Isaiah 64:8- But now, O Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay and you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.
When I look back at my life, I see over and over that this verse is describing me. Even when I acted more like jello, incapable of being shaped into anything, I was always moldable clay in the hand of the Creator. For the next five posts, I would like to tell you about myself and take you through my “clay” journey.
I was born and raised in the South with fond childhood memories of shelling crowder peas, eating homemade ice cream, and playing with Barbies. As a 90’s child, I loved to spend my time jamming out to Steven Curtis Chapman, reading American Girl books and pretending I was Anne Shirley looking for my Gilbert! It was a good life!
I have two younger sisters who were usually my best friends. We loved to play dress up, house, school, you name it! My mom stayed home with us while we were young and home schooled me through third grade. My dad was home for supper every night and we had a family dog named Lady. Yes, things were pretty “Beaver Cleaver” at the Overstreet house!
When I was 4, I heard a sermon on Hell and it really affected me. As my mom did the supper dishes that night, I asked what Hell was and how could I keep myself from going there. She explained that I had to ask Jesus in my heart, I had to be saved. I still remember saying,” Then I want to be saved right now!” That night, my parents explained salvation and prayed with me. Soon after, I was baptized along with a little friend of mine.
The problem was that I never believed I was saved. I thought I had done it wrong or that it didn’t stick. As I got older, all of my church friends were being saved and baptized and I continued to get more and more uneasy. Here’s how the enemy works: I didn’t share my feelings with my parents out of belief that they would be mad or embarrassed. Mad at me because I didn’t ask Jesus into my heart correctly, therefore it didn’t work. Embarrassed that they had an 8 year old who still hadn’t gotten her act together. Even my younger sisters had been saved and baptized by this time so there was no going back for me.
I decided that the way to fix my problem was to handle it myself. Every time a pastor would give the sinner’s prayer, I would repeat it in my heart and hope it would work this time. I always walked away disappointed, though. I don’t know what I expected to happen, but because I had no warm feeling or emotion, I started to deal with real fear.
By the age of 9, I was afraid to sleep at night for fear I would die in my sleep and go to Hell. Before long, my anxiety started to spill over into every part of my life. I went through secret periods of very low self esteem, poor confidence, insecurity and feeling unloved. I felt that I clearly had no real worth or value because I could not get God to want me. It breaks my heart to think about it now. 9 years old is so young to deal with emotions like this privately. My parents would have certainly helped me but I could not bring myself to tell them that I was “messed up”. Meanwhile, God was on my mind all of the time. I went to a Christian school and was involved in church, so I knew so much about Him. Yet I believed that even my vast knowledge was not enough to make Him think I was worth getting involved with.
At about age 15, I finally decided that maybe I just was not a person who could be saved. There was something wrong with me and it was my fault. I felt it was time to accept that. I was sure that God was mad at me, so there was no reason to hope that things would ever change. I would continue to live my life in a God honoring way in case God ever changed His mind about me, but I accepted that I would probably struggle with Him forever.
However, on a mild March day in 2003, something shifted in me. I was 17 and only two months away from graduating high school. I decided that I didn’t want to enter the next phase of my life with the same issues that I had identified myself with as far back as I could remember. I was going to get some help even if it meant making myself vulnerable to someone else’s possible judgement and disappointment. When I got out of school, I drove directly to my church to talk with my youth minister. In a flood of words, tears, anger, defeat, embarrassment and release I told him about this God burden I had been carrying all my life. I told him I was tired of being afraid. I had plenty of head knowledge about God and I needed someone to show me the path to heart knowledge. I needed God!
Well, needless to say, he was temporarily taken back by my volcanic explosion of emotions. I know he was a little shocked as I had always given off the impression of being a thriving Christian to everyone by using the right words and actions. I knew exactly how to put on the show so that the real me would never be seen. My youth minister recovered quickly, prayed with me, listened while I poured my heart out to God and asked Him into my life and assured me that God was true to His word. (Romans 10:9-10) I could mark it down; I was God’s child no matter what doubt the enemy threw at me. What an indescribable feeling of, “FINALLY!”
When I left my church, I went directly to the book store to get a book on spiritual growth and called my local Christian radio station to share my good news with the DJ! That part always makes me laugh, the joy of a sinner who has received pardon! A few weeks later, I was baptized.
Now you would think after all of this, I would be soaking up the Lord like a sponge, but I didn’t. I had the peace of knowing that Christ lived in me and that I was going to Heaven, but my Christian experience stopped there. I had no spiritual depth and truly didn’t think I could have any yet. Depth was for adults and I was just a teenager. So life returned to normal for me, but praise be to God, with a lot more self esteem and healthy outlook.
I’m going to close here for now. Please join me for Part Two as I continue sharing my testimony. I will be revealing what God taught me in my early 20s through discovery of talent, death and a life changing elevator ride.