Surrendering to Christ (the first time)

25 10 2010

Fifteen years ago today (October 25, 2010) I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ.  There were no cheers or well wishes.  No one sang “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”  No miracles were performed.  It was a quiet, still, cold night in Eau Claire, Wisconsin when I made this decision.  I don’t think I really knew what this decision fully entailed at the time.  I was alone.  And clueless.  And helpless.  But I knew my life needed something more. 

I grew up Catholic, and through my many 20+ years in the Catholic Church, I learned a great deal about Catholicism.  I knew the difference between a mortal and a venial sin.  I knew the progression from hell to heaven, who belonged where, and how to get from one stage to next (hell – purgatory – limbo – heaven).  I learned the Stages of the Cross and how to pray a Rosary and the various “mysteries.”  I knew all the right prayers for different occasions.  I learned some facts about the Bible and the people mentioned in it.  I also knew how to recite an entire mass by heart—all the priest’s lines as well as the congregants’ replies.  I can still come pretty close today when I attend a Catholic mass.

However, I didn’t really learn what “faith” was.  I had a general sense of “there must be more to this religion-spirituality thing” but I could never grasp what was missing.  I questioned our Catholic traditions a lot, especially in my teenage years. 

I remember frustrating my mom quite a bit as I questioned the idea that we could eat fish on Fridays during Lent, but we couldn’t eat meat.  It never made sense.  My arguments would go like this:  “First of all, fish is a meat isn’t it?  Secondly, wouldn’t giving up fish and having a hamburger be more of a sacrifice because fish was a plentiful and very common meal in the days of Jesus?”

I really wanted to understand this tradition, but I was also probably pretty snotty with my mom when this topic came up.  I don’t recall for certain, but I was probably grounded many times during each Lenten season.

(My intent here is not to condemn the Catholic Church.  I know many Catholics whose faith in Christ is a solid rock.  I’m only saying that for me, Catholicism confused me terribly growing up.  I didn’t understand its teachings, and because of that, God didn’t feel “real” to me.)

Despite my questions, I was still a pretty good kid.  I made good grades and never did drugs, drank, or slept around.  I had a job or two and was very responsible.  I went to church on Sundays and CCD on Wednesdays.  However, when I finally moved out of my parents’ home my sophomore year in college, I gave up on going to church.  Not just the Catholic Church, but any church.  I never stopped believing that God existed, but I had always felt that He had very little to do with me unless I said the right prayers or performed the correct rituals (confession, confirmation, saying a Rosary).  I was tired of trying to perform for God.

When I transferred from UW-Parkside (in Kenosha, WI) to UW-Eau Claire on the other side of the state, my dorm neighbors were born-again Christians.  They were my friends first, but then they began to pursue my heart’s longing for something more in life.  They invited me to Bible studies and fellowship times with their group from Campus Crusade for Christ or the Navigators.  (I don’t remember which.)  They began to question me, gently, persistently.

What did I believe? 

Who was Jesus Christ? 

Who was Jesus Christ to me?

That last question was the one that really got me thinking.  I didn’t know how to answer that question.  Over the course of many months (I had graduated from college and was working at a travel agency at this point), I came to a slow realization that Christ died for me. 

ME!

If I was the only human on earth who had ever sinned, He still would have come to earth, and suffered, and died to save my soul.

The events of October 25, 1995, took place during this time of questioning.  I had a really bad day at work; I was passed over for a promotion that many coworkers thought I should have received.  Though I enjoyed the place I worked, I didn’t really like the work I was doing, and I thought this promotion was the answer to helping me out of my slump.  I was angry and depressed, and so that evening in my bedroom, alone, I quietly cried out to God to help me. 

I think those were my exact words, “Help me.” 

I didn’t know what else to pray for, but for the first time in my life, I felt God’s presence.  I felt like He really did care for me in a personal way.  My life mattered to Him.  The decisions I made were important to Him.  He wanted better for me.  Most importantly, I knew He would be by my side always, and He wouldn’t give up on me.  I was certain of His unconditional love, forgiveness, mercy, grace, compassion and a hundred other adjectives to describe the creator of the universe and the author of my life.

There’s a lot more to this story.  Someday I may share some of the painful moments when I hurt others with my new faith as well as how I was hurt for having a new faith.  There have also been numerous mountain-top experiences where I experienced God’s miracles on my heart and mind in amazing ways.

I have been on an amazing journey these past 15 years as a follower of Christ, and I look forward to the rest of eternity with my Savior by my side.

“The Lord is near to all who call on him,
to all who call on him in truth.
He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
he hears their cry and saves them. . .

My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord.
Let every creature praise his holy name
for ever and ever.”
-Psalm 145:18-19, 21

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12 responses

27 10 2010
miceliale

This is an amazing story.

31 10 2010
huddlestonk

Thanks Alex.

28 10 2010
mistergunner

Incredible. And love the verse at the end.

31 10 2010
huddlestonk

Thanks Gunner. I happened on that verse later that same day, and it seemed to fit so perfectly. (God has a way of doing that.)

28 10 2010
fosseer

I think about those questions all the time, and while I consider myself a Christian and I attempting to form a strong answer that could persuade those who don’t believe. I find myself thinking “For those who believe, no explination is needed. For those who don’t believe there is no explaination”

31 10 2010
huddlestonk

I still think about all those questions, and am reminded that I’ll always be in a state of needing to improve/change/mature. The process will never stop while I am on Earth.

29 10 2010
rodewaldn

Congrats on the 15 year anniversary. I am a Catholic, and I am a strong Catholic, I believe that the Church serves me well, and I am confident in my personal relationship with God. That being said, I suppose that each person has different needs in their spiritual life, and different churches fill those different needs. Keep it up!

31 10 2010
huddlestonk

I love hearing the Catholic church serves you well. I know many, many strong Catholic followers of Christ. I wish my upbringing in the Catholic church had been different, but I’m a faithful follower of Christ now.

29 10 2010
postonj

This is a great story Mrs. Huddleston! I am a Christian for sure, so it’s always nice to hear other people’s stories.

31 10 2010
huddlestonk

Thank you for sharing part of your story on Friday. I know it was tough, but you did an amazing job. It was a blessing to hear you tell it.

31 10 2010
waylandl

I love reading your blogs, Mrs. Huddleston! It’s nice to hear about your journey as a Christian.

31 10 2010
huddlestonk

Thanks Malone. 🙂

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