Testimony of Grace - Joanne Smith
Joanne Smith, Monett, MO
I grew up in a non-religious home with my dad and my brother. My grandma took us to her little Independent Fundamental Baptist church every now and then, but not regularly. We did not really care to go, but enjoyed getting rewards for attending and bringing a Bible. In our minds, it was worth enduring the two hours for the treats.
When I was eight years old, I “accepted Jesus into my heart” after attending the annual Baptist Bible Camp (that was always so fun!! Lots of games, goodies, food, crafts, etc. … with a little about Jesus sprinkled in here and there). I remember I was “saved” while in the back of my grandma’s car riding home from camp. For some reason I was sitting on the floor. My grandma’s dear friend was in the front passenger seat—she helped “lead me to Christ.” I was trying so hard to figure out how Jesus could fit into my heart … did He shrink down or something? And, why did I get Him all to myself? Could He split up and go into other hearts too? Or, maybe He just spent a little time in my heart and then made His rounds to other hearts? I had no idea. I remember I had a funny image in my mind of the classic-looking Jesus (longer brown hair, white robe, sandals, a trim beard, etc.) standing there somewhere amidst the chambers of my heart with all the blood, vessels, etc. holding on to bars like He was in a cage or something. Strange! What was He doing there? Just hanging out, I guess.
Time passed and I had nothing to do with church. I didn’t like to go there, and no one but grandma seemed to care if I went. I continued to grow more confused and eventually got bitter. I no longer attended church when I was in my teen years, and thought anyone who believed that stuff was a brainwashed hypocrite. I wanted nothing to do with it. I had better things to do with my time—drugs, drinking, smoking, hanging out with friends, etc.
When I was sixteen, I got pregnant with Tylor. His father and I knew we did not want to be together, so he left (a mutual agreement) and I raised Tylor alone. When Tylor was about eight or nine months old, I met Michael. Handsome, funny, smart, a good singer … we started hanging out, and eventually I got pregnant with Brianna. We were married about nine months after she was born, and when she was two years old, I had Corban.
Michael eventually left. He’d come back on and off, but mostly he was gone. Eventually he stayed gone and I was determined to make a better life for me and my children. I did not intend to divorce him; I had been through a lot as a child, and it was set in my mind that once I was married, I would not divorce. I believed in my vows that said “‘til death do us part.” While I would claim to not believe in God at the time, I still had a fear in my heart and a general knowledge of right and wrong (God gave all of us the knowledge of good and evil). Unfortunately, the world came in and persuaded me to believe it was all right to divorce and just move on. Even some of his Christian family members were telling me I was “too good for him anyway and deserved better.” So I filed for divorce. I had no idea where he was at the time, and he did not protest or show up for the hearing.
I met Bobby when Corban was about a year old. I did not intend to date, but for some reason I went ahead and did it anyway. We dated for quite a while, and he eventually moved in. For some reason, I had it in my mind that it would not be right to marry him, but he was so kind, loving, etc. Once again, the world came in and convinced me it was “my right” to remarry. Even though I still had a small prick in my heart, we went ahead and married about four years after we met. In this time, I hardly heard a word from Michael.
A whole new world opened up for me and my children when the idea of home schooling was presented to us. I took my children out of school and never looked back. I had no idea how I was going to do it, but I knew in my heart that it was what we must do. I found out quickly that the majority of parents who home school do it for religious reasons—I was the minority in every group we visited. So here I was, bitter towards Christianity, yet surrounded by professing Christians.
Not too long into our first year of homeschooling, Tylor asked if we could start going to church. I was the kind of parent that thought it was good to expose your children to as much as you could, as long as they were interested. If he had said he wanted to go to a Hindu temple or a Muslim mosque, I would have taken him.
Through a series of moves, we ended up in Washington (State). At this point, I began to seriously seek and follow the Lord and read His word. I ignored the Old Testament at first and headed straight to the Gospels. As I read them, I noticed that it seemed like many of the teachings of Christ were being ignored or twisted. I was confused as to why the church we were visiting would go directly against things Jesus said. I kept reading right through the New Testament and found several other things that just did not seem to add up. I kept my mind and heart open.
My first time through the Gospels, I came to Jesus’ teachings on divorce and remarriage in Matthew 5. My heart jumped and felt like it stopped for a second. I remember thinking, “Surely it does not mean what it seems to mean? I must be missing something.” I resolved to continue reading, but kept those words in my heart. Along came Matthew chapter 19 … and with that, another prick in my heart. Then, of course, there was Mark 10 and Luke 16. Each time I read a new passage about divorce and remarriage, I felt so condemned and torn. I prayed for the Lord to help me understand.
I also prayed that He would show me if I was missing something; once again, I did not want to believe what it seemed to mean … and why would I? My life was going along just fine the way it was: a loving husband, a good home, plenty of food to eat, and so on. I continued to read and got to Romans 7 where Paul wrote about how a woman is married to her husband as long as he is alive … and if she marries someone else while he is still living, she is in adultery with that person. That’s very clear, and I was feeling more condemned than ever; even still, I hoped and prayed I was missing something. Next was Romans 8:1 … a verse I had heard many times already in the Baptist church, only it was longer than I remembered. Previously I had only heard the first part of it quoted: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” Isn’t that wonderful?! Well, I thought it was until I read the rest of the verse: “who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”
There was my answer right there. I was feeling condemned because I was walking after the flesh instead of the Spirit. Of course, I still did not want to believe it; I still held on and hoped I was missing something. I got to 1 Corinthians 7 and read more about what the Bible teaches; in verses 10 and 11 the Lord is very clear that if a woman separates from her husband, she is to remain single or else be reconciled to her husband. Verse 39 reiterates what was already said before about a woman being bound to her husband as long as he is living. I thought maybe there was a ‘loophole’ in the middle of the chapter. However, when comparing it to the rest of the scriptures I had already read, it did not add up. I would have liked to believe that “not under bondage” meant I was free to remarry, but that’s not what it really says. Even after all of that—and the verses about fornicators and adulterers not being admitted into heaven—I denied it all and tried my best to live my life as a “good Christian.” I tried really hard to convince myself that since I was not a Christian when I got divorced and remarried, I was “washed in the blood” … God forgot about my past and saw me as I was right then. That all sounded good, but it still did not add up.
I continued to read the New Testament; each time I read it, I saw new truths. Also, each time I read through it, I was more sure than ever that I was not living according to God’s word. I noticed how in Matthew 19 and Mark 10, Jesus pointed the Pharisees back to the beginning. When a man marries a woman, they are no more two, but one. This made it clear to me why a woman is married to her husband as long as he lives … because as long as he is alive, they are still one flesh with each other. The only thing that separates you from your flesh is death. I once heard someone put it this way—it’s like taking two balls of clay, one red and one blue, and mixing them together. You now have one ball of purple clay; they are no more two, but one. Now try to separate the blue from the red. You cannot.
Through all these struggles, Bobby was right there helping me and being so loving and patient. He was not a Christian, but he was such an encouragement to me. He told me once that he was not going to stand between God and me. At first, I hated that response. It seemed to me that it would have just been “easier” if he got mad, called me crazy, and kicked me out. However, God knew best; I needed to accept this, not take the easy way out.
Not too long after that, I was online and found a “What kind of denomination are you?” quiz. Looking back now, that sounds really silly, and I would not recommend trying to fit a denomination into your beliefs! But I answered the questions and anxiously awaited the answer … “Anabaptist.”
I did some research, since I had no idea what an “Anabaptist” was. Their history caught my attention … a group that was actually being persecuted for obeying the teachings of Christ and willing to die for it.
An online research led me to a contact who pointed us to conservative Anabaptist congregations, but throughout this whole time, I was constantly struggling with my marital state. I tried my best to ignore what I knew the Lord was asking me to do, however it was to no avail. Bobby remained patient and supportive. Church problems eventually caused me to stop attending church for a while.
Sometime during the beginning of the summer of 2008, I was finally ready to step out in faith and follow the Lord. I had counted the costs for about three years or so, and knew that I must be willing to give up all that I had to be His disciple. Lu. 14 That included Bobby.
We split up, but did not tell anyone for months. In times past when I thought I was ready to take that step, I’d start talking to people and get so confused. It didn’t matter if they agreed or disagreed; it all confused me. This time I knew I had to keep it between Bobby, the Lord, and me. When I finally did start letting others know, most assumed it was “my church” that convinced me to take the path I was set to take. However, I had not been going to a church for two years or so at that point. I was just reading the Bible and earnestly seeking the TRUTH, no matter the cost.
We now attend the Church of Monett, in Monett, MO. I’ll just say that I’ve never met a church group quite like this—totally dedicated to serving the Lord and “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” Also, their heart for the lost is something I’ve never experienced before in any group we were ever a part of. They are willing to travel to the other side of the world if that’s what it takes to connect with those who are truly seeking and trying to follow the Lord on this narrow path He has given us to follow. ~
The above was extracted from Joanne’s testimony at: http://fewtherebethatfindit.blogspot.com/2010/05/my-journey.html
Taken from "The Heartbeat of the Remnant"