By: Stephanie McKee
I grew up in Iowa and was raised Catholic by my mother. My father was not religious but would attend mass with us occasionally. My mother would pray a short prayer each night with my sister and me, and sometimes I would lie in bed continuing the prayer on my own after she left the room. To this day, I am so grateful to her for planting those precious seeds of faith in my tender little-girl heart.
When I was around 11 or 12 years old, my parents went out one night leaving my older brothers in charge of my sister and me. They turned on the movie "The Exorcist", and I walked past the TV room catching a glimpse of the horrifying film. I was traumatized by what I saw, and that event led to an unrelenting fear of the devil.
I believe that it was in junior high school when I began to experience what I now know to be a type of demonic oppression. It is too difficult to explain; suffice it to say that it made me so miserable that the only thing I looked forward to in life was sleeping because that was the only escape I had from the oppression. This oppression continued on and off into my freshman year of high school.
It was at that time that I began dating a boy who brought me to a Pentecostal Bible-based church with him, and I turned to God for help in my desperation. One night I prayed all night long, and to my amazement, the oppression disappeared! I was completely astonished by this and incredibly relieved, but I then developed a crippling fear that the oppression would return.
This fear led to what I now know to be obsessive-compulsive disorder, and in combination with my fear of the devil, I felt driven to perform strange counting rituals involving the avoidance of certain "evil" numbers. As time progressed, I also began to suffer from horrifying intrusive thoughts, which were another manifestation of the OCD. For example, the thought that I might get out of bed and kill my family in my sleep terrorized me. This now seems completely irrational to me, considering I do not even have a history of sleepwalking.
Daily life became so unbearable because of the OCD that I often fantasized about ending it all. However, I could never have done such a thing to my parents, and I was terrified of going to hell. The OCD continued throughout high school and into college and my 20s and 30s. During this time, I drifted from my faith in God. I never really had become a true Christian anyway because I did not understand about repentance, obedience to Christ, and the importance of daily Bible study and prayer. I believe God allowed me to continue in my struggle with OCD as a way of showing me how desperately I needed to live His way in holiness and complete devotion and dependence on Him through His Holy Word.
After my graduation from college, I became a flight attendant and ended up in Southern California. I spent three years in a dysfunctional relationship complete with verbal abuse, fornication, an unwanted pregnancy, and an abortion. I was a mess!
Eventually, I left that relationship and began a spiritual quest. Not fully realizing the danger, I started dabbling in the occult, experimenting with meditation, fortune-telling, etc. I would read constantly about all kinds of New Age spiritual theories and religions. During this spiritual search, I also began to pray to God for help with my many difficulties and for fulfillment in life.
One day after finishing another book on some New Age spiritual theory, it dawned on me that each New Age book I read contradicted the ones I had read previously. I then suddenly realized that there could only be one truth, and I prayed then and there that God would show me the absolute truth!
Shortly after this prayer, I happened to go on a first date with someone who sternly warned me about my occult activities. He explained about the evil entity (Satan) behind these activities. He told me to read the Bible and recommended a local church. What he said terrified me because until then I had not realized the danger I was exposing myself to. The night of that date, I slept with a Bible hoping it would protect me. I was scared out of my wits, and I took my date's advice and began reading the Bible and attending church. I had trouble finding a church where I felt welcome and began to wonder if there was any hope for me. I desperately needed good Christian friends who would teach me about Jesus and give me some guidance and support.
I ended up moving from Redondo Beach, California to Long Beach and felt like I had a fresh start. I decided that I would not go searching for a good church in the area. Instead I prayed with a tiny speck of hope that if there was a church for me in Long Beach that God would lead me to it.
One day while walking down the street, wearing my headphones and completely in my own world, a college-age woman began running toward me. She had chased me down to invite me to her church! I was blown away by this and told her that I had been praying for God to lead me to the right church! I told her that I would definitely come.
When I visited her church, I was amazed at how joyful and friendly the people were. I immediately felt comfortable there and felt so loved by these people I had just met! They invited me to do individual Bible studies with them, and I eagerly agreed. This was exactly what I needed! I was so excited that God had answered my prayers to lead me to a church, and I was full of new-found joy and hope.
A couple of the women from church met with me regularly and taught me all about Jesus and the Bible. I had tons of questions because I wanted to be absolutely certain that Jesus was the one true way to God. They patiently addressed my many doubts and concerns, and after a few months, I was baptized in the ocean on St. Patrick's Day 1996. At 31 years of age, I was washed clean by the blood of Christ and began a new life!
The most valuable lesson I learned at my new church was to take time each and every day for Bible study and prayer. I believe that this discipline is the reason I have been able to keep strong in my faith through all the highs and lows of my Christian walk. And due to my desperation to find answers to my trouble with OCD and other life issues, I simply could not get enough of Jesus. I would pray and read the Bible for hours at the beach, the park, in my car, etc. and became closer and closer to God.
I learned to replace my compulsive and intrusive thoughts with memorized Scripture, and the Word of God began to transform my mind! God taught me to take every thought captive and to make it obedient to Christ. Until this time, I had never realized that with discipline I could actually choose what to think about! Slowly but surely I was developing the mind of Christ!
Now, at the age of 50, I clearly see how God has taken me through His refining fires over the years. He certainly had His work cut out for Him because I was extremely self-centered, immature, and temperamental. Basically, I was a spoiled brat! He led me through a couple of horrific and humiliating breakups with boyfriends, difficulties in my career, etc. God leads His beloved children through his baptism of fire in order to draw us closer to Him and bring us out as pure gold.
One of the greatest tools God has utilized in my life to refine me in His fire is my continual struggle in romantic relationships and my inability to find my Mr. Right. I have suffered several extended periods of great loneliness over the years, but God has helped me to persevere and to overcome. As a matter of fact, He recently made it quite clear to me that one day very soon I will be one of the brides in the most amazing and wonderful wedding in the history of the world! My Heavenly Groom is coming to rescue me from this depraved and decaying planet to take me to the Wedding Supper of the Lamb and show me the glorious mansion He has prepared just for me in His magnificent eternal Kingdom. Yes, I, as a part of the bride of Christ, will be forever betrothed to my long-awaited Mr. Right, and His name is Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords!
In conclusion, I encourage anyone who feels that they are too far gone or too messed up to call out to Christ with all your heart. Seek God by talking to Him constantly and pouring out your grief, anger, disappointments, doubts, and confusion to Him. He can take it! Read His Holy Word daily and pray for understanding. Diligently strive to follow what is taught in the Bible in obedience to Christ. Be sure to be baptized in water, and be patient with yourself and with God. When you mess up, confess to God, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and keep on walking in the narrow way. I guarantee that if God did not consider me a lost cause in my sinful, disastrous condition, He has not given up on you either! Jesus is madly in love with you and desperately longs for you to be with Him for all eternity! All things are possible with God. Go for it!
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