It was in January of 1981 when I made my first false profession of faith. Two men had come to our home in Grand Forks Air Force Base, North Dakota, to speak to me about salvation. They spoke to me from the Bible for quite sometime, prayed for me, and then asked that I would also pray. I remember feeling like I was under so much pressure and so I just said a prayer without understanding how wicked and sinful my heart really was. I did not understand repentance or faith in Jesus Christ. I only prayed because my husband had made a profession and so I thought it was the right thing to do. When the two men left our house, I was glad that their visit was finally over and that I had done what I thought was required of me. My husband and I were both baptized and began to attend church faithfully with our young family. Soon after we began attending church, I started to feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit in my heart. I began to doubt my salvation and I remember not wanting to deal with it. I wished that the nagging doubts and fears would just go away.
One day, while going about my daily chores as a young housewife, I could stand the nagging conviction no longer. I stopped everything I was doing and went into my bedroom to pray. And although the Holy Spirit was speaking to me, I did not respond properly. I still did not understand repentance or faith. I was not broken over my heart’s condition nor was I sorry for what my sin had done to the Lord. I was too proud to call someone and ask for help. And so, I just prayed a prayer and clung to it for my salvation. It was a “quick fix” for the doubts and fears that had plagued my heart. I was baptized a second time, but I remained the same, continuing in fear and doubt and unwilling to submit myself to the Truth.
Over the next several years as a faithful church member, my marriage began to crumble. My relationship with my husband was very strained as we fought about every little thing. Huge walls went up between us as unresolved hurts remained unresolved. Ungodly pride drove us further and further apart. A deep root of bitterness took residence in my heart and I would not forgive my husband even if he did apologize. This was my life at home and in my heart I was very miserable.
At church I showed a different face. I taught Sunday school and junior church and even took some college courses. I helped to run the bookstore and worked in the nursery. My husband thought he was called to preach and so I took on the role of a future pastor’s wife—getting involved with college related activities alongside my “preacher-boy” husband. What a hypocrite I was—pretending to serve the Lord with gladness when in my heart I was a miserable wretch. I didn’t enjoy serving the Lord and I knew it. And the bitterness that so deeply dwelt in my heart caused me to blame everything the Holy Spirit convicted me about on other people. I really believed that the sin in my heart wouldn’t be there if people hadn’t hurt me. If only I would have realized how my sin had hurt the Lord. But pride kept me glued to my false profession and I continued my game of charades. This went on for nearly ten years as I anxiously waited for my husband to finish Bible College so we could move to New York where he felt he was called to serve. Somehow, I thought things would get better once we were there.
Moving day arrived in May of 1989. We said goodbye to all of our friends in Grand Forks and began the long trip to the East Coast. When we finally arrived in Sayville, we were received with much love and kindness by the Graf family and the members of First Baptist Church. The Lord, in His omnipotence, allowed us to live in the apartment directly above our pastor and his family. It was there that things began to get worse, not better like I thought they would. Both my husband and I agreed to regular counseling. Pastor Graf worked with us faithfully but our relationship remained the same—full of thick walls, hurt feelings, and unresolved conflict.
It was in September of 1989 that the guest speaker for our Fall Bible Conference preached a message entitled The Tragedy of the Tare. I listened with great conviction as he began to describe Satan as the ringleader to a vast parade of religious people who professed Christ, yet lived their lives in hypocrisy. He described how Satan, waving his baton of deceit, continued to lead them on in this parade of religion as the people continued to follow him with their “floats of religious good works,” believing all along that the end of the parade would be heaven. Tears began to flow down my face as the Holy Spirit revealed to me that I was a member of that religious parade—flaunting my “float of good works” to a crowd of watching church members while in my heart I harbored bitterness, pride, and hypocrisy.
I went home immediately after the service and for the first time in my life, I began to see myself for the awful, wicked sinner I was. I saw my pride, my hypocrisy, my bitterness, and my unforgiving heart. I saw how my sin had helped to hurt my marriage. I saw the great offence I was to a holy God and how my sin had hurt Him. And it was all very ugly to look upon. Yet, for all of this, I still didn’t understand why I hadn’t been saved in Grand Forks. I felt confused and very frightened. Because I was afraid of what people would think of me, I found it very difficult to admit that I was truly lost. I argued that my heart’s condition was a result of my bad marriage and that it wasn’t my fault.
But God, with great loving kindness and patience, continued to draw me unto Himself, giving me no rest and no peace as I struggled with my pride. It was exhausting for me and I became very weary in a battle I knew I could not win. I was lost beyond the shadow of a doubt and I was a desperate sinner wanting a Saviour more than anything in this world.
On June 3rd, 1990, I went forward to be saved immediately when the invitation began. I didn’t care what anyone thought—I only wanted to know Jesus Christ as my personal Saviour. When I bowed my head to pray, I distinctly remember thinking that I wanted my prayer to be perfect. And so I prayed a very lovely prayer. It was not an honest prayer, but a prayer prayed with pride. I did not come clean with God and when I finished talking, I knew I was still lost. It was then that I finally “let go.” I poured out my heart to God in repentance, telling him what a hypocrite I was trying to serve Him with all the wrong motives and how I wanted to be saved more than anything. I had indeed repented and now I was ready to exercise faith in Jesus Christ. This was a difficult step for me as my past life experiences had produced an unwillingness to trust any figure of authority. However, I was extremely desperate in my horrible, lost condition. I found that there was nothing else I could do but simply trust the Saviour. And so, with “faith as a grain of mustard seed,” I called out to God for salvation. In an instant, I was different. I felt completely calm and settled. I felt no need to cry; I only knew the peace that passeth all understanding. All the doubt and fear I had carried for so long was gone.