From A Vessel of Wrath to a Vessel of Worth

I was an Air Force brat and therefore grew up in a very unsettled environment. We moved every one to two years, in fact I was never in the same school for two years in a row except when I was in sixth or seventh grade.. I never had any close friends, and soon learned not to make friends as I was hurt to often by having to leave them behind, never to see or hear from them again

The moving also did a lot to lower my already low self-esteem. During some of my father’s overseas duties, my mother stayed at my grandmother’s farm. My mother tried to maintain a strict Roman Catholic home, (Every holy day and high mass were observed.) but she was a nervous wreck with all the responsibility of five kids resting solely upon her shoulders. We were a real burden to her and she let us know it. She was never one to show affection or appreciation, so I turned elsewhere for the love and attention I desired.

My male cousin was one to catch on to my feelings of uselessness. He took advantage of me and sexually molested me. Oh, the horror and guilt I felt and carried from that time on. Men were just a nuisance to me. They were only in this world to create more problems. I took up my mother’s attitude------that I could live without men.

When I was in high school, after my dad’s retirement from the Air Force, my older sister became pregnant. Because she was an easy target, as the boys called it, they thought I would be too. I was a victim of their cat calls and evil tongues. I then decided that I would become a nun. I was really seeking for some kind of acceptance, some kind of love. A love that would accept me as I was. Someone that I would not have to pretend with.

That summer I worked at a girl’s camp which led me on to further sin and degradation. If you want to send your children to the very abyss of hell, send them to work at a secular summer camp. There I learned to drink and party. There was no supervision for us minor workers and the older ones were more than willing to teach us their ways.

I decided not to become a nun as I figured that I was too deep in sin to be that godly---that God would not accept such a sinful person. The penance of confession to the priest did nothing to ease my conscience.

Every time I tried to reform I fell. Every time I fell it was always going to be the last time (so I promised God). I had no strength to withstand temptation and so the vicious circle continued.

During this time of my sister’s pregnancy, my dad left home and I strayed farther from my “religious training”. Things had not been good between my folks since the stress of separation during his overseas duties. There was no love or trust between them. Add the stress and humiliation of a teen pregnancy, and you’ve got a time-bomb ready to explode.

When I was 15 my grandmother, Dad’s mom, died ofcancer. As she was lingering on her deathbed I was so scared for her as I felt that her soul was on the way to hell; and mine too. I was so scared that I was going to die.  I felt no security in the sacraments of the church. They were all just vain repetitions and did no good for anyone. How could a man take the place of God? How could the Virgin Mary help me? It just all seemed so false, so empty.

The summer after my grandmother died, my dad asked me to walk to my uncle’s house for some cigarettes. I dutifully walked and got them, but on the way back, I started thinking of my grandmothers agonizing death and I tore up the whole pack of cigarettes. Dad waited and waited for me and I finally confessed to him what I had done. He was both as mad as a hornet and pricked in the conscience when I told him why I did what I had done. From then on he didn’t trust me with his little errands.

I became more of an introvert, so unhappy inside that I decided suicide was the only way out. But I was to chicken to carry it through. I could not take the pills and end it all. I was sure that if I did I would end up in hell. Wasn’t suicide a mortal sin?  It could not be forgiven. So I gave up that idea too.

As a teenager I was searching for something that was lacking in my life.  In order to fit in (to be accepted) I turned to alcohol. Everything was a reason to party (i.e. it was Friday; the team won/lost the game).

After high school I was tired of the stress of our ever fighting and arguing home life, so I decide to get out on my own. My attitude was, “Watch out world, here I come!” Seeking for some kind of love I became rebellious. I was not scum after all.  I could prove it.  Alcohol enabled me to give up my inhibitions. The bars were right across the street and I was a frequent visitor to them. The people there always greeted me and accepted me as one of their own. But still I felt lost. Lost from what, I knew not.

One day, because I was to hung-over to work, I was watching a television evangelist and he said, “God cares for you. He’ll love you no matter what you’ve done. Just pray the prayer of faith and become one of his own.” I figured that that was all right for him but I was too far gone for religion. After all, I tried being faithful to a church, and when temptation came my way it all went down the tubes. There’s no hope.

My job as a cook at the local rehabilitation home led me to my (soon-to-be) husband’s grandfather. Carl was a very friendly, caring man compared to the rest of the residents. His sunny smile and friendly chatter soon won my heart. He told me of the good old days and his walk with the Lord. I wasn’t ready to take the road to the “religious life,” and I could not let his words bother me so I turned to more alcohol.

I was lonely. To meet guys, a friend and I went to a get-together for CB radio users. There I met my husband-to-be, Carl’s grandson.We started dating and went out to bars on every date. We had a hasty engagement and were married seven months later.

I continued working at the nursing home and Carl kept up his visits. His words began to sink into my heart and I began to seek God more earnestly.

A year after we were married, we had a beautiful baby girl. I felt, “ At last, I will have someone to love me and accept me.” But then I knew I wanted her brought up differently from the way I was. I didn’t want any drinking or fighting in her home. I wanted her to grow up knowing that she was loved and wanted.

So again I turned to the TV evangelists. I wanted to be saved. I wanted to give up my sin. I was tired of the burden I was carrying and so during one of the programs I prayed with the evangelist's wife and gave my all to Christ.. There would be no turning back. The love of God was what won me. I already knew all about sin and the burden of carrying the guilt of it. I tuned it all over to Him. A peace fell over me that I had never known or felt. I was forgiven. I could love anybody now. I also took on the new burden of bringing others to him. I gave up my smoking and drinking, and would just as soon be dead than to be caught in a bar. No sir, I was not ever going to be caught in that trap again.

My friends noticed the change in me and thought had gone crazy. “What’s gotten into you?” they would ask. And I would say, “ The love of God,” and “peace that passeth all understanding.” They soon steered clear of my “fanaticism.”

After my salvation I started going to church with my mother-in-law. She was a Baptist and her life seemed to be the kind I was looking for. She gladly accepted me as a daughter-in-law and a young sister in Christ. I went forward for an altar call and was soon surrounded by a group of loving, caring, saints. I reveled in the love and acceptance that I had so long been searching for.

The pastor of the church spent many hours working with me to ground me in my new-found convictions. I then felt (after reading that those who believed and are baptized shall be saved) that I should be baptized, so I followed the biblical example and was immersed. While being baptized I felt the washing away of my sin and the renewing of my mind.

I’m not one to do things half-heartedly and so I became a zealot for Christ. My husband became my first would-be convert. I had given up my alcohol for Christ’s sake and I was bound and determined that he would too. Every bottle of booze that was in the house was lined up on the woodpile and blasted to bits with the shotgun.. He would bring in six-packs of beer and I would meet him at the door, and the same demise would come upon them, He soon learned that I meant business. This “zeal without knowledge” did not turn him to the Lord but rather pushed him further away.

We had two children now and I did not want my children to grow up in a drunkard's home. So I got a job to earn enough money to support the kids and I. I told him of my plan and he kept on drinking like a sieve. We kept on pulling our own separate ways for six more months and then the last straw fell. It was my birthday and he was drunk. We were supposed to go out for dinner with his folks and he was too drunk to go. That was it.  I was leaving.  But he beat me at my call. He turned  to the Lord.  He repented, and God ruled ourhome.

I in no way recommend the “shotgun method.” for winning converts to Christ. As women we are to be meek and mild. We are to win our husbands by our conversation. We are to be submissive even though it goes against our grain. That’s the biblical method (1 Peter 3:1-6).

Now let me explain something here about God’s acceptance of me and my acceptance of Jesus Christ as Saviour: He saved me from my sin, not despite my sin. God does not want us to continue living in our old sinful ways. No, He expects us to repent of our sin. He renews our minds so that we are able to overcome our sin if we are willing (Eph. 4:22-23)  to give it up. We cannot expect God to be near us when we are far away from Him in rebellion. He wants us to be humble before Him. He abases (Dan. 4:37) the proud and gives grace to the humble. (James 4:6)  (In other words if you aren’t humble He has ways to humble you.)  It goes much easier in the walk of faith if I swallow my pride and tell God I’m willing to be all and do all for Him. Not for myself or for anyone or anything else, but for God. I’m not saying it’s easy to do. I found pride to be one of the hardest things I had to give up. It meant being willing to be misunderstood by the world. It meant rejection by the world and even by those I dearly loved. But when I look upon my life as just a vapor in comparison with the life that awaits me in heavenly eternity, it is worth it all. Count the cost! The Christian life is not one of ease and peace. Jesus Christ did not have the easy life. No, he had “nowhere to lay his head.” (Matthew 8:20). He was taunted by the Pharisees and Sadducees. Even one of his own, Judas Iscariot, rejected Him and turned Him over to be crucified. Like Christ, we are to be willing to deny ourselves daily and to bear the cross (Matt. 16:24), to be persecuted (2 Timothy 3:12) like the apostles and martyrs of old. (Hebrews11). The overcomers are the ones that will get the reward of eternal life.  (Revelation 21:7).  They are the ones that stand tried and true.

Don’t let the idea of persecution and rejection scare you from faith in God.  God is faithful and just. He “will not suffer youto be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make away to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13) Just likethe refiner, he sits by his gold (Malachi 3:3) and watches with a watchful eyeand only uses enough heat to consume the dross (sin, bad habits, pride, etc.) and to purify the gold.

Now don’t you think for one minute that my life had been a bed of roses. If it has, I have had my share of the pricks of thorns. God does not promise us health, wealth, and prosperity, but he chastens those he loves. He doesn’t do it to push us away from Him, but to draw us ever nearer.

We have been tried by a car accident, in which three of our children were seriously injured; a house fire in which we were homeless in sub-zero weather for about a month;  and a skill-saw accident that disabled my husband for four months. Most recently God has again put my husband through a farm accident of which he almost lost his life  is still disabled.  The car accident caused me to really appreciate and love my children. When you come close to losing some it really opens your eyes to how much you love them. It also makes you appreciate  and cherish them and to guard them with a jealous protecting love. My unsaved sister was with us during the accident. AllI could think of during the accident was that if she got killed she would be sent to an eternal hell. This accident did eventually open her eyes th the shortness of this life. And that maybe, just maybe, there was Someone else in control. The house fire served to remind me that happiness is not brought  about by worldly material possessions, but by living for God’s will and being content with such things as I have. During my husbands recuperation periods God mightily used the saints of His to show of His great love towards us. We were provided for in such a loving manner, and we never went without food or encouragement. Whenever finances were getting low God would send some money to meet our need. The money always matched out needs. Words of encouragement were used to lift our sagging spirits and to keep us pressing on. It also taught us to be more faithful and thankful with the things God does so graciously provide.

God has blessed our home with ten children (including two sets of twins). Our lives are busy and I am ever striving to raise these precious souls to be godly men and women. I really feel this burden as I don’t want my children to have to experience such a deep fall into sin as I had  in order to find the Saviour's Iove.  Oh, how I pray they would be saved before  Satan or death comes to take them to an eternal hell. I see many of my shortcomings (both in word and deed) being reflected in my children’s lives, yet I rely on God’s help to raise them for him. We feel it is out duty to “train them up in the way they should go.”

In these last evil days before the Lord’s return we pray that God will find our children worthy to be called his own. That makes my job, as mom, to be always in the line of duty for Jesus Christ. my Saviour.

My prayer for you is that you will also be converted and found in the line of duty for God, and “that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height, and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God.”

“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think according to the power that worketh in us, unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:16-21).

       

~Jackie