God placed me in a great family in a suburb of Milwaukee, and my childhood was very positive. My family attended Catholic church, and my sister and went to St Eugene Grade School and Dominican High School. I was always very much aware of God in my life. In fact, in fifth grad, Sr Mary Marcinus encouraged me to ask Jesus into my heart, which I did.i believe that God honored that child's prayer and protected me though a lot of potential nonsense in my life!
I met my husband, Bob on a blind date as a junior in high school. We married in 1972, and I taught art at Grafton High School for two years while he completed dental school. Then we headed to Vandenberg Air Force base in California. It was there our son Rob was born, and it was there that I seriously committed my life to Christ.
Don’t get me wrong – God was always in my life, but my church stressed the necessity of doing good things in order to get to heaven. I felt like God – and eternity - were so far away. I felt like I had to build a bridge to get close to Him and to be assured of a place in heaven. To build my bridge I’d work diligently to do good things. But then I’d mess up and feel guilt and condemnation! I would feel like I had torn down more than I had just built!
I also felt like God held the scales of justice - with the good I did on one side, and all the bad on the other. I knew that If I died on a "bad day" there was no eternal hope for me! I’d miss going to heaven and end up in hell. It was a mentally exhausting way to live! If I failed to do my part in "stacking up good things on the scale" or in "building my bridge to God," all would be lost. It was very stressful, frightening, and discouraging – especially when you feel like you are building in the dark!
When I was pregnant with our first child, Rob, I began questioning a lot of my beliefs about life. I wondered . . . What if I died? – Or if my baby died? What would happen? Would we go to heaven? . . . Then I even had doubts about what I had been taught as a child - I mean . . . Was heaven even real? I became afraid of death—extremely afraid—tormented by Fear. [In fact I remember needing to touch Bob each night in order to even fall asleep! You can read more about what I've since learned about Fear. ]
One day after Rob was born, I was at my neighbor’s home across the street. Maribess went to the same church I did, and she had a new baby just like me. In conversation that day, I asked her if she was ever afraid of dying.
She shocked me! Her eyes lit up and she got a huge grin on her face. “Not anymore!” she said.
I’ll never forget that day! She jumped up and grabbed a little yellow Bible with a translucent orange fish design on it. . . She said that she had been reading God’s Word showed me she what she was learning. In I John it clearly says that we can know for sure we are going to heaven! Not hope . . . not guess . . .
"And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and
this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does
not have God’s Son does not have life.I have written this to you who
believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you
have eternal life." I John 5:11-13
WOW! Maribess gave me that Bible and I could hardly wait to get home and read the places she had marked - especially the book of I John. Knowing FOR SURE with no more hoping or worrying would be amazing! Maribess had such joy and peace — and I really wanted that!
I had always known about Jesus—that he died and rose again. But I had not made the connection that He had actually died in my place, taking on the punishment I deserved. He was the bridge to God I needed! As I read the Word, in an instant I realized that no matter how hard I tried to do good things—working as hard as I could to build my little bridge—I could never be truly perfect, which is God’s standard. So I changed my mind about doing it myself. I asked His forgiveness for my meager attempt to build my own bridge, and I asked him to take over.
And there it was – His beautiful, perfect bridge that would never come down! No more building on my part – all I had to do was walk across it. It seemed too good to be true! What a relief! In that instant, I RAN across that bridge– no hesitation! With God in control instead of me, I had a new peace and joy in my heart, totally replacing the haunting fears I’d had before.
The grace God extends over me is so freeing! I began to realize that faith is a lifestyle and not just a “religion” of working hard to please God. Once we've crossed the bridge, the pressure is off – we no longer have to work to please Him. He loves us just the way we are. The grace and love He gives makes your heart full. Good things naturally flow from a grateful heart— and there is a natural desire to serve others because He served us.
Crossing that Bridge in 1975 was just the start of
a wonderful, life-long journey with the Lord.
What about you? Are you trying to build your own bridge to God through your own effort?
If you've been working hard to reach him on your own, you can change your mind! [that's what the word "repent" means—"change your mind]
Admit to him that you cannot reach Him on your own and you need Him. Accept His free gift of grace and freedom. God is a loving Father who desires to bless you with Life, Grace, Peace and Joy. And he does that through the only bridge who can lead you there—His son, Jesus.