Faith Story

“And every step of the way His grace is making me
Every breath I breathe, He is saving me
And I believe.”
~Andrew Peterson, The Good Confession

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I was born on a church pew.

Not really. But since I was little my parents have been involved in religious ministry – from hosting Bible studies in our home in Panama to pastoring a church for the past 25 years. I’m forever grateful to my parents for the seeds of faith they planted and watered in me.

Things got interesting one Sunday during the altar call. I was surprised to see my sister crying and walking to the front of church to receive Jesus. Not wanting to be outdone and risk appearing more sinful than my twin, I followed her, produced some tears and prayed to accept Jesus Christ into my heart. I was eight years old.

When the pastor baptized me I flailed, and he ended up dunking me twice. He concluded I’d be a good Baptist. My sister concluded I needed all the extra dunking I could get.

There were many, many times after that day I would pray the prayer repeatedly, just in case. “Jesus, I believe in You! I believe You died on the cross and rose again. Please forgive my sins, and come into my heart. I accept You as my Lord and Savior. Thank you for saving me. Amen.”

Growing up as a preacher’s daughter, my attendance was mandatory at Sunday School and VBS and youth group meetings. But I went gladly. Over the years I’d seen people lost, broken, grieving, angry, empty – and I saw them changed (not necessarily their circumstances, but their lives). I could not explain it. But I had no doubt in the power of God to transform, to give Life and hope.

In college, I came to love the words in my Bible. Those words became my lifeline when I lived in Ethiopia.

Marriage and motherhood have stretched, challenged, wrecked and re-built my faith more than anything ever could.

‘Till sin be bitter, Christ is not sweet. I’ve long understood the doctrine of grace, and I’ve been encouraged by it as I’ve seen it demonstrated in the lives of others. But in recent years I experienced the way of grace in my own life like never before. I fell. I fell into a horrible pit, not only hurting myself but others around me. When I saw myself apart from God’s grace, I found the ugliest heart and guilt so terrible, I could have died. But then the very nature of Christ reached through friends, through my husband, to love me. Amazing grace, I will never forget.

Some friends/readers have admired my faith, so here’s my story. I am utterly unfaithful, and God has been ever faithful to me. I can tell you I’m like the father whose son had no speech, “Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!” I can tell you I’m learning that “without faith, it is impossible to please God”, and all I want is to please Him. I can tell you that I love much because I have been forgiven much. I can tell you that I still pray with eight year-old faith: Jesus, I believe in You! Thank you for saving me. Again and again. Amen.

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16 thoughts on “Faith Story

  1. I was raised by a preachers daughter. Church and Sunday School and volunteer work were a big part of my childhood. I thought I would always follow that path (and easily). I lost my faith along the way. Too many things didn’t seem fair. I hurt and people who I knew didn’t deserve it hurt. I’m trying to find my way back. Thanks for sharing your story. It helps.

  2. Jeneil,

    Your blog is my favorite… not that I’ve been following long, but I am always encouraged by your penned words. There is nothing I can think of that brings more glory to God than for someone in the midst of hard circumstances to give Him praise and for their lives to show joy and laughter even through those circumstances. I appreciate your authenticity today and that you could show humility in your faith while truthfully admitting that it is only God that remains faithful – our hearts are so prone to wonder. Over the years, I can look back to the ups and downs of my own faith and see how quickly and completely I could drown in the sea of my own sinful nature and isolation when I gave in to the darker side of my dual nature. I stand amazed at how God has used autism to draw me closer to Him. There are days that I still want to crouch in the corner and cry and shake my fist…. but most days I can truthfully say, “I understand Lord…. I see how you are shaping us all differently and how much more beautiful the end result might be because of this child you gave to us”. I see that in your words too. Our children are gifts that shape our soul – my soul needed a LOT of shaping… but God is faithful to the end and is blessing me with all the things He knew I needed to continue to shape me – including the encouragement of this blog. Thank you!! – Melody

  3. I thought I was patient and kind….then God gave me an autistic son. He is refining me by fire as He is you. I was blind, but now I see. How great is our God!

    • yes, God is teaching us so much about Himself through our children. may all this refining make our faith genuine and Him glorified!

  4. I can speak only for myself, but I have said more than once that I’m inspired, challenged and encouraged by your faith. I am one that admires you for many reasons. So, let me say this post is exactly why.
    I admire your faith because every part of your story that you’ve shared here points to Him. It’s never about you, always about Him and always a portrait of HIs Truth, Grace and Mercy in your life.
    Our stories are so very, very different. This post makes me realize that even more. Yet our stories are exactly the same. This post makes me realize that even more too.
    Different baggage, different experiences, different in many ways on many levels…yet, the same for one simple reason. Jesus. Both of us broken people serving a God that promises to be the rebuilder…in Nehemiah he’s the rebuilder of the broken temple walls, but it’s a portrait that he’s the rebuilder of broken lives…broken dreams…broken hearts.
    Thank you, Jeneil for sharing His story as you share yours.

  5. Beautiful, Jeneil. What a lovely post to read. I personally believe that faith is like a candle flame… one candle can light a thousand others and never lose its own warm flicker. Thanks for lighting our candles. 🙂

  6. Your depiction here is so much more meaningful to me than a blanket “I believe, I never doubt, I never lose faith.” As long as we live, our relationship with our Creator is an ongoing one, a process, a choice in each moment, and when we fall a chance to choose again. I agree with what you say, we are the only ones who separate ourselves from God. It’s never the other way around.

    Love.

  7. Read your words and was reminded of two scriptures.

    Lamentations 3:19-26

    My faith is a process, not a destination.
    Each day I must choose it again.
    Some day I choose it with ease and joy, other days I fail miserably. But when I do fail, He forgives, renews, and reminds me that “His steadfast love never ceases and His mercies never come to an end.”

    Proverbs 27:17

    Thanks for the sharpening.

  8. Thanks for sharing your faith journey. That is one of my favorite verses…”I believe! Help me in my unbelief!”…I too can relate to that kind of faith. It’s certainly not perfect and it’s not as if it doesn’t falter, but it’s real. I think when we can acknowledge who we really are, we have to be awed by who God is. You remind me of this often.

  9. There are three blogs I go to to find inspiration and hope, and yours is one of them. Thank you so much for sharing your life, struggle and all with others. God bless you!

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