A few weeks ago I blogged a short series that told of how I came to know the Lord and, from there, how I became Reformed. Part of my background is being raised by Christian parents. A little while ago my mother wrote out her testimony and shared it with the family and it struck me that her testimony is an important part of my own. Just a few days ago my sister posted it to her blog and, well, that struck me as a great idea. So I will do the same. Here is the story of how my mother came to know the Lord. It is written in the present tense, but begins a few decades ago…
I am sitting on the Voyageur bus on the way to Lennoxville, Quebec. I have decided to take a few days and figure out whether or not I can find a reason to continue to live. If not, I will kill myself. This is not a hasty or emotional decision. I simply hate life, the tiresome process of getting through another long and meaningless day. I feel like Sisyphus of the Greek legends, condemned every day to attempting to roll a huge rock uphill, only to have it roll back again and again. I can not bear it any longer.
I arrive at the bus station in Lennoxville, and begin the walk along College St. to the university. I really don’t know why I am there. I just hope I can think clearly away from home. I arrive on campus and go along to the hub of the building, the vestibule in front of the theatre. I am sitting there waiting for Godot, for who knows what. Along comes someone I know. It is John Challies. We were not really friends while I attended Bishop’s. But we had had some interesting conversations along the way. We had even gone out on one date. He was always part of the artsy, Bohemian crowd, with a reputation as the campus cynic. I was more conservative. He comes right over to me and obviously wants to talk. And talk he does. About things I had never heard of before, at least as part of real life – about God and the Bible, about sin and Christ. What in the world is this? I listen but I am not happy. I wish he would stop talking and go away. I have absolutely no sense that this is the answer to my heart’s cry. None whatsoever. Stop it! The only comment I remember later is one he made toward the end of our time together. I have shared with him my despair. He says, Barbara, I think God has great things in store for you…What?…And he extracts a promise from me to go and have dinner with him two nights later…I don’t want to, but I am polite and say I will.
Later that day, I go for a walk in to the countryside around the campus. My feelings of absolute despair completely overwhelm me. I am a very idealistic girl and all I want in life is to know why I am alive and to fulfill my inmost desire to be a “good person.” But I don’t have answers and I am not good. That I am sure of. Moreover, I cannot change. What I am, I am inexorably. This awareness of the evil in me, the evil in others, and my inability to control it, has been with me for years. It has terrified and terrorized me. I know I am capable of any evil. I know others are, as well. When I share this knowledge with others, they assure me this is not true. I am not evil. I am good. Other people are not evil. They are good, too. Great. I am not only evil – I don’t doubt that – but I am also crazy. I see life completely differently than others…I sit down in the snow, on my big afghan coat, and I cry out “Help, help, help” to the sky. Then I wend my way back to the college.
The next day, I hear that there is going to be a Roman Polanski film shown in the theatre tomorrow. Great! I love dark themes. I am looking forward to that. Then I remember. I have promised John that I will go to his house for dinner. Oh, well. No big deal. I will tell him I can’t. I am sure to run into him some time today. I go up to the student union for coffee. While I am there, sure enough, in comes John. I drink a little more coffee and then decide it is time to break my date with him. I get up to walk over to his table when something sweeps over me. It is the determination to do what is right. I will not cancel our dinner plans. I will keep my word. This takes me by surprise…It is unlike me. Much as I have longed to be a good person, it has made little difference to my actual behavior. This is what has crushed me. But I don’t think too much about it.
Finally it is Wednesday night and I am at John’s. We talk throughout dinner but, as far as I know, the words are blah blah blah blah. Still, at the end of the meal, he asks me whether I will go with him to meet some of his friends. I say I will, but before leaving I ask his roommate whether or not he believes in God. No, he says. I don’t either, Geoff….We trudge through the snow to a small house tucked away behind the main street of Lennoxville. We ring the bell and it is answered by a girl about my age, named Bernice. She lives in this house with a young married couple who are studying French in Sherbrooke. Her fiance and grandmother are there visiting. As I sit down in the living room, she asks me a simple question. How am I? She gets a long answer, a real answer. I am not fine. As a matter of fact, I hate life and everything about life. I am in total despair. She just listens and listens. Her grandmother is sitting in the corner and she seems to be praying. What is she praying about? Then down comes Bernice’s fiance, Steve. He starts to explain the gospel to me. I don’t say a word. I just listen. Am I hearing properly? He agrees with me about evil – the evil in me and other people. He says this is a problem not just for me, but for God. Well, it should be, shouldn’t it? Now he goes on to say there is a solution to evil. What? A solution? That has never, ever crossed my mind. So that is why Jesus had to die. I had never considered that Jesus had to die. I thought it had just happened. And why? I didn’t know. All I know about that is that Dad sometimes says, There was only one good man and they killed him…But now it seems I am one of “them”. Fair enough. I am…Steve turns to me and asks me whether I want to ask Jesus to be my Saviour. For a second I think about it. I could say no and continue to be the center of attention longer. That would be kind of nice. But I hear a voice speaking in my heart. It says, If you do, Barbara, I will take you at your word. So I say yes. That very moment there is an almost tangible feeling of something like a paintbrush whitewashing me inside. I can feel my sin being covered. And there is something filling the room. What is it? Hard to identify it. Why, I know. It is joy! I say, He is happy about this, isn’t he? And Steve answers that the Bible says there is joy in Heaven when one sinner repents. Well, I am a sinner, I have repented and I feel that joy. Steve tells me I have been born again. Born again? What is that? I have never heard the term but it seems to fit what has just happened.
And so my new life begins. I get married to John a few months later. We have five children who grow to love the Lord. Then we have eight grandchildren. God did indeed take the one who was desolate and place her in a family. And this twice-owned woman – owned by creation, then by redemption – looks forward to praising and serving Him forever.
*Note: Mom wrote this two years ago and since that time, 3 more grandchildren have been added to the clan!:)