My journey to faith has been a long and bumpy one. Never dull but often painful. I've been through nearly every denomination out there in search of the truth and it is only by the grace of God that I have finally found it. I write this not because I think my story is anything special, but it is my hope that it might help someone who's following the same path I've traveled.
I was raised as an Episcopalian in a family that while recognizing the value of the church in our lives did not speak about it much. As a child I was drawn to religion and church, but as time progressed I fell away. When my parents were divorced, my mother (with whom I lived) quit attending church -- and so did I. This was early in my teens and gradually I decided that church was okay for some but it wasn't essential. When I was older, I would get religion, I thought to myself.
Without a relationship with God I was left to my own devices -- and brother did I put myself through a lot of hell! I was not very outgoing and had few friends. I became something of a chameleon. I would change my opinions, likes and dislikes to match whomever was my best friend at the time. I was afraid that if I believed anything differently, they wouldn't be my friend any longer.
During high school I got involved with drugs and began a lifelong battle with depression. College made things worse. The friends I had were actively hostile to religion (although they would admit their main problem was with organized religion). My problems worsened: heavy drug use, too much partying, a string of carnal, broken relationships and even a growing struggle with pornography.
I also wandered into occult and new age thought and came to the conclusion that while a spiritual life was beneficial I didn't have time for it right now and that when I did what was important was to find that truth or tradition that resonated with me. In other words, if it felt right, then it was the truth for me.
After college, I began my long struggle with Christianity. A good friend found Jesus through the Boston Church of Christ (aka the International Church of Christ) and began witnessing to me in the only manner that would get through to me -- his life was transformed and he had such joy!
While I wanted what he had I didn't want to give up so much. Instead of repenting, I began to search for the form of Christianity that suited me best. Another Christian friend did some heavy witnessing to me as well, but nothing took much. I even attended a service at the local International Church of Christ but was so put off by it that I never returned.
My struggle with depression and sexual sin deepened until my life was miserable. I was alone, utterly and completely.
Then the Lord brought the woman into my life who would become my wife and start me truly on the road to salvation. When we met, Cynthia was at the end of a bitter and of a terrible marriage. He was an atheist, a heavy drug user, psychologically and physically abusive man. She wasn't even allowed to go to church. To make things worse, he was also an adulterer. Cynthia had warned him years before that when their children were grown she would leave him if he hadn't changed his ways.
He never did and they were divorced. I'll never forget that time. It was ugly and he wanted to hurt Cynthia as much as possible while he still could. The marriage was so obviously broken that even her own children urged her to leave their father. I wish I could say that we waited until she was divorced but we did not. Cynthia had long since severed any emotional ties to him and we became first fast friends and then fell in love.
What amazed me then and still does is how firm is her faith in God and her personal relationship with Jesus. She never pushed me but simply made it clear that she wanted me to become a Christian someday. What finally got me was watching "the Last Temptation of Christ." This film IS blasphemous ... I readily grant that now. At the time though what got through to me was that Jesus was a REAL person. "I wish I'd known Him," I can remember telling Cynthia. She told me I could, and the next day we were in church together.
Cynthia was raised amongst Mennonites and is a very committed, fundamental Christian. We found a local Mennonite church that was our church home for the next year or so.
That church saved our marriage. My addiction to pornography and the like nearly broke it. Depression and rage all but consumed me. The pastors (a husband/wife team) gave us what they called Agape Counseling -- essentially you confess your sins to the Lord in prayer.
Great! Now I'm free, I thought -- maybe. But they made it clear this would be an ongoing struggle with sin. Not a cheerful thought.
Then they began urging Cynthia and I to pray for the gift of tongues, to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I was put off and confused, and my wife was outraged to hear so-called Mennonites teaching this.
We left that church and haven't regularly attended until recently. I drifted from church to church, religion to religion. Each time, I KNEW I'd found the truth, only to drift away when I changed my mind about what I believed. I went from Buddhism, to Hinduism, to Judaism and back again.
At one point I even became involved in an online Wiccan group. I also had an online affair with one of the members. What came of this is another near break to our marriage. Cynthia stayed with me, she said, because she knew Jesus wanted her to be there for me.
We stayed together. It has been hard at times but I promised God that I would follow His lead from that point on no matter how painful. Sadly, what happened instead is I drifted from denomination to denomination in search of God's church. Nothing seemed right and yet everything sounded right! How could this be? Everyone cannot be right can they? I tried to read the Bible but I seemed to find support for every position in there ... it was essentially nonsense to me.
A couple of years ago I was sure that Islam was the truth. I even went so far as to say the shahada (makes you a Muslim) but then never followed-through. Once again I'd been betrayed by following my heart, my feelings to find the truth. I prayed to God for forgiveness and guidance and knew the answer was in Jesus ... a personal relationship with Him.
The last few years have seen me visiting (and each time joining, never to return) countless churches: Pentecostal, Apostolic, Roman Catholic, Nazarene, Primitive Baptist and lastly Russian orthodox.
What stopped me? One day it simply occurred to me that it couldn't be this complicated. After all:
I decided to give the independent fundamental baptist church another try and began reading online. First I came to understand and then to accept the King James Only arguments. Then I stumbled across a website that really had an impact on me by a man named Johnny the Baptist.
This man's testimony inspired me! Another clue that I was on the right track is that the passionate love my wife and I felt when we were still a young couple has been rekindled by our decision to find a church home ... together. We kiss again, snuggle again, we touch each other more often. Little things, maybe, but they have meant more to me than words can express.
God put this wonderful woman into my life to be my partner, friend, wife and lover. She means more to me than any other person on earth. Most importantly she introduced me to Jesus, whom I love above all.
I stayed with the independent Baptists for several months before leaving. I felt I was somehow missing something. It seemed that salvation there was too much easy believe-ism.
I began to read about Calvinism and truth finally began to dawn. What most stuck with me was the idea that man is wholly incapable of doing anything on his own to save himself. That we are saved only and wholly by the grace of God. The idea that Jesus' atoning death was limited to the elect finally made sense to me. If he died for all then all would be saved and that is not the case. Salvation is not a simple matter of praying a sinner's prayer. It is wholly the work of God's sovereign grace.
I'd found the right path at last!
One night I decided to attend an evening service at a Primitive Baptist Church not far from my home. There was a guest preacher that night teaching on grace. It rang so true for me that I knew I'd found the right church at last.
I've been back and forth a bit since then and lack grounding, a foundation. But I've made a new commitment with myself to stick with the Primitive Baptists where I know the truth is taught and preached. It is there I will find peace and the grounding I so desperately need. I've turned to the Bible at last as the only book I need to know. It is to be my instruction book on how to live my life and with the grace of God I will continue to progress amongst my new church family.
God bless you as you travel your own road. I hope this testimony has been of some small help to you.