Turning Back after Turning Away
My heart is grateful for the love and mercy of the Lord to me. As a child growing up, I had a loving and caring mother, although God did not have a proper place in our home. My mother had been carefully taught to serve the Lord with her whole heart, but for a time she departed from the faith of her childhood. I was raised during that time, and no matter how good the home is, when the Lord is not the head, other things that are not good occupy the space. Later in her life, my mother submitted her life to God, and He turned her into a loving and caring Christian mother.
Meanwhile, I had a wonderful Christian grandmother, and when I was at her house, she was faithful to take every opportunity to teach me about the Lord. It seemed as if she often had a number of my cousins at her home, and at night, she would always gather us around while she read the Bible. Then we would all get down on our knees and pray. That gave me a tremendous advantage going through life, in that I always believed in God, even though I did not know Him in a personal way.
Sometimes, after partying all night, I would come home as daylight was dawning. Upon entering the front door, I would stop and listen. Many times, she [Grandma] was on her knees, and I could hear her praying. I’m sure many of those prayers were for me.
Later, in my teenage years, I actually lived with my grandmother for a while, and again she was faithful to do what she could to speak a word for the Lord here and there. She had a way of bringing Heaven so close as she talked about the goodness and glory of God. Sometimes, after partying all night, I would come home as daylight was dawning. Upon entering the front door, I would stop and listen. Many times, she was on her knees, and I could hear her praying. I’m sure many of those prayers were for me.
That same grandmother gave me some Christian literature, and when I was in my late teens, my job included working at night and often by myself. Interestingly enough, I would read what she had given me. As I did, the Lord began to deal with my heart. One night, as I was reading that literature and considering what it said, I just looked up and with a very simple prayer asked the Lord to make me right with Him. While it was just a simple prayer, it was from my heart. God’s Spirit came down in a wonderful and powerful way, and I knew I was washed clean and forgiven of my sins. Nobody was there with me, but I didn’t need anyone to say, “Hey, Jeff, that’s the Lord.” I just knew.
It was a wonderful experience, and after that I started listening to Christian radio, and because I hadn’t really been to church, I began considering different churches to attend. I went to one place that sounded good on the radio, but something seemed to be missing. Then I tried coming here to the Apostolic Faith Church, and everything just seemed so right. After the meetings, we were always offered the opportunity to come to the front altar benches and pray. The Lord met me so many times at the altars, and it was so good.
I went along for years like that. By then I had married the woman I loved, and we had three little boys. Yet as time went on, I slowly began to take my life back, just a little at a time, until I compromised to the point where I didn’t feel like I was doing the Lord any favors by calling myself a Christian. Then I made the decision to turn and go away from the good life that the Lord had given me. It seems unbelievable now, but it was definitely a trick of the enemy to get me to that point. I know I could have turned to the Lord at that time for help, and He would have straightened it all out, but I didn’t. Instead, I went away for over ten years.
Even so, God was always faithful to me. He sent people my way who testified to me of Him. He reminded me every day—I don’t think there was one day that passed that I didn’t think about the Lord and truly wish that I was saved. But the further I went, the more impossible getting back to God seemed to become. The sins built up and wove their way around me, and my wife as well.
Sometimes at night I would dream, and during whatever was happening in my dreams, I would cry out to God and ask for help. It would remind me of the peace and the witness that was down in my heart when I was saved. But in the morning when I woke up, my life was always the same.
On Sundays, I dropped my boys off at church for Sunday school. Then I began attending the Sunday morning services sometimes, and started reading the Bible a little and secretly praying. God was dealing with me in His wonderful way, bringing me back to where I needed to be, even though I did not realize it at the time.
For a moment I thought, If I turn away now—I had gone so far—where will I be if He ever calls me again?
On March 19, 1999, I came home after work, and some events transpired that the Lord used to bring me to a crossroads—one that I could really see. Again, I was by myself, and He spoke to my heart. He let me know that if I would turn to Him, He would help me. As I thought about that, still I waited. For a moment I thought, If I turn away now—I had gone so far—where will I be if He ever calls me again? And then I thought, Well, this is like an opportunity and an invitation just from the Lord, so I decided to go to church. It was a Friday night, and I went to the service still dressed in my work clothes. I sat and listened to the sermon, just wishing that the minister would stop so I could go forward and pray.
During that service, the enemy of my soul was battling, putting thoughts in my mind like, What if the Lord doesn’t actually save you? You’ve gotten to this point, what if He won’t do it? It was more lies of the enemy, because God did not bring me all that way to give me what I deserved; He was calling after my heart in mercy.
Years before I had injured my back, and after I had been kneeling in prayer for a while and then stood up, I thought the Lord had healed it. Although He actually had not healed my back, He had removed the burden of sin. I didn’t realize how heavy it was until the Lord took it off.
At the end of the service, everyone was invited to pray, and I poured my heart out to God. I said, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner,” and told Him I was sorry for all my sins. I told Him I was sorry for ever turning away. The Lord came down and put peace in my heart, and I grabbed onto that. Years before I had injured my back, and after I had been kneeling in prayer for a while and then stood up, I thought the Lord had healed it. Although He actually had not healed my back, He had removed the burden of sin. I didn’t realize how heavy it was until the Lord took it off. It was wonderful!
The next day I woke up really early, and I knew what had happened to me wasn’t a dream. God had restored the relationship that I had broken when I walked away from Him. I didn’t deserve it, but I thank God for His mercy and His love.
I’m thankful that God planted me in this church where I could hear the truth. I needed that and still do. Also, I appreciate that we are still offered the opportunity to pray after services. I need that as well. It has been over twenty years since the day God saved me again. Many events have transpired in my life during that time, yet there has never been a problem, there has never been an issue, there has never been a concern that I could not give to God by getting down to pray. I thank the Lord for all of His mercy and love to me.