I will allure her. I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her. There I will give her back her vineyards, and will make the Valley of Trouble a door of hope. There she will sing as in the days of her youth.
When I first read this passage, I experienced a defining moment in my life. It was one of the very first scriptures which spoke to my bruised 40-something year old heart.
Hosea 2 resembles the story of my life. I’ve experienced God stripping me down to nothing – tangibly and intangibly – and literally bringing me to my knees.
My mom was a Christian, and a good, dutiful mother. She took her little children to Sunday school. She was also a good, dutiful wife, in a home where dad’s word was the final word.
Dad was agnostic for most of his life, and was never a big advocate of church. I particularly loved church bells, and was quite in awe of the man named Jesus; but we stopped going to Sunday school and church. That was an early defining moment for me.
So I grew up an agnostic – with Christian tendencies – becoming an adult without spiritual grounding.
I did not do church; I did not do Bible. What I did do can be summed up in a word: ‘avoid.’
I knowingly avoided the Lord. I vividly remember times when he made his presence known to me, and was asking me to come to him. I rejected him, saying: “Not now, Jesus not now.”
Avoidance kept me searching. I knew I was searching for ‘the truth’; I also wanted a perfect balance between freedom and security. But they evaded me – or rather, I avoided them. I also experimented with other beliefs, and eventually became a Buddhist (with Christian tendencies!)
Meanwhile, the act of avoiding and rejecting Jesus was creating a void in my life – a big empty, hungry space that needed to be filled. I filled it with ‘stuff’ – and also with bad choices about where, and with whom, I spent time. No matter what I bought or what I did, there was still a void.
Then finally came the day I stopped avoiding God.
Smitten by God
A stunt kite, travelling at 60 miles an hour, collided with my forehead – only an inch from my eye. In a split second, I went from looking into a blue, sun-filled sky, to collapsing onto my knees in blinding pain. I was absolutely certain God had just thwacked me on the head – that he smote me!
If that is so, then praise God – because from that day on, I started to change. I realized God really did exist, and that he loved me and wanted the best for me. He had been doing many things to strip away my distractions. I now realized he was going to do whatever it took to get my attention.
That day, I started to understand how events of the preceding nine years had shaped me: my stressful divorce, and the subsequent premature death of my former husband; my financial demise and eventual bankruptcy; my borderline alcoholism, and a shameful drunk-driving charge.
That day, I started listening to God, and paying attention; most importantly, I started to surrender to his will for me – albeit grudgingly, at first.
Bobby the evangelist
Soon after that, Bobby Doucette entered the story. We had known each other since 1999. Toward the end of 2005, we crossed paths through a friend. Since both of us were sad and lonely, we made a plan to keep each other company.
I showed up at his house that night, and we had a nice meal. We talked a little about life and business; then Bobby talked a lot about Jesus and salvation. He cited scripture so much that, toward the end of the evening, I said to him:
“Bobby, you don’t have to save my sorry butt, you know. I’m okay where I’m at. I’ve got my own belief system, and it doesn’t include that Jesus is the only way to God.”
At that time, I had no idea how preposterous those words were to a Christian, or how hurtful they were to God. I remember the look on Bobby’s face, and in hindsight, I think that – in that moment – perhaps he made a secret pact with God.
I felt rather disinclined to have a second date with him – because he was just tooooo intensely Christian for me.
But the very next day – almost literally when I woke up – there was a voice in my head, saying: “Go and be with that man.” I said: “Pardon me, what man?”
The voice persisted: “Go and be with Bobby.” To which I answered: “Ohhhh noooooo God, not Bobby. He’s, like, this really big evangelist! Please God, no, not that!”
For the next seven months the voice persisted while I resisted; but at least I was listening now. Thankfully, the man persisted, too. Gently at first, and gradually with a little more fervour, Bobby somehow convinced me to start exploring that Bible of his.
Then, lo and behold, on September 26, 2006 at about 11 pm, I was reading a John and Stasi Eldredge book called Captivating. They were commenting on Isaiah 61.
As I read that passage for the very first time in my life, the door opened. Light and warmth flooded in. My heart was overtaken by overwhelming joy and relief.
I knew this was another defining moment. Jesus had claimed me. I knew I’d just fallen in love.
My fabulous friend Bobby and I got married on January 11, 2007. We both see our union as an appointment made by God.
We even believe he may have spoken through 10 year old Luke, Bobby’s youngest son. As we closed our front door on that night, Luke turned the lock and gave a funny little giggle. He spun on his heel, and then ran up the stairs, calling out: “You’re not getting out of it now!”
That statement pretty much sums up Christianity for me, now. Best of all is that, in claiming me, God has given me the very thing I had quested after: that perfect balance between security and freedom. I am freed from the void, and secure in an eternity with him.
I feel so blessed. I have a great family: a mom, brother and sister who are amazing, as are their offspring. I’m so proud to be related to them. I have peace with my former husband’s kids, and I love them dearly. I have friends I’d lay my life down for; they’ve been so good to me.
I have a husband who has all the traits on my wish-list; and I inherited his three terrific kids to help guide, if they’ll allow me that privilege. I also have colleagues at work who mean the world to me; and to top it all off, I serve and have fellowship in an excellent church community.
So here I stand: a former agnostic, then Buddhist, and now on fire for Jesus. My message to you all is this: if any of you are with a non-believer, don’t give up on your faith. Don’t give in to unbelief. In my experience, it is a miserable abyss.
And as for you moms and dads: don’t let your kids grow up in a void of any sort.
Janet Doucette works in advertising at Christian Info Society. The preceding was adapted from her baptismal testimony, given at Peace Portal Alliance Church, White Rock, June 1, 2008.