The Lord is my Light and my Salvation
(But it wasn't always that way)
I grew up in South Central Los Angeles in a home with my mother, father, one brother, and one sister. I went to a Catholic school from 1st grade to 8th grade, but I was not Catholic. As a youth, I occasionally attended a Baptist church with my friend Karen and her mom, but I did not consider myself Baptist. So I had heard about Jesus Christ and heaven and hell somewhere along the way, but I never really gave Him or my soul much thought one way or another. I pretty much never read a Bible back then, although I'm sure there was one in the house somewhere. I was basically just growing up and going through the motions of life.
The only time I regularly heard the name "Jesus" is when my father would drink too much and start playing his 8-track from the "Jesus Christ Superstar" soundtrack. He must have played that tape 100 times. One day I think my dad was really feeling it. He had drank who knows how many shots of Old Grand Dad whiskey. He called my siblings and myself into the room and started saying that he was "the living god," and he had us bow down to pray to him. Well, sure, I knew that my dad wasn't God (even if he thought he was), but back then I had no interest in having a relationship with the True Living God, my Creator.
As I came into my teen years, I was your average teen, I guess. I thought I was so mature. Although I was shy, I still managed to get into some foolish situations. I didn't drink alcohol nor do drugs, but I did harm my body in another way. I made the mistake of becoming sexually active. I don't know if it is because I saw too many R-rated movies or because I looked at too many of my dad's Playboy magazines, or maybe it is just because it seemed that everyone else was doing it and that it was no big deal, but for whatever reason, I didn't value or cherish my body. I opened up that Pandora's box of fornication. I got on the pill and started whoring around. Maybe I was looking for "love." Maybe I was looking for some kind of validation. I know one thing for sure -- I still wasn't looking for my Lord.
No, I did not have time for Jesus. I was having too much "fun" sleeping around with boys and men who now, all these years later, I can't even remember half of their names (not that I want to). And you know what happens when you start sinning? Whether it be fornicating or stealing or lying, sin has a way of taking you farther than you wanted to go and keeping you longer than you wanted to stay. You begin to pile sin on top of sin on top of sin. So my sin of fornicating led to the sin of murder. By the age of 16, I had already had two abortions. But I was so wrapped up in my own selfishness, that I didn't even shed a tear for my babies. By the age of 21, I had had a sexual relationship with a married man, thusly, committing adultery. But I didn't think twice about it. He was just one more added to a list that was steadily growing of men whom I had let steal my wealth.
If you would have known me back then, I seemed happy enough. I had a decent job, a nice car, my own place, and I pretty much kept busy. When I was in my early 20s, I tried to fill my life with activity. I was always going to a concert or going to a play. I was fornicating with this man for a while. And then when that played out, I would find the next one. I felt an emptiness and sadness in my soul, but it didn't show. And still I refused to turn to my Lord.
By this time, I was beginning to get to a place in my heart where I knew that something was missing in my life. I don't remember anyone sharing their Christian faith with me or telling me about salvation, but I knew that I needed Christ. But I also knew that if I began to open myself up to the Lord's calling, that things would have to be different in my life. And you know what? I just was not ready to give up all of my sinful pleasures. I hated and regretted the stuff that I was doing with men, but I let fornication stand in the way of me and my Lord. We often think that we are free just because we don't have visible shackles on our feet. But I was a slave to sin and in bondage to it just as sure as if I had the actual chains on holding me back. If I would have died at this time, I would have gone straight to hell. I was not a "bad" person according to the world's standards, but I was not a child of God, and I still had not accepted Christ's wonderful gift of salvation. No, I was still too busy sinning to care about my soul.
But the good Lord didn't give up on me. He kept piercing my heart and whispering in my ear. And I was starting to hear Him even louder. But Satan wasn't going to let me go that easy. He filled my mind with doubt. I began to think, "I've done too much sinning. There must be something that I have to do to make myself worthy. There has to be more to it. Surely the Lord won't come into my life just by me asking Him to."
Then the Lord led a very special man my way. That man was Harold, my future husband. Harold was by no means perfect, but he knew the Lord. I shared with him my desire to know Christ and my doubts that Christ would have me, and Harold explained to me that the Lord would accept me just as I was -- that all I had to do was trust and believe. He told me that my seeing my sinful condition was step one and that turning from my sin and turning to Jesus was all that I had to do. I finally saw that what the Lord would have me to do really was not hard at all.
From that day on, the Lord has been my Light and my Salvation. He has shown me a love that I didn't know existed. He has loved me more than I ever even loved myself. The things of the world that used to be important to me are filth and garbage compared to what my Lord has shown me.
Jesus is so good that I cannot say enough about Him. When I feel low in my spirit as I remember how my earthly daddy used to tell me that I didn't have what it takes, the Lord has said, "You have been adopted into My family. You are a child of the King." When I am ashamed when I remember the sins of my past, He reminds me, "Rena, I died for those sins, too." When I am sad over my babies I murdered, He tells me, "They're here with me in heaven. You will see them again." When I am upset by the actions of some person or worried about some thing, He tells me, "If I be for you, who can be against you?"
And the Lord not only saved me from hell and promised me a place in heaven later, but He has blessed me here on earth by using me in the furthering of His Gospel. He has taken a murdering, thieving, whore like me and taught me His Word and entrusted me with His children. He has given me the privilege of being used as an ambassador for Him in a Bible study group for at-risk youths.
So, you see, I was once living for self and destined to go to hell. Now I am a child of God who is living for my Lord with heaven as my true home! So, again, the Lord is my Light and my Salvation, and I love Him with all my heart.