When I was growing up I was privileged to be raised in a Christian family that regularly attended a protestant, Bible-based church. At around the age of five, while attending one of the church’s youth groups, I accepted Jesus as my Savior. At the present moment I did not feel anything spectacular, but through the years I did begin to follow Him more. While growing up I would attend church and youth groups on a regular basis, and as a young teenager I desired a deeper understanding of God’s Word and to have a closer relationship with Him. To do this I started to attend the adult services and a small group Bible study. My intentions were to grow more in the Word, and to feel more of God’s presence as a result. However, in my eyes I was not receiving that outcome, and I decided to stop attending the Bible study as well as church in general.
When I was in college, on two separate occasions, I decided to address my spiritual life by attending church again. During both instances I only stayed for a couple months, but I distinctly remember both sermons being on the book of Exodus and the Israelite’s escape from Egypt. This was significant because the second time I returned to the church, the same pastor was again preaching on the Israelite’s exodus. In retrospect I believe this to be the Lord’s doing, and that He was trying to lead me back to Him. While hearing the sermons the second time, I was struck by the Lord saying
“let My people go that they may worship Me” (Exodus 8:16).
I liked this declaration by the Lord, because I viewed it to emphasize worship and servitude towards the Lord, as opposed to the sole idea of freedom from slavery. Although I now understand that serving the Lord and freedom are complementary, I viewed Christianity as opposing obedience and doing the Lord’s commandments.
Shortly thereafter I left the church and began looking into Judaism, which at the time seemed to be more inclined towards doing the Lord’s commandments. In my pursuit of Judaism, I came across a website titled divineinformation.com by rabbi Yosef Mizrachi. There he presents teachings on the Torah and uses Bible code information. One of the Bible codes that was claimed was of a verse warning the Israelites that they will follow gods of wood and stone. In the verse he claimed to find the words Mecca, the Islamic city with the stone pillar, and Yeshua, the Hebrew name of Jesus. In other words, the verse was allegedly warning about following wood, i.e., Jesus. That led me to doubt Christianity even more. I wrestled with the idea of Jesus as the messiah, and it got to the point where on May 7, 2012 I said out loud to myself and to God that
“He’s [Jesus] not it.”
Immediately following this moment, I heard and felt a sound of the Lord’s anger, like the sound of thunder crashing. I immediately felt a fear that I had done something wrong. However, I soon after experienced the Lord’s mercy and His presence like never before. I could feel His protection right there with me.
In following Judaism I began to look for a synagogue that I could attend regularly. In looking online for a shul, I believe the Lord first intervened because the first website I ended up looking at was for a local Jewish Messianic congregation. But I looked aside and later decided to attend a modern-orthodox Jewish congregation. While attending there I began to read the Torah and the siddur (a Jewish prayer book). The prayer book was important to me because before I was never able to pray formally. If I prayed before it was in song. There were times where I would kiss and cry in the siddur while I was saying the prayers, and the Lord’s presence was amazingly stronger then, than the time before I left Him. Because of His presence I would get in the habit of praying frequently.
One evening in particular, I was on my knees about to pray the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 11:13-21, & Numbers 15:37-41). For some reason I had this love and desire for the Lord, that I bowed low on my knees and prayed with all my heart and soul the prayer. Then when I had finished the prayer, while still on my knees bowing low, I said to the Lord with all my heart,
“I will do anything You want. I love You.”
At that moment I felt this Spirit come in me and my dead soul go out through my mouth. At the time I did not know what to make of it, but the Lord did not leave me on my own, for things started to change. Later on I saw a man in a long white robe, with radiant eyes and a beautiful brown beard, walk into where I worked. As He passed by me, with His eyes wide open, I felt Him say to me “Listen!” I did not turn to see where He went, but in my heart and mind I pictured Him sitting a ways behind me. Then I believe by the Holy Spirit He was talking to me and it got to the point where I asked “He wants to marry me?” That is when the Holy Spirit in me conveyed yes. The man, Jesus Christ, then got up and left. Hours later there then came a storm and after it finished there was a complete double rainbow, with one more faded then the other. I took this phenomenon as from the Lord, but I still did not realize that the man I saw was my Lord Jesus Christ, and that His Holy Spirit was living in me.
Later I was led to the parking lot of the church I went to before. While there I was confused and did not even think to go in the church. The Lord angrily led me away from the church building to a nearby bench on the property. Facing the church I was then pulled down to my knees and I began to cry. The Lord then tried to convey to me that I was on the outside, but I was still not believing in Him.
During the next few days I would cry on Sabbath day whenever I ate bread (which I believe is because Christ is the bread of life and I had not realized it), and on a Sabbath day to follow I went to shul as usual, but as I entered I went from feeling the presence of the Lord to an emptiness in my heart. Shortly thereafter I started to cry and I could not handle the empty feeling. I quickly left the synagogue. Afterwards I felt the Lord’s Spirit again and after wrestling with Him I realized that Jesus is Lord. Following this I cried over what I did to Him for about a month. However, during this time He also let me experience Him more, and I have felt His nails in my wrists and ankles. The Lord has comforted me, and continues to do so today.
With His unfailing love, the Lord’s walk with me has lead me to love Him more and more. There was a time when the Lord was bringing up the issue of me dating someone. I considered the idea for a moment, but from the depths of my heart I declared “No, I love You!” Right then and there the Lord pulled me aside and put an awl through my right ear (see Exodus 21:6). This makes me His forever. Shortly thereafter the Lord put it on my heart to remove all the molten images that were in my room. I believe this was a manner of sanctifying my room for Him, especially since I previously had an elephant figure that may have been an idol. But more generally I see this as the Lord having me make Him the center of my life, and not the things of this world.
In addition to the Lord giving me an awl to strengthen my faith, He also baptized me in the Holy Spirit. One day I was in my family’s backyard pool talking to the Lord. Then the thought of baptism came to me and I said, “I probably should get baptized.” Right then and there I was pulled backwards into the water and raised back up. I cannot make sense of this in any other way than that my Lord Jesus Christ baptized me. I have always been nervous about the idea of being baptized in a church, so perhaps in a way the Lord saw the present time as the best time. But at the same time a lot has happened that has made me need this reassurance of my salvation. Through times of His discipline and tribulations, I have needed this strengthening of my faith.