Mary's testimony "Absolutely Liberated And Grateful!!" on 2/05/2013, 6:39pm...
Hello. My name is Mary. I am just freshly 29 years old.
If you were to tell me this time last year that I was going to be a born again Christian, I would have told you that you were crazy. Like actually nuts. At that time, my idea of Evangelical Christianity was way too hardcore and exclusive to ever be something I could get into, but most of my opinions were formed from what I saw in the media and from second hand knowledge. It's funny what happens when you actually look into things for yourself.
My road here has been amazing. God has truly paved a wonderful journey for me. Perhaps we can start closer to the beginning.
I was raised in a good family. My father was rather strict, and didn't let my brother and I get away with anything. I am very thankful that he imparted these values to us, because it gave us an excellent guideline of how to be accountable for our actions. My mother was more gentle and affectionate with her love. It was kind of a good cop, bad cop situation, and it worked out well.
My father is an atheist, but my mother was raised in the Roman Catholic religion, coming from Irish background. In good faith, she baptized me as an infant, and promised that she would raise me in a Godly fashion. I also received first communion, reconciliation and confirmation in the Catholic church.
We went to a Catholic parish as a child, up until the middle of Junior High. Then we became the “Christmas and Easter” family, where church was only attended twice a year.
After high school, I went straight to college and spiraled downwards, not able to keep up with the new workload, and not certain if I should have been in that particular program. I transferred to the University 2 years later, and finally settled on studying Education. There were some wonderful people in my program, one of my closest friends was actually a Christian. Her enthusiasm and kindness kept me going, and I remember a trip out to a ski hill where I was arguing with her about Noah's Ark, and denying Jesus' miracles.
I was dating a guy during my last year in university, in 2006, and we somehow got onto the topic of spirituality. He asked me “What does it matter if Jesus died on the cross? What difference would it make?” And in my ignorance I responded “I guess it doesn't matter” and I remember crying though I didn't know why.
Needless to say, that relationship didn't last. And after graduation I had planned a trip to south east asia with a friend to explore and “find myself”. We had set off for Thailand, and spent time in many beautiful places. A place of note was Suohn Mokkh, where we participated in a Buddhist retreat. We did not speak, read, listen to music, or write for 12 whole days. We did many meditations and yoga sessions. On the last day there was an evening lecture from a monk, where we sat in silence and heard him speak. I remember very clearly, a British monk who had left England to find enlightenment was giving the lecture. As we sat there on the ground cross legged, as the warm Thai breeze gently moved through the rows of participants, I realized I wanted to go home. It was December, and the moonlight shining on the roofs of the gazebos made it look like snow. The monk started talking about his life before he devoted it to Buddhism, and he mentioned how he was a musician. He said his joy was playing the piano, and making beautiful music to listen to. He went on to explain that he renounced it when he became a monk, and the sadness in his voice was trace, but I heard it loud and clear. I thought to myself “That is so sad”. I finished the meditation retreat knowing I wanted to audition for theatre schools, and that I wanted to be home for Christmas. I booked a flight home soon after, with another 2.5 weeks remaining of my trip. I came home early.
After I arrived home, I realized that I needed to apply for a job. I knew substitute teaching would be a good idea to supplement my income before I applied for an acting program, so I decided to apply to the Catholic School Board, because I went through the Catholic system and was familiar with the schools. However, a pastoral reference is a requirement in the application package. This was a big problem, because I hadn't been to church in 8 years or so.
Someone had told me that if I just arranged a meeting with a Priest, I could talk to him about my education goals, and what I think it means to be a good Catholic teacher. I went back to my childhood parish and arranged a meeting. The priest was new and the meeting didn't go so well. He basically said that there was nothing to discuss until I started coming back to church. So I left, defeated, wondering what I was going to do. Someone recommended another priest at a different church, so with courage I called up the parish office and made an appointment to see the father there.
He welcomed me at the door wearing Birkenstocks, so I saw this as a pretty good sign. We had a really wonderful conversation, and he asked me many questions. After a good hour, he said “I think you'll be a great teacher. I would be happy to write you a reference!” Just like that. He did this for me in good faith, and it was enough to make me come to mass and see what he was about.
I found a very warm and welcoming church, with a message of equal warmth. I was a faithful parishioner for over 5 years. I became active in ministry, and read at the Saturday night mass on a regular basis.
Within the 5 years there, I also was accepted to theatre school. I started the BFA acting program in September of 2007, and graduated in 2010. There I met a beautiful family of classmates, who helped me through many challenging times.
All the while I attended a Catholic church, I also was very actively involved in many eastern philosophies and new age mentalities. I figured that it was all the same, that God was love, and the rest was just minor details. If people do good, it's good. End of story. Chakras were studied. Words like “energy”, “consciousness” and “awareness” rolled off my tongue. I was always trying to attain peace and calm through breathing and yoga, sometimes finding results, sometimes not. As I was reading a book on buddhism, I remember a voice teacher of mine said “Zen Buddhism doesn't transfer very well to the stage. In fact, it doesn't at all.” I didn't really know what he meant by that then, but now I know that the theatre requires action, and people having opinions. Zen Buddhism is based on inaction and clearing your mind. Another teacher taught me that an actor must be “a footsoldier for the text”. I could spend hours pouring over the words of Tennessee Williams, looking for every subtle gem of information in order to play my character as truthfully as possible. Imagine pouring hours of time into understanding the Word of God so I can live my life as truthfully as possible? Whatever beauty and rich meaning I found in the works of Shakespeare, multiplied by an infinite amount when I transferred that research into knowing what Christianity was all about. And I thought Shakespeare was inspired when he wrote his works...
But I digress. :) I completed the BFA program in 2010, and applied for a 6 week bursary program to study French called the Explore Program. I was successful in my application and was accepted in the summer of 2010. It was there that I met my current boyfriend, where he was teaching French as a second language. The first time we talked was in study hall, where he asked me “Est'que tu as des questions?” which means “Do you have any questions?” I responded with “Oui, j'ai beaucoup des questions. Pourquoi est le ciel bleu?” Which means, “Yes I have lots of questions. Why is the sky blue?”. Our friendship started there. We shared some great conversations about philosophy, we exchanged music, and became good friends. He was really into astrology and eastern worldviews, so we talked a lot about energies and how to read people. I returned home, and we started a long distance relationship shortly after. I re-applied for the Explore bursary in 2011, and received the funding through the school board. I spent another summer with him, learning French and enjoying my time in the program.
That particular summer, I met another student named Lauren. She was very peculiar in the sense that she would space out quite frequently and need to stop to feel the energy of things. She said that she would frequently have out of body experiences or astral projections. I found her fascinating, and did a lot of yoga and meditation with her. She did a lot of crystal healing work and the use of sound waves (through a tuning fork) and asked if I wanted to have a session with her. I thought this was great, and experienced a very profound sensation where I felt like all of my senses were heightened, I was expansive and large, becoming one with my surroundings, and like I was almost floating on air. It was as if someone had hit the reset button on my body and I was fresh and clean to the world. The sensation lasted about 45 minutes. My boyfriend also had a session with Lauren, and felt something similar. I'm happy to say that once I turned to Christ completely, I experience all of the same things, but it's been longer than 45 minutes. The Explore program came to an end, and my boyfriend and I have been together ever since.
We did a lot of studying and researching together. We compared different verses from different versions of the bible, and saw where things had changed. After a long period of careful contemplation, I realized that the Catholic faith was no longer my path, and I officially defected from the church. My boyfriend and I did some church shopping, and finally found a really lovely sense of belonging at a Free Evangelical church.
I came to Christianity by an infallible sense of logic, a softening of my heart, and supernatural occurrences. After a massive amount of studying, I live today with full conviction and understanding of my belief. It is truly a choice. God doesn't force us to do anything – he can't force us to believe or disbelieve in Him. We choose, and my baptism enforced the fact that I have chosen this path for myself, as a consenting adult.
But why Christianity? Aren't all worldviews the same? Why can't they all be equal? Why can't we all just love?
You see, there are three separate schools of thought that cannot logically overlap. There's the camp that believes only the universe exists (atheists and humanists), and the camp that believes that there is a separate God who created the universe (Judaism, Islam, and Christianity) and finally the camp that believes in only God existing, and God is in everything, and everything is everything (Buddhist, Hindu, and New Age).
All worldviews try to answer the questions of origin, meaning, morality, and destiny. Each category must correspond to truth and be coherent. Christianity claims exclusivity in this department, and stands the test of time.
So logically, each of these worldviews are fundamentally different, and perhaps superficially similar. All human beings have equal value, but ideas do not share equal validity. After teaching world religions and learning more about all about the different beliefs, it became very apparent that I was a person that believed in absolute truth...that there are some things that are always right, and some things that are always wrong. And I believe the standard of that truth cannot come from human beings. We are not perfect, not one of us, so we can't be trusted to make the rules. I believe that truth has to be external, so we have a reference point of knowing exactly what is right and wrong.
I also believe that all humans have value and dignity, no matter what. I believe that our value and worth comes from God – we're all on the same page. I believe that all people are equal under the eyes of God. If human beings get to decide who is valuable and who isn't, we open a pandora's box that is difficult to close. If our value is measured by how much money we make, what kind of job we have, how physically attractive we are, things become pretty messy. People can start to feel pretty awful about themselves if this is how we value them.
But Jesus also worked personally in my life and softened my heart like you wouldn't believe. If anyone knew me before, I could be pretty severe in my decisions. Things were black and white. I was a proud person who didn't like to show emotion, and would put up walls to ensure that I wouldn't get hurt. I liked to be accountable to people, and to be someone that others could count on. My expectations for others were through the roof. In some ways, people rose to the occasion, in others, they fell short. My love was pretty much restricted to people who I thought were worthy of it. I can honestly say that I set a lot of conditions and boundaries when it came to personal relationships, and I kept many people who didn't meet my standards at arms length.
But something incredible happened. One day, as I was scrubbing my bathtub, I burst into tears. My boyfriend was worried something had happened and asked me what was wrong. Until now, I had not realized how much time I had wasted in my life, waiting for people to change so I could love them. I wept uncontrollably, knowing that I hadn't had a relationship with my Father since I was maybe 12 years old. He was always here, always around, but I never loved him the way I should have. From that moment I knew I had to change. I knew I had to turn back from that old life and reconnect on a grand scale. I can tell you right now it has been fantastic. God has put new life back into our family, and that is a gift I will appreciate for the rest of my life.
Being born again may be vocabulary that not everyone here is used to. I thought the term was pretty strange until I really knew what it meant, and experienced it for myself. I have been reborn with a brand new fresh perspective, it's like i'm experiencing the world for the first time again, with different lenses. Before, I used to go to church to feel accepted and loved – it was kind of like therapy. Now, I know I am fully accepted and loved, so I want to go to church. I used to think that my identity and self worth were based on how hard I worked, how moral I was, and what my accomplishments were – and with that, I would sometimes judge others who weren't in the same place as me. Now I am fully aware that my value comes from God, and I am loved unconditionally. Knowing this reminds me that I can't look down on those who believe or act different from me – because I am saved by grace alone. People might think now “Oh, Mary is very religious now”, but I would reply “I'm not religious, I'm a Christian”.
Finally, I will share with you one last story, something that occurred during a little road trip last November. My boyfriend and I were on our way out of town for a nice little getaway to celebrate our birthdays. We decided to stop for lunch at a lovely little diner I knew of, only to realize they were to close in 15 minutes. The lady suggested another restaurant owned by the same people called “Gypsy”. She gave us the card and we happily made our way there. We arrived, the food was most excellent, and our server was very kind. She was from the Czech Republic and told us how much she enjoyed Canada.
After our meal, we decided to go for a walk to grab a coffee before we hit the road again. My boyfriend was taking pictures with his camera, and we were just enjoying being outside. Suddenly we were approached by a lady, who had asked if we were European tourists. We laughed and just said we were stopping through on our way to our destination. She seemed exceptionally friendly, so we asked if she wanted to come have a coffee with us. She gladly accepted, and we made a new friend.
After a short time, we found out her name was Oninye, and she was also a Christian. She had finished a mission and was very comfortable with evangelizing on the street, approaching strangers and asking if they believed in God. This freaked me out to no end, and did not even feel remotely comfortable. We had our coffee and I asked her how she got the courage to do something like this. She told us that the Holy Spirit guides her, and she knows who is ready to be talked to, and who isn't.
This blew my mind a bit. This lovely lady, kind and sweet, is telling me that she just approaches people by letting the Holy Spirit do the work. After our coffee, I told her that I would never have the courage to talk to strangers like that (although I speak in front of people professionally) and I commended her for her efforts. Then she turned to me and said “You can do it. You should do it right now.” I felt like puking and thought OH no no no no no, not me, oh no this is not my forte. I finally bit the bullet and kindly asked a man if he thought he was going to heaven after he died. He smiled, said he was an atheist, and told us to have a nice day. It was all very pleasant, but I was shaking. I did not ever want to do that again. We tried another man, and it was actually quite amazing the conversation that occurred. His initial response was “I'm an atheist but I believe in free speech, so I'm interested in what you have to say”. As we left him, he said “Maybe God had a plan for me to meet you today”...
I still didn't feel comfortable with all this, and I thought I would leave the rest of the Evangelizing up to Oninye. As we walked to the car, this was around 5:15pm. A homeless lady approached us and asked if we had any spare change. I said of course, and asked how she was doing. She said “not so good, nobody likes me”. I didn't think twice I said “That's not true. God loves you very much, and you have value as a person.” She looked at me and her eyes welled up with tears. I told her about Jesus, and how he can make a difference in her life, and asked if she was interested in following him and accepting him in her life. She said yes, so we said a prayer together. She was crying, I was crying and it was all very emotional. It was like she couldn't believe that someone could love her. We told her that she was beautiful and gave her a hug. We set her up with some gloves and spare change and Oninye gave her a card to her church if she wanted to come and visit. I asked her her name, and she looked up at me and said “Gypsy”.
Now I don't know about you, but this freaked me out in a big way. In my heart, there was no denying that this was just coincidence. We told Oninye that this was the restaurant that we ate at today, and we had very good service. JUST as I uttered those words, our server walked by us and said hello. This was over 5 hours after lunch, and we were in the middle of downtown.
That sold it for me. God was there, he was being awesome, and I was moved completely.
My boyfriend and I left that night, thanking Oninye and exchanging numbers. We had a lovely time on our getaway, and attended a phenomenal and moving church service on the Sunday. I left feeling calm, peaceful, and totally at ease. It was one of the best weekends I have ever had.
Which brings me to today. I'm still the same Mary, but I'm not. I've completely transformed, and for the better. Before, faith was just a part of my life, now, faith is my life. It has changed the way I view people and how I conduct my business. It has forced me to think deeply about many different topics, it has saved relationships I have put to the side for many years, and it has opened me to the wonder and majesty of God's glory.
I am so incredibly thankful for what Jesus has done for me. If you are reading this now, and do not know Jesus personally, I would encourage you wholeheartedly to give Him a chance. He truly is Awesome!!!
Peace in Christ,