New member here, just dropping and saying hi to my brothers and sisters in Christ.
I'm a 27 year old man and I'm going to try and get through my testimony here. I'm going to omit some of the more horrid things from my very early life that I remember but don't like to talk about.
My journey to faith, if you want to call it that, started when I was a small child of 6. I was raised in a non-religious home and I remember one day asking my mother "hey mom, how do you go to heaven?" Living in the home I was in, my mother's reply was "believing in God is good enough." Of course I know now how erroneous that is, but to my little mind at the time it was good enough. My stepfather was horribly abusive, thinking of sadistic and painful punishments for even the most minor of infractions. "Crying because I hit you? Here's something to REALLY cry about" and so on. He thought it was funny. I won't go into their detail of course, but as a result I grew up as a hateful and violent man. When I was 7 years old I was told that when it rained, it meant God was crying. Since I was always in trouble for something and its always raining in The Evergreen State, I rationalized that God must be crying because of me and it drove me into a deep depression. I was actually suicidal as a child, I remember after one particular punishment I was sitting in the living room thinking about stabbing myself through the chest with one of the long knives we had in the kitchen. I was 7 years old and I didn't want to be a burden anymore, I felt like I wasn't wanted at all. (I am getting somewhere with all this and I won't be going year by year I promise, so bear with me.) When I was 8 years old, we ended up being homeless for about a year, I slept on the ground and I was lucky if I got to bathe once a week. I was the smelly, dirty kid in 3rd and 4th grade. We finally got a place to stay way out in the country, a roof over our heads, so that was quite nice. We had a neighbor that lived about a mile and a half away who would stop by every once in awhile with his son and his bible and talk to my parents (not me, as a child I was not allowed in the house when we had company, rain or shine, day or night). Because we were about the same age, his son and I ended up as friends. His son actually is the first one to ever share the Gospel with me and encourage me to read a bible they gave me. They would often invite me to go to church and sunday school with them and I did go when I was allowed to At this point, I had still not accepted Jesus. This is becoming a wall of text, next paragraph!
Fast forward a couple of years to when I was 11. My stepfather decided that I was old enough to start earning my keep so I got (forced into) my first full time job working in the forests helping cut the cedar logs up for the beautiful shingles that are on your roof or house siding. If you've ever watched the show Ax Men, you'll have a tiny idea of the working conditions. The only difference is that I didn't get paid because it was a family business and child labor laws don't apply to family. I was working 7 days a week from 5am til whenever the sun went down during the summer and weekends during the school year, so I wasn't allowed to go to church with my friend anymore. God was sort of on the back burner for me during these years. This continued until I was 17 years old when my stepfather finally got kicked out of the house by mom because of drugs and how he treated us.
During high school, I got involved with the occult, being fascinated by satanism and the "Do what thou will shall be the whole of the law" nonsense. I started not coming home after school because I was sick of working for nothing. Since home was 45 miles and an hour ride on the school bus away, nobody bothered to drive to town to find me. As a result I ended up drinking and getting high with friends nearly all the time after school, during lunch and on weekends I could get away. It got to the point where I would ride the bus to school and just walk a few blocks away to a friend's house rather than go to class. Almost certainly not the best use of my time, of course, but hindsight is 20/20 as they say. When I was finally out from under the oppressive rule of this man at the age of 17, a girl in my class invited me to her church and I went. It took a few weeks of going to youth group and sunday service, but I finally said "YES." I accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior in April of '02 and I was baptized the next Sunday. I stopped getting high, drinking, and everything that falls in between, I just didn't want to do that stuff anymore. I had experienced what I thought was a complete change of heart.
But that is not the end of my story.
Fast forward a year to when I was 18 and I enlisted in the Army. I wanted to get away from all the bad memories, all the old places and do something for myself. As anyone who has served can tell you though, life in the barracks can be quite crude, at best. For awhile in basic it was great. My bunkmate (or battle buddy as we called each other) was a believer as well. One of the guys in the next bunk over who was headed for OCS was also a believer. We'd have little Bible studies, just the 3 of us and sometimes other people would join in. If only I had been a little more humble about my human condition... One little compromise after another and I find myself acting and talking just like everyone else. I'm ashamed of it, but I ended up getting discharged after a fight with another soldier. I let my emotions get in the way and told them to just send me home because I didn't want to deal with this person anymore. Pretty stupid right? There was no excuse for my behavior.
After leaving the base, I found myself on a cross country tour of doing whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. Eventually I ended up living in Texas. Somehow I had completely reverted to my old self. How did this happen? I asked myself plenty of times. Try as I might, I could not stop living the way I was. Every 6 months or so I'd kick myself and I'd be in tearful prayer begging for forgiveness. Eventually though, I would just go right back to my old self. Finally, apathy and compromise had its way and I was completely backslidden. I lived like an unbeliever for the next few years. I even went so far as saying I didn't believe in God anymore. For a short time, I was just as bad as the militant atheists that call themselves "Free Thinkers." My heart was so full of hatred I can't even comprehend it now.
One day, while at work I was on a roll blasting religion and faith and I was stopped by someone in my department and he made one simple statement that changed my outlook completely. "You believe what you do because of what you've read, I believe what I do because of what I've read. There is no difference between us other than what we've chosen to believe." Wow. That struck home. I felt like a complete fool. I started questioning myself, "where have I gone wrong?" "Why did I start acting and thinking like this?"
This led to a big change of mind for me, I started looking around on the internet for something, anything. I am a nerd at heart after all and I downloaded an e-bible. I found this site too of course, about a year ago. I wondered if I had ever been saved to begin with. Now, I think not. I believe my motivations were purely social when I was a teenager.
A year ago, I finally believed. I'm just a sinner with no hope, I asked for forgiveness I didn't think I deserved and still don't. Today, 27 years old, I belong to Jesus Christ for all eternity. Everything that has happened to me in life is simply a footnote. All the anger, hatred and sadness are completely gone. My heart has been healed.
Because I didn't think my salvation was genuine when I was a teenager, I got baptized again May 1st of last year. Looking back over the years, I can easily see God's influence in my life. There are more than a few times before I was saved that I should have and could have died because of my working conditions or some circumstance I put myself in. I think of those times and I shudder at the thought I was a breath away from being lost for eternity.
Forgive me for the long post and for basically writing a truncated version of my life story. Once I got going I couldn't stop and it all poured out.
So, finally, hello again to all my brothers and sisters in Christ.