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Piece By Piece

by Ruthie Alekseeva  
12/25/2023 / Testimonies

Piece By Piece - Part 1- A Testimony of Faith and Conversion

A Child-Like Faith

Since infancy, I have attended church, and from my earliest memory I have believed that the account written in the Bible is true. That doesn’t mean I was born a Christian. No one is born a Christian. That’s impossible because we can’t inherit our faith from our parents. Instead, our belief in Jesus must come from our own hearts and our own minds, but the Bible teaches that we shouldn’t lie or steal or envy. It says we should honour our parents and treat others the way we would like them to treat us. So, what’s untrue about that? Nothing. And regarding the miracles found in the Bible? Well, if God is God, He can do anything and everything. If a god claims he is God, but he lacks power in any way, he’s not God and we should keep looking for the real one true God. My thinking is, if God can create a universe, He can certainly perform much smaller supernatural acts such as walking on water, raising men from the dead and feeding 5000 people with two fish and five loaves of bread.

And it's not only the pages of the Bible that prove the truthfulness of Christianity. Creation also proves it. As a 3-year-old, I enjoyed climbing trees. One day, as I sat in a favourite climbing tree, I remember looking at its trunk and its branches, the blue sky above it and the puffy clouds that sailed in it, and I sensed that there was something much bigger and more powerful than me guiding me and the world around me. Pop star, Britany Spears, in her autobiography, The Woman in Me, says she had a similar experience also, as a child, while laying on hot stones, and comedian, Anh Do, in his autobiography, The Happiest Refugee, also says he had this experience while looking at the sky. I don’t classify either of these people as Christians but these experiences back up what the Bible says about the existence of God. Bible verses such as:

Psalm 19:1 which says,

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.

And Romans 1:20 says,

For since the creation of the world, His invisible attributes are clearly seen being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.

And I guess that’s why Psalm 14:1 says,

The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.”

Because even a 3-year-old child, sitting in a tree, can see all the invisible evidence for God and acknowledge it and believe in Him.

After God’s existence and the truthfulness of the Bible became evident to me,  as a child, I then watched Disney’s animated movie, Pinocchio. In it, Jiminy Cricket sings a song instructing Pinocchio that he should always let his conscience be his guide. That sounded like a great idea so I started listening to my conscience also, but my conscience told me that things I really wanted to do were wrong and when I would ignore my conscience and do those wrong things anyway, my conscience reminded me that I had done wrong and it told me that I was bad. Sometimes, it told me this for days and even weeks after I had sinned, so my conscience left my heart feeling guilty, bad and ashamed, but this guilt, shame and badness didn’t only make my heart feel awful, it gradually built up until I could feel it on my shoulders like a huge, heavy weight. That weight grew so heavy and huge, that I felt bowed down by it and as though I couldn’t stand up straight.

A Child-Like Conversion

One night, when I was five or six, at a children’s ministry my church ran, I felt particularly guilty about a lie I had told during the week. At the end of the night, my ministry leader sat us down and told us the account of Jesus dying on the cross. She told us that Jesus had died for our sins and that if we asked for His forgiveness, He would come and live inside our hearts and, when we died, we would live with Him in Heaven instead of Hell. She asked us to close our eyes and said if anyone wants God’s forgiveness, we should pray the prayer she was about to say, inside our heads.

As we waited for her to begin her prayer, I thought about the lie I had told during the week and all the guilt and badness and shame I felt in my heart and that huge, heavy weight weighing down my shoulders. My heart beat fast, and it felt tumultuous as if God and Satan were battling over it. Then, I repeated that lady’s prayer inside my head, and when I prayed it, I really meant it, and by the end of that prayer, that feeling of being warred over popped and disappeared, as if God had won the battle over which direction my heart and life would go in from that night on. And instead of guilt, shame and badness, my heart now felt love, peace and joy and that heavy burden on my shoulders was gone. For the first time in years, I felt like I could stand up straight again. I also felt full whereas before I had felt empty and as if something was missing, as though I was disconnected from something.

My family then moved to a different church because of doctrinal differences. Ninety-nine percent of what my new church taught me was true but they had a heavy emphasis on ensuring that everyone had high self-esteem. Christian books and sermons have written about the pros and cons of having what the secular world calls high self-esteem but my concern with it is that when a church teaches secular self-esteem, you hear a lot about God’s grace and mercy and a lot about how amazing you are but you don’t hear much about God’s wrath and justice or about Hell or about how bad and sinful you are. Also, at this church, when altar calls were given, non-Christians were told they should come to Jesus because He had a wonderful plan for their life but, not long after moving to this church, tragedy struck my family and I began doubting if I was really saved because I would hear this wonderful-plan message and at Sunday School, we would sing songs about how happy becoming a Christian makes you feel.

If God has a wonderful plan for my life and if becoming a Christian makes you feel so happy, why do I feel so sad and so much pain,” I wondered.

So, even though, at my conversion, no one had promised me a happy, problem-free life, I prayed that sinner’s prayer again, thinking that perhaps I hadn’t prayed it properly the first time and so, perhaps, I wasn’t really a Christian or else why had such a terrible tragedy happened that caused me such pain and suffering? But even if I hadn’t heard this wonderful-plan message, I would have concluded that God wanted me to have a happy, healthy, wealthy life anyway because why wouldn’t God want that kind of life for all his children?

Teenage Angst

But over the years, that painful wound, that that tragedy had left, festered inside of me and turned gangrene, especially when, at the age of 17, I moved out of home, to a new town, for study. The wound grew worse because, while living in that new town, away from family, I became incredibly homesick. I also didn’t make many friends, and because of that, I became lonely, so lonely, in fact, I felt I would die. I also couldn’t get a job and so I experienced hunger, coldness, getting wet in the rain, a scarcity of clothing and other poverties. The friends I did make loved nightclubbing, drunkenness, cigarettes, promiscuity, filthy movies and dancing. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with wholesome dancing, but they didn’t dance wholesomely. They danced dirty, and even if they had danced in a cleaner manner, I find dancing mundane, so I didn’t enjoy spending time with these women.  I also lived in share accommodation during my uni years with some girls from overseas, and although they could speak English and knew that I could only speak English, they mostly spoke in their own language. This went on for at least four months. I found that incredibly painful and boring, and it made me feel rejected, deepening my pain and loneliness.

While living in this new town, I also experienced many incidences of sexual harassment, both at church and out in the community, and although I tried several churches, the people who attended them always said they were too busy to meet up with me or on the rare occasion that they did have time, they also went clubbing and would get drunk. So, I found this new adult world I lived in extremely lonely and mundane and dangerous because although non-Christians say clubbing, drunkenness, smoking and promiscuity is exciting and really living, they’re not. I found watching those activities incredibly boring, and it often appeared as though non-Christians use these behaviours to get through life and to escape pains and empty feelings that they’re experiencing. They use these activities as a crutch. Watching people self-destruct like that was really depressing.

Once, while I was at a nightclub with these kinds of friends, a girl I knew, and who knew that I was a Christian, came in. She looked shocked to see me at a nightclub and although I was sober, acting chaste and only sipping lemonade, she didn’t know that it was only lemonade and that I was completely sober because some people hold their alcohol well. Even though they’ve had ten drinks, they don’t wobble or slur they’re speech. They look normal, and although this girl didn’t see me do anything promiscuous after she entered the club, how was she to know if I had behaved promiscuously before she entered and had now stopped because I knew she watched me? She couldn’t.

Also, nightclubs stamp your arm with a stamp (so if you go outside and then come back in again, they know you’ve already paid your entrance fee and had your ID checked).  Once, a nightclub stamped my arm on a Saturday night. The next day, I went to church, and that stamp mark on my arm was still visible. A girl at my church, stated how upset she was that I had been at a nightclub the night before. The Bible says we should not only avoid sin, but we should also avoid the suspicion of sin, so it shouldn’t even look, from the outside, as though we might have sinned. From the outside, how were either of those girls, the Christian at church or the non-Christian at the nightclub to know that although I had been at a nightclub, I hadn’t done anything that people at nightclubs typically do? They couldn’t.

So, eventually I realised I must stay away from friends who practice these kinds of things, because the Bible says bad company corrupts good character. It also says do not keep company with anyone who says they are a Christian but is a reviler or a drunkard. It says don’t even eat with such a person. So, instead, I started sitting at home, alone, every night and every day studying and watching TV, in the dark and the cold because I couldn’t afford my electricity bills if I turned the lights and the heater on. On top of all that, I broke my leg and failed my uni degree. My pain and depression grew so bad, I became tempted with thoughts of suicide.

Difficult Questions

In defeat, I returned home, and at church, I would hear people give their testimonies. Their testimonies usually went like this:

Before I became a Christian, I was sad, miserable, depressed, lonely and in a lot of pain and agony, but then, I became a Christian and now my life is wonderful and I’m happy and healed.

Some of these people had gone through the same difficult experiences I had gone through, then they’d get up at the front of the church and tell me how God had healed them and made them happy again and had given them an amazing life. I would sit there in tears thinking,

“I’ve been a Christian for years. Where’s my wonderful plan? Where’s my happiness? Where’s my healing?”

These testimonies made it sound as though the way to get healed was to get saved.

Why is God healing these newly born-again-Christians,” I would think. “I can’t go back in time and become a non-Christian again and then become a Christian again and then receive my healing that way, so how is God going to heal me and will He ever heal me and does He even want to heal me? Does God love me?”

Some denominations would say that the reason God didn’t heal me or give me a wonderful life is because I didn’t have enough faith, but the Bible says, If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you, so I knew that wasn’t true and it caused me further pain when I heard people say that, but those agonising questions didn’t leave me alone. Where’s my happiness? Where’s my healing? Where’s my wonderful plan?

Finding True Answers

For about a year, although I still attended church and still classified myself as a Christian, I became very angry with God. Then, one day, as my brother watched the Christian TV channel, a show called Hells’ Best Kept Secret by Ray Comfort came on. My brother told me I should watch it with him. In that show, Ray Comfort explained that modern Christianity often tells unbelievers that if they become a Christian, God will give them love, joy, peace, healing, a wonderful plan for their life and higher self-esteem, but when we read the Bible, we see that Jesus spoke about how sinful people are and about God’s wrath and justice and about how if we reject God’s sacrifice on the cross for our sins, instead of living with God in Heaven forever, we will suffer eternal torment in Hell. Ray also has a program about sanctification which explains why Christians sometimes experience pain, sickness and other difficulties in life. These shows answered all my questions and, overtime, God healed my anger, confusion, sadness, pain and all my hurts.

That doesn’t mean I won’t experience more pain in future years, but when I do, I know that during those difficult times, God will give me His peace and joy and, truthfully, during my trials and tribulations, I did always have a deep-down peace and joy that all that sadness couldn’t overwhelm. God has been the author of my faith, and he will be the finisher of it, piece by piece. He has changed me from a child with a child-like faith to a woman with an adult faith. He has corrected me of wrong beliefs I had about Him and, because of that, I love God so much - so much more than ever before.

Piece By Piece - Part 2 – A Testimony of Pain and Healing

Why did God take so long to heal me? That’s a question I have often pondered. I won’t know the exact reason until I reach Heaven, but here’s my thoughts so far:

I became a Christian as a child, and from that point on, I made a sincere effort at repenting of my sins. Although I sometimes misbehaved at home, at school, I was good at obeying the rules. I was so good at obeying the rules, that, except for grade four, the only time I received a detention was when the whole class received one, and often when my class saw me at detention, they would say,

“But you didn’t misbehave. Only we misbehaved.”

I obeyed the rules so well, that in high school, I remember a girl saying to me,

“You never do anything wrong.”

That’s not true, of course, because while this girl didn’t see me DO anything wrong at school, I did wrong in my mind, and when that girl said she believed I never did anything wrong, I remember thinking in my head,

You only say that because you can’t hear my thoughts.”

I say this because, at school, I frequently had hate-filled, angry, envious, proud, judging and self-righteous thoughts, and the fact that I didn’t say those thoughts out loud, didn’t make them not sinful because God views our thoughts as though they were deeds.

Because I rarely got into trouble at school, and because all my sins up to that point had been “small” childhood sins, it was easy for me to feel as though I was a small sinner who had committed small sins and that God had only needed to die a little bit on the cross for me, but then I watched the television show called Hell’s Best Kept Secret, and I heard Ray Comfort take a non-believer through what Ray Comfort calls a good-person test. By the end of that test, I realised that I’m not a small sinner and Jesus didn’t die a small death for me. Rather, I am a huge sinner who needed Jesus’ huge death on the cross because, according to Ray Comfort’s good-person test, I am a lying, thieving, blaspheming, covetous, sabbath-breaking, parent-dishonouring woman and an adulterous murderer in my heart and because of that, sadly, I can say with Paul, that I am not only a huge sinner, but I am also the chief of all sinners. And knowing that, rather than giving me low self-esteem, gives me healthy self-esteem, because how can you hate yourself, if the God who created the universe and the God who knows you’re a lying, thieving, blaspheming, covetous, sabbath-breaking, parent-dishonouring, adulterous murderer at heart still sends His Son to die for you anyway? That act on that cross, makes you valuable because it turns you from a hopeless, helpless, wicked sinner into a new creation that God loves so much.

A Maturing Faith

For a year of my adult life, I had felt angry with God because of painful experiences I had gone through, but from that point on, I stopped feeling angry at God and started feeling awed and grateful towards Him instead because I now realised how big I have sinned against God and how much punishment I deserve from Him. But, instead of the punishment I deserve, all the pain I will ever experience are the pains and sufferings I have experienced here on earth.  That’s all, but I deserve so much more.

Because I was so good at obeying rules in public, at school, my obedience hid how sinful I am from others. It also hid how sinful I am from myself, and I now believe God allowed me to experience so much pain, and for so long, because He wanted me to see myself for who I really am. Because during that year when I became very angry with God, I hurt someone. I hurt them publicly, and that made me feel terrible and it revealed to me and to everyone I knew, that, of course, I do wrong things sometimes and, of course, I am capable of great unkindness. 

To get ice out of an ice-cube tray, you must squeeze it and squeeze it and squeeze it, until the ice comes tumbling out, and I now believe that’s what God was doing with me. He squeezed me and squeezed me and squeezed me with pain and suffering, until all my sin and badness came crashing out in front of me and in front of a lot of people that I knew.

That’s my thoughts so far on why God took so long in healing me. I’ll find out God’s exact reasons for all that suffering when I reach Heaven, but no matter what the real reasons are, and despite that public fall, I can say with certainty that God has worked everything in my life for good, whether painful or joy-filled, and He will continue that throughout the rest of my life on Earth, as He continues to sanctify me, until I meet Him someday in Heaven, perfect, without blemish and finally without sin.

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