should be sleeping peacefully is instead acting violently.  Do you know where your children are?  God knows where his children are, and right now, this minute, he is calling them out of darkness and into his glorious light.

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