On June 14th, 2015….My life was changed forever.
It was a typical Sunday at church for me. But my heart was not where it should be. Lately I had been agonizing over if I was truly saved.
I grew up at Cascade Hills and believed in Jesus and everything the Bible said, but something was just off. I prayed. I read my Bible. But things were never intimate. It was like I had to reach really hard to try to see God. I got “saved” when I was in middle school. Maybe 12 or 13. I was really just scared of Hell to be honest. Truth is, I don’t think I even said the prayer. I just decided one day I didn’t want to go to Hell. And I used that moment in middle school as the day I called upon Jesus and accepted Him into my life. But, I think deep down I knew that wasn’t really it.
So back to June 2015. I had felt restless in my faith. Like I knew there was something more to it and something missing. It was more than just this far away God and reading the Bible for good verses. I remember I would spend nights in agony over if I was truly saved and had a relationship with God.
June 14th… that would all change.
I walked into church like normal. Me and my parents. We sat on our normal row. Pastor Bill was doing a series Players vs. Pretenders. I couldn’t tell you to this day what the sermon was about, because honestly I don’t remember. I just remember thinking, “God, I’m not getting anything from this at all.” My boyfriend at the time texted me that morning, “I know something great is going to happen to you in church today, I just know.” So during the sermon, I was desperately searching for something to hit me in the face. Then, before we went into the invitation time something happened. Pastor Bill began to say how he had a friend who went to church for ten years, but he was never saved. He would feel uneasy and always wish the invitation would hurry up. Then, God called him to salvation that very same weekend.
And then…. it hit me. My heart was beating so fast. It felt like it was going to fall out of my chest. It honestly felt like God was just pulling my heart. I remember thinking, “Oh no. No, God. You’ve got the wrong girl. I’m saved, I know it. God, You’re wrong!” But, I just knew……I knew this was it. This was my moment…..God was calling me whether I liked it or not. It was like He was saying,”You know…You’ve been pretending for so long.. You don’t know what the real deal is yet” I just remember thinking, “Okay God…. Here we go.” It was like I couldn’t argue with God. I mean how can you argue when your heart is being pulled out of your chest? So with my eyes shut, I could feel the tears pile up and I just remember asking God to forgive me. I literally remember praying “God, forgive me! Please forgive me!” And after I remember praying the sinners prayer following my pastor’s words. I don’t remember exactly what I prayed….but I just know I did. And then, Pastor Bill called for us to walk down the aisle as a public announcement and letting everyone know about it. I felt so nervous. I almost didn’t. I thought, “Okay God, I prayed. I’m good. I’m not walking” But, I knew if I didn’t do it now…..I would doubt if I really meant it forever. I was afraid of what my parents would think. After all, I pretended in front of them too. I fooled everyone. I told my dad and mom I had to go walk. I got out of my row and just walked down the main aisle. In front of everyone. I didn’t know what to think. I felt like, “What did I just do? Did I really just get saved and now I’m walking in front of everyone? This doesn’t make sense” Pastor Bill gave me a thumbs up and smiled as I told the couple at the head of the aisle “I prayed that prayer” and they hugged me and took me to a back room. I don’t remember how many people were there. A few maybe. I remember there was this one young married guy, and maybe another woman. This old family friend was one of the invitation counselors, and she wasn’t talking to me. No one was. I felt so confused about who I was, how did I pretend for so long, what am I now, what’s happening. I was in total shock and needed someone, anyone to talk to me. I tried talking to her in between crying, and for some reason…she just wasn’t very receptive. Her husband was right there and said, “Oh I wondered who that girl crying was!” I felt horrible. I felt so confused and conflicted, and I just wanted someone to explain what was happening. Then, Bob Hawkins came and talked with the group and me. He had seen me grown up and baptized me. He is one of the kindest souls I have ever met. And he just hugged me and let me know I was alright. He explained to me that coming to salvation can almost feel like going through surgery. You get so anxious about the pain and you put it off. But once you do it, you’re at peace and relieved. I remember thinking, “Well I don’t feel relieved at all right now…. does that mean I’m really saved then?” And we all walked out of the room. I remember right as I pushed that door open and walked out of the sanctuary, relief and peace washed over me. Like I had no need to worry about my salvation ever again, that I was a player. I met my parents and the couple I came up to. I was explaining what happened in my heart to my parents and started to ball. I just blubbered, “I just felt tormented by Satan or God or something for so long that I wasn’t saved and wasn’t right with God and my heart was just beating so fast.” Then, we were going to walk out and Pastor Bill hugged me. I was crying so much that it got all over his shoulder. I remember him saying, “You’re just too sweet. If you ever need anything, you just let me know.” We walked out to that empty parking lot, and I knew everything had changed just then. That I was different. My reality was not the same anymore. For the entire afternoon, I spent it trying to wrap my head around it. I had just accepted Jesus into my heart. That if I died before church that morning, I would’ve gone to Hell. That I knew of God, but I didn’t know Him…until then.
Sometimes, well a lot of the time….The devil likes to use my past against me. He likes to tell me that day didn’t happen like that. That I’m still a pretender and that every day I fail to burn 100% for God….I’m disqualified. He likes to say that my testimony isn’t real. That it isn’t big. For a while, I’ve believed that. I’ve believed that it isn’t big, and not still important or in tact because of my mess ups with my walk and with Jesus. I’ve allowed the idea that I’m disqualified to take root. But nothing changes that day. Nothing changes the amount of tears I cried out to God. Nothing changes my surrender. And nothing changes that now I’ve given God personal access to my life. Even though my walk changes and at times suffers, does not mean that it ceases to exist. I choose not to let that take root in my life anymore. I’m choosing to tell my story like it is something big, because it truly is. Now, I’m not that version of Ashley anymore. A lot about me has changed. I sometimes fear that maybe because I’m not the girl who I once was when I invited God into my life, then that means I don’t mean it anymore….. but that’s a lie. I couldn’t take that back even if I wanted to. There’s not a day I would take it back. Because my friend, salvation is a choice on your part…not God’s. It’s your choice to accept….God leaves that in our hands. He calls, but we answer. God won’t take it away. While He’s all powerful and has the ability to, He will not.
So on June 14th 2015, He called…..and I answered. As surreal as that day may seem to me in the moment and to this day, it is still very very real.