I was raised in a Seventh-day Adventist Christian household.

I had two parents and they are still married.

I had two brothers and a live-in Granny who was also our nanny and a devout Southern Baptist.

Sometimes it felt as if Jesus lived in our house with us. Like the popular Elf on the Shelf that shows up in many homes around Christmas time, Jesus seemed ever-present.

My impression of Jesus was not one of fear, where if I did wrong He would punish me.

Rather, Jesus was my #1 fan. When I checked all the boxes, He smiled. When I chose to be good when my brothers misbehaved, it was as if Jesus shone down on me and my imaginary halo glimmered.

I’m unsure how or where this odd growth of self-righteousness took its root, but it was an ugly thing that wrapped it’s choking vines around me for years.

Throughout my younger years I believed myself to be in the group. I was untouchable because I did all the right things.

Any empathy I thought I had was actually pity because I knew others were on their way to hellfire–and I wasn’t.

I wish I was exaggerating even a small amount, but the truth is I believed myself to be on the right track.

The worse other people did, the better I looked to heaven–or so I thought.

This ideology crashed all around me when I was unable to do the right thing. I had spent all those years patting myself on the back and then was suddenly faced with failure.

The Test

I think all of us endure a test before we can see our testimony. It’s the struggle we fight our way through and only see clearly looking back, God fought alongside us the whole time.

My test was a divorce at 21.

I was sure God could not forgive me for breaking something the Bible says no man can separate (Matthew 19:6 ).

Because I had thoroughly destroyed my assurance of salvation, I took a trip further away from my Savior–something too many of us do.

I think somewhere in our heart, we don’t want God to decide we’re not good enough for heaven, so we make sure to decide for ourselves.

Stumbling into church on Sabbath mornings so hungover I still felt drunk, I was taking my salvation into my own hands.

Keeping the Sabbath by going to church was so deeply ingrained in me that I continued going to church every week despite being in deep spiritual trouble.

The Testimony

If I were to tell you I stopped drinking and making poor choices and then went right back to God, it would be a lie.

My testimony is not a straight path right to Jesus. Rather the real story is a winding road through false paradise and scary forest where Jesus ended up rescuing me from monsters and quicksand.

The test was an abusive marriage, a traumatic divorce, meeting and falling in love with someone new, an unexpected pregnancy, a hasty marriage, a year of separation due to deployment, an adjustment to married life (again).

You see it, right? The forest, the brambles, the monsters, the loneliness, the chaos and anxiety?

I’m certain you can look back at your testimony and find the forest. I’m sure you can identify the monsters.

Can you also see the Savior?

My Savior is omnipotent. He is all-powerful. He is all-knowing. He exists outside the time of this earth. His plan for my life cannot be thwarted by my own stupidity or ignorance.

I can see His work in the forest. He didn’t carry me through it because then I wouldn’t have all this now.

Jesus wasn’t the prize at the end of the path through the forest. He was the light that shone through the darkness. He was the growth of food on the long journey. He was the drops of precious water when I was thirsty. He was the hardened earth beneath the rising, sucking sand. Jesus is the Savior–not the prize.

How does Jesus fit into your journey?

One day along my own journey, Jesus helped me to forgive someone. In teaching me how to forgive this person, I was finally able to understand God’s forgiveness.

Because I finally understood, I was able to forgive myself for what I’d done years before.

Jesus taught me to forgive.

And that’s my testimony.