By Karen Thompson
We’ve just finished the “Numbers in Scripture” series, so now it’s time for a palette cleanser to get you ready for the next subject. I don’t know about you but I love a good salvation testimony. They always get to me. I love hearing about how God comes into a shattered life and transforms a person so completely. I’d like to find people who would be willing to let me post their testimonies of salvation. As I thought about people whose testimonies I could post, I realized I needed to be willing to post my own salvation testimony. Mine isn’t one of those dramatic transformation testimonies. Far from it. Yet every salvation testimony is something to celebrate and appreciate. When I started writing down my testimony, the Lord prompted me to “tell the whole story.” I knew what the Lord meant. He wanted me to share an experience that I had as a little child. I’ve never once in my entire life ever shared that experience with anyone—not even my mother. I’ve only ever shared the last part of my testimony. So this is literally the first time I have ever shared my whole and complete salvation testimony.
My Salvation Testimony
I was five years old and bored. Except for my mom in the kitchen, I was all alone in the house. I was wandering around looking for something to do and ended up in my sister’s bedroom. I played around with her things and finally just sat in her chair with my feet up on her vanity. That’s when a thought came to me. The thought, or voice, was singsong-y, like how you would speak to a five-year-old. “Hey, I have an idea! Why don’t you sing a song and pretend to sing it in another language.”
Many a time had I tried that with my cousins playing around and it always came out like Fred Flintstone: “Yabba, dabba do.” I decided to try again. So I began to sing a song trying to sound like it was a different language. To my very big surprise, when I began to sing, a beautiful song came out and it sounded just like another language! As I sang, a feeling washed over me and tears began to run down my face. And then the beautiful song came to an end. I wondered, How did I do that? For the rest of the day, I felt as if I was glowing.
It was such a wonderful feeling, I decided to do it again the next day. I went back upstairs to my sister’s bedroom, sat in her chair and put my feet on her vanity, and began to sing… “Yabba, dabba, do.” Oh no! It was gone. I lost the ability to sing in a different language. I was puzzled as to why I couldn’t repeat that beautiful experience. It was so easy the day before.
I had no idea that the experience was spiritual. I didn’t connect it with God at all. (After all, I was only five years old.) For many years after, the memory of it would come to me and I would wonder, What was that?
At the time, I didn’t realize that it had changed me. I immediately contracted a mental condition which I call “God on the brain.” I thought about God all the time. My behavior began to change. I disciplined myself to stop swearing. Yes, I was a five-year-old with a swearing problem. Just the occasional four-letter word, but I decided to stop. When a four-letter word slipped out, I would hit myself in the face. Rather quickly, I cured myself.
I was changed in another way. Joy. I was filled with it. And it was overflowing. This joyful state manifested in laughter. My mother told me that at every parent-teacher conference, every one of my teachers talked about how much I laughed. Why did I laugh so much? I didn’t need a reason to laugh. I remember a time when my mother and aunt were visiting in the kitchen. I was just sitting there listening. As I was wont to do, I began to laugh. My aunt asked, “What are you laughing about?” “Nothing,” I said. My mother said, “She does that all the time. She laughs for no reason.” But I did have a reason… my joy well was overflowing.
Though we were rough around the edges, my family went to church every Sunday. I thoroughly enjoyed Sunday school with Mrs. Johnson using her felt board to illustrate Bible stories. I was aware of God on a personal level. One time the Lord used the pastor to rebuke me. The town was selling tickets for a raffle. The raffle prize was a brand new bike. I wanted it. When I found out about the raffle, I spent a good long time praying to God to let me win the raffle. The next Sunday, the pastor preached a fiery sermon about praying for selfish things and how we shouldn’t seek after material possessions. Conviction was all over me. My face was red with embarrassment. Instead of God letting me win that raffle, I got a rebuke. I felt like everyone knew the pastor was preaching to me.
Still, church was good. I enjoyed going. Then something happened. The details aren’t important, but something was said, and someone got offended, and my parents no longer went to church. For a while, they made us kids go to church without them. That didn’t last long. My older siblings would have none of it. So we became an unchurched family. At some point, saying grace before meals fell by the wayside: “Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest and let these gifts to us be blessed. Amen.”
Even though we no longer went to church, I still had my condition—“God on the brain.” I thought about God and how I wanted to go to heaven and not hell. I thought the way to get to heaven was to live a good life, to be a good person. I didn’t know any better. Never in my life had I heard phrases like saved, born again, or salvation. I figured the way to get to heaven was merit-based.
I remember talking with my uncle about heaven. “How do you get to heaven?” He was an adult, so I figured he would know. He drew some kind of diagram. There were two roads. One to heaven and one to hell. I can’t remember what he said, but I remember what I was thinking: That is stupid! You don’t know how to get to heaven. Even though I was just a kid, I wanted a real answer and he was talking gibberish.
One day, a door to door salesman came to our house. He was selling a set of illustrated Bible encyclopedias for children. My mom purchased a set. I read them. But we were a poor family and the monthly payments became too much. The salesman showed up at our door again. He either wanted the payments or he wanted the set back. He asked my mom, “Are you even getting any use out of them?” I was sitting right there. Mom said, “She’s the only one that reads them.” He asked me, “Have you learned anything?” I said, “Yes. I didn’t know who to pray to. Do I pray to Jesus or to God or to the Holy Spirit? And I learned that I was to pray to God through Jesus.” He decided to forgive the debt and left the set with me.
The older I got, my condition of “God on the brain” never lessoned. Our house was right next to a church, and every Sunday the church bells would ring. When they rang, I felt an awful twinge of guilt. I should be going to church. I was always relieved when the bells finally stopped ringing. One day, I thought of a way to assuage my guilt. My cousin went to a Lutheran church. When I was a tween, I asked my cousin if I could attend church with her. I went a couple times but didn’t enjoy it. It made me feel uncomfortable. It was too different from my Evangelical Free Church.
When I entered high school, my joy had not dissipated at all. Many people talk about how awful high school was for them. Not me. I laughed all the way through it. I’m not using hyperbole when I say that every single day of high school I laughed so much that at the end of the day the muscles in my face and stomach hurt. I laughed so hard that I cried. Nearly everyone who signed my yearbook commented on my laughing.
Though I had a lot of joy in high school, I had this other thing happening. My longing for God increased. I started asking the questions that people ask. Why was I born? Do I have a purpose? This longing for God started to feel like a plague to me. It was troubling. I couldn’t get God off my brain. This longing bubbled over one night when I was babysitting. While the kids were in bed, I watched the movie The Trouble With Angels starring Hayley Mills. It was about the adventures of two mischievous girls in an all-girl Catholic school. The girls were always getting in trouble, pulling pranks. But the movie ended on a serious note. Hayley Mills’ character, Mary, received the call of God on her life. After her senior year, she decided to remain at the school to dedicate her life in service to God. When Mary shared her decision with her friend in the movie, I wept. The movie tapped into what was in my own heart. Mary found her purpose. What was mine? I prayed, “God, what do You want me to do?”
He answered my prayer in the form of an on-fire, tongue-talking, born-again Christian named Kathy. She was from Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Lord led her to move to my small, 880-population hometown. She was bold, confident, and didn’t have a shy bone in her body. She witnessed to everyone she met—young and old, male and female. People said nice things about her but that she was “really religious.”
One day our paths crossed. Like she did with everyone, she talked to me about God. She said things I had never heard before, like “free gift of salvation.” Since I thought the path to heaven was on a merit-based system, I told her what a clean life I had lived. I told her more than once. I thought Christianity was about good behavior, but she explained that it’s about relationship with God. She told me the Bible says my righteousness was as filthy rags to the Lord and that I couldn’t get to heaven that way. She said I could only get to heaven by becoming born again. All I had to do was ask Jesus to come into my heart, to be my Lord and Savior and He would make my spirit brand new. I would be a new creature in Christ, old things would pass away, and all things would become new. Later, she gave me a paperback Bible, “Good News for Modern Man.”
Soon after that, I prayed that prayer, asking Jesus to forgive me of my sins and to come into my heart and make me brand new. My life changed. I still thought about God all the time, but my thoughts about God were no longer troubling. They were now peaceful. I finally found inner peace and reassurance I would go to heaven.
After I graduated from high school, I moved with Kathy to Minneapolis and attended North Central Bible College. I was privileged and honored to get a job at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. I felt I had purpose and meaning in my life.
One day as I was entering addresses into the computer to fulfill orders for Billy Graham’s newest book, the memory of my five-year-old self trying to sing a song in a different language came back to me again. It was still a mystery to me. Why was I able to sing a song like it was in another language and then the next day not be able to do it again? I asked the Lord, “What was that?” I was just expressing a thought, and so I didn’t really expect Him to answer. But He answered me—“You were filled with the Spirit and sang in other tongues!”
OH! OF COURSE!
How could I have not seen something so obvious? In that moment, I was able to connect all the dots. All my life’s experiences, my perpetual God quest, made sense now. An unseen hand had been guiding me all along. This little revelation felt like a gift. Spiritually speaking, it felt like I had just been given an ice cream sundae! And the proverbial cherry on top is that after all those years, my five-year-old self finally got the answer to her question.
The email instructor scanned the classroom, checking out the new email recruits. “Ahhh, so fresh faced and eager to be sent out into the world,” he mused. “Attention!” he barked. All the email recruits stood at attention.
“Recruits! What is our mission?”
They shouted, “To be read many times over, sir!”
“And how do we accomplish that?”
“We do it by keep moving forward, sir!”
“That’s right! Now get out there and be read!”
In unison, the emails went forward shouting, “Eeeeee!”
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The beautiful water-color painting is courtesy of Gail Vass. She is an award winning artist and a signature member of the Minnesota Water Color Society. She is a Christian who loves God and desires to use her painting to bring glory to Him. If you would like to see more of her paintings, visit her web site at http://www.GladArt.net.