Though a Child, I Knew What God Did Was Real
The family I was raised in was one where Christian testimonies were lived out before me. However, our home did not start that way. Both of my parents had been raised in Christian homes, but as they grew older, they left God and the faith of their childhoods. When they met and dated, neither one was aware that the other had once walked with God and known a better way of life than what they were currently living.
God is faithful and He continuously called after my parents’ hearts. Through the misery of Holy Spirit conviction, and as their relationship with each other deepened, they came to learn of each other’s knowledge of God and current disregard of His instructions. After my backslidden grandmother returned to the Lord, my parents occasionally would visit church with her. One Sunday evening, shortly after they were married, they decided to attend church with her again. Unbeknownst to them, it was the last night of a week of special services. God’s convicting Spirit rested heavily upon them as the sermon concluded, and with a simple nod confirming their shared desire, they moved forward together to the altar of prayer. That night, through repentance they each had a born-again experience with Jesus Christ.
No longer separated
Because of that night, I was raised in a Christian home. It was a home where a personal relationship with God was taught and emphasized; where Jesus was an ever-present Guest. Not only were my parents faithful in taking our family to church, but they also brought the church into our home by establishing a family altar. Before bedtime, my mother would read from the Bible, my father would add a comment or two, and then each of us would pray.
Of course, that environment did not make me a Christian. It did, however, bring me into an increasingly strong awareness of the separation between God and me that was caused by my sin. From a very young age, I knew that I stood completely separated from God. I knew that; I felt it. And even at that tender age, I experienced Holy Ghost conviction when I initially rejected the loving call of God.
I am thankful for the conviction I felt and for God’s faithfulness in dealing with mankind. He cares enough for even one soul to persist and persist, to try and try, to give and give, in hopes of seeing that lost soul saved.
In addition to attending church regularly, the five of us children would also play church at home. We would pretend to testify, preach, and pray. At times when we did this, the Holy Spirit would speak to my heart, and I would hope my siblings wouldn’t see the tears in my eyes when the play-acting had become real for me. I also remember playing hide-and-seek, and I would hide in the bathroom because it had no windows so it was very dark; no one would find me there. Yet, the Holy Spirit found me, and conviction would bring misery to my heart. The Holy Spirit also spoke to me as a young girl walking to school. I would go to the far side of the street, next to the woods where nobody else was walking, because the Spirit was speaking to my heart. Looking back on those times, I am thankful for the conviction I felt and for God’s faithfulness in dealing with mankind. He cares enough for even one soul to persist and persist, to try and try, to give and give, in hopes of seeing that lost soul saved.
In the fourth grade, I prayed an earnest prayer. Oh, I had prayed before—even squeezed out tears and made restitutions to my parents. However, I had never prayed a prayer of faith that resulted in salvation. That day, all I wanted was to be a child of God; to know that I was a friend of Christ’s as He was already a Friend to me. I desperately wanted the conviction to be gone and that separation between myself and God to be removed. Though just a young child, that morning as I prayed, I felt myself to be the greatest of sinners. Even though I had not committed any “terrible” sins, I knew to do good and did not do it. Therefore, the separation between God and me was as big as it is for anyone.
God did not disappoint my heart that was so hungry for Him. After only a few moments of earnest repentance with faith in Jesus, God’s wonderful experience of salvation became mine—and I knew it was real! No one else was with me; it was just one nine-year-old girl and a loving, forgiving Heavenly Father. He filled my heart with joy and peace and confidence that I was forgiven.
A complete surrender to God
A few months later, at a summer camp, I heard other young people testify that they were “sanctified.” I did not know the definition of “sanctification” nor any doctrinal statement about it. I only knew that there were others as young as I who had received this second work-of-grace experience from God—and I wanted it too!
In childlike faith, again I prayed. This time, my prayer was much longer and not as simple. Rather than repenting to and accepting from God, now I was giving—giving all I had, and all I would ever have; giving all I wanted, and everything I would ever want; giving beyond the limits of what I knew. It was a complete and unconditional dedication of myself to God, forever. It was not a surface vow of commitment to do something for Him, but instead a depth-of-being setting aside of self to belong entirely to Him. As I prayed with faith believing, a transformational experience occurred in my heart and I knew God had sanctified me.
Becoming part of God’s plan for the sake of others
Once I was told that salvation is about Jesus giving Himself freely for us, sanctification is about us giving ourselves entirely to Jesus, and the baptism of the Holy Spirit is about us giving ourselves for God’s use so that others might know Jesus. It is a simple explanation, but one that resonated with me.
It wasn’t until after high school that I was stirred with a hunger for more of God and to be used by Him to impact others’ lives. I proceeded to seek the infilling of God’s Spirit with deep prayers for many years. I believed that I did so with full faith. Yet, the truth is, my heart was full of questions, and more pain than praise. I wondered, Could God use me? Would God use me? Did I have anything to give for His use? I felt somewhat like the child on the school’s playground waiting to be picked for the team. Unlike the experiences of salvation and sanctification, I was making this experience about me and my abilities, even while I said and believed that my faith was in God.
One day a friend asked me, “Carrie, do you have the baptism of the Holy Spirit?” I opened my mouth to respond with the story of my seeking when the Holy Spirit checked my heart, pointing out to me that it was a simple yes-or-no question. This caused me to realize how much my seeking was self-centered, when God had faithfully promised to give the gift of the Holy Spirit to me. I understood that the baptism truly is a gift, even as the other experiences had been!
After that realization, in my mind’s eye, I drew a line in the sand. I said right out loud, “Satan, you are on that side and God and I and all He has given me, including the promise of the Holy Spirit, are on this side—and you can’t touch us!” And then God did it—He filled me with His Holy Spirit! The experience was unimaginable, and the fruit that followed in my life was very real. Hebrews 4:16 says, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Before receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit, that verse always caused me anxiety and sorrow—how could believers go boldly to the throne of God? But after the Spirit’s infilling, I understood, and my prayers became not only more confident, but also more purposeful.
Those experiences were not one-time events; they are still real in my life and God is still with me every day.
Some might say these three foundational spiritual experiences would be expected for a child raised in a home such as mine. Perhaps some would say I was brainwashed as a child, and that is why these events happened to me. However, these experiences were definite, and in addition, the greatest blessing has been God’s presence in each day of my life. He sheltered me from the daily peer pressure of my school years. He was with me in college and led me into a consecrated marriage. And He showed Himself strong time and again on our behalf while my husband and I lived overseas, away from our church family. Those experiences were not one-time events; they are still real in my life and God is still with me every day.
The overseas country where my husband and I lived was very poor, and that was the first time in my life that I saw the ramifications of genuine poverty. It was that experience which motivated me to return to school to study Economic Development. I felt that I could no longer simply have a career focused on monetary gain; life is too short, the gift of God’s love too powerful, and the world’s need too great for me to do that.
For more than twenty-five years now, I have worked internationally in poverty alleviation. I have traveled a lot, and the Lord has always guided and protected me. More important than the economic impact that I may or may not have made, I have been blessed to share Christ’s love around the globe with non-believers, as well as enjoy the fellowship of other believers. In fact, I do not see myself as having a career, but rather what I have is a passion. My sole desire is to live for God and to bring my all into His service—to be a vessel of honor appropriately equipped for the Master’s use. My hope is to touch hearts with the fingerprints of His love, even as He has touched mine.