Thursday, June 16, 2011

Nonsensical JOY! By Erin Williams

God saved me at 25. It's strange now to think about where I was and who I was and how I was back then. I had been living for myself for a long time, really my whole life if I'm honest, and fortunately God chose that period in my life to save me from myself. I had been raised Catholic but became disillusioned with the church around age 16 and had just kind of wandered through life since. I had always been a good kid: stellar grades, mostly well-behaved, always had friends, always praised for my maturity and independence. So I lived my life always thinking I was smart enough and good enough to be able to run my own life. Even though I had gone to church as a kid, outside of Sundays it was never a guiding force for me. I had no tether, no guide, no map apart from trying my best and being a good person. I often used it as an excuse to do things and believe things that were ultimately self-destructive.

For instance, in college I partied pretty hard, but excused my bad behavior because I was still getting good grades and not partying as hard as a lot of my peers (1 Timothy 1:15 "The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost"). I constantly craved male attention, but justified it because at least I didn't dress scandalously and at least I wasn't as promiscuous as whoever I could point a finger at who was more promiscuous than me at the time. I excelled in my major and my job. I thought I had things figured out. I was just chasing whatever felt good in experiences, in philosophy, in religion, and I felt invincible, really.

Then life got really hard after college. I had earned myself a music degree, thinking it would be a really fun field to work in but not looking ahead at what the reality of this choice would mean. My whole life while in school had been about progressing from one grade to the next, always looking forward to what the next year would bring. Then suddenly I was on my own with no framework to live within.

At 21 I was lost. I was lost and scared and too proud and naive to ask for help. So I kept on with my own agenda, figuring I would eventually figure things out. I turned my focus to the world around me. I tried so hard to figure out the parts of what I deemed successful in my friends, in people on TV, in outside observations of anyone I came in contact with. It had been so deeply ingrained in me that I was a good person, I was smart, and I was independent. I held onto these beliefs so hard that I didn't notice how my world slowly disintegrated. I willingly entered into situations that I never would have thought to go near, only I told myself that it must be fine because other “together” people were engaging in the same activities. All this time I believed in God, but I was hazy on everything else. I didn't know if he was some far away creator or if he sometimes showed up to grant wishes, or if there was a heaven or a hell.

Actually I had come to the conclusion for a while that there wasn't a heaven or hell and that reincarnation made the most sense and so that was what I chose to believe in. I called myself a Buddhist for a while. Mostly I just didn't think of religion much at all. I didn't have real faith in anything except myself, and that was faltering.

In the fall of 2008, I was laid off from my job. I had hated it anyway, so I wasn't so bummed out at first. But before I knew it, months were stretching on and I was submitting hundreds of resumes without ever getting a call back. I was living with my boyfriend at the time; we had bought a condo together that was stretching my finances to the absolute limits. It was an ill-thought-out decision. I thought it meant that he wanted to marry me. It turned out he didn't, which is just as well because we turned out to be a terrible match anyway. So by the spring of 2009, it was pretty safe to say I had failed. I was jobless, broke, a slave to the property I owned, stuck in a relationship I didn't want to be in anymore, far from my family, isolated from my friends. But for some reason, I started to feel this stirring in my heart. I was bursting with energy and emotion, which I can only describe as JOY (yes, in all caps). I started to wake up day after day filled with hope for something I couldn't even name (Romans 15:13 "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope."). It was weird. I was searching inward and couldn't find the source. I took a look at the mess of my life around me and finally one night I prayed.

Let me make a couple side notes here. I had hardly ever in my life prayed for real, apart from asking God for stuff as if He was Santa Claus. But I remember being in Sunday School when I was five, and the teacher telling us that God could always hear us, even if we weren't speaking out loud, He could hear our thoughts and He knew what we were going through. For some reason that stuck. And I remembered an experience I'd had just a couple years prior – I had been invited to the ladies' tea at Machias Community Church. A lady had given her testimony and had spoken about the power of prayer in her life, how when she was in dire straits she had asked God for help specifically (I think there was a red house with a white fence involved), and God had answered her specifically. And I thought about my dear friends Ronda and Amy, and all the conversations we'd had about their Christianity, things I'd shrugged off, but nonetheless that they had shared about their faith.

So I asked God, “God, what is going on? Why do I feel good? I've done NOTHING to warrant feeling good. God, I'm ready. What are you trying to tell me? What should I believe? So far nothing I've believed has helped. Even if it's Christianity, I'm ready. But I'm stubborn, so please show me in a way that gets through to me. Is that okay? Show me in a way that gets through my thick skull and makes sense to me, alright? Um, amen.” And I repeated this prayer in some form for a week or two, not very long.

Then one evening I was hanging out with my friend Amy. Pretty much out of the blue she asked me if I wanted to go to church with her and her husband that Sunday. I had asked her about her new faith before, and about her church, and she had talked about it, but she had never invited me, and I had always been a little relieved about that.

Oh yeah, another side note: Ronda had also brought me to church a couple times. One time her dad, Pastor Ron, preached a whole sermon that was basically, “None of us can count on tomorrow, so if you're not a Christian, you need to make a decision, and God is inviting you TODAY.” And it struck my heart a little bit, but I totally ignored it – the whole thick-skulled thing I mentioned. And I don't think I'd been back to a church service since.

But anyway, Amy invited me to a church called Mars Hill, and I still swear when I opened my mouth to respond I meant to say no, but I said "yes" instead. Then I had a moment of “oh snap, what did I just agree to?” But I figured it would only be a couple hours out of my day, so I committed and I went with them that Sunday, June 14th 2009.

It was unlike any church experience I'd ever had. They had free coffee! That got me a little excited. Then the band started playing, and even though they were singing about Jesus, it was music that I really liked. I got more excited to be there. And I was looking around, it was strange to me because the people all looked more or less like me. They were my age, middle-class, fellow coffee aficionados. Only the difference was they all looked so happy. They were glad to be there. They were raising their hands during worship. These were people like me who really loved Jesus. The concept seemed so foreign.

The pastor was young and hip and funny. As skeptical as I was about the whole thing, I had to admit the sermon was engaging and he made the Bible relevant. It was the complete opposite of how I remembered Catholic church as a kid. After we left, Amy asked me if I'd consider coming back and I answered “yes” hesitantly. But I soon found out that I couldn't stay away. I went back a couple weeks later kind of expecting it to not be awesome again, but it was still awesome. And it continued to be awesome. It wasn't long before I realized, this was my answered prayer. God had shown me that I needed Jesus, that He was who I needed to follow. The Bible really was relevant and it really was for me too. He removed my heart of stone, my heart that had been so set on living life my way, and gave me a heart made of flesh, one that was tender and alive and that desired what God desired for me (Ezekiel 36:26 "And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh."). I felt like I'd been asleep my whole life and suddenly I was woken up to see what was real and true (Ephesians 5:14 “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”). I didn't feel lost anymore and I haven't since.

In looking back on it, I can see so much beauty in how God included me in His story. I'm thankful for everything that happened in my life, even the tough parts, because it was all that stuff that led me to my savior. It was because of the hard things that I finally recognized that I needed a savior. And when I recognized that, God was there to answer me because He'd been there with me the whole time, never giving up on me even though I denied that He was my God over and over. In those months leading up to my acceptance of Jesus in my life, God was taking every one of my idols and showing me how useless they were: my income, my relationship, my real estate, my ability to run my own life. He's been loving and gentle with me, He showed me patience as I continued to struggle with old habits and old ways of thinking. He's protected me. He's spoken to me clearly, and answered prayer specifically. But most of all, He has saved me. He's saved me in this life, and He's saved me from the death I deserve for my sin. He has made me love Him more than my sin.

In case you are wondering, I broke up with that boyfriend I had been living with. God has blessed me with a wonderful husband, which is a whole other (awesome) story. I believe He provided my job as well and a whole community of fellow Christians. My life is definitely not perfect, and there are still things I struggle with daily, but I don't feel lost anymore. I have the love of God, His Spirit, living inside me and I don't have to worry or be afraid of anything. I am confident that my life belongs to Him because Christ died on the cross to cover me and my 25 years of defiance. And I'm so grateful that God chose to save me at 25 instead of 35 or 45 or 55. Because my new heart is so much better than my old heart. And living for Jesus is so much better than living for myself.

Galatians 2:20 says: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

Erin Williams (with Hubby Jeremy)
Note from Ronda:

Erin- You have blessed my life so much.  Thank you for sharing your testimony.  You write beautifully, and I can here you say each word as I read it.  You are a gifted artist, a gifted writer, gifted musician, and a cherished friend.  I love you so much.   I am so excited to see what God is going to do with your gifts.  I heart you friend!




  1. These testimonies have all been so wonderful and we are so thankful for what God has done in your life, Erin!

  2. Erin,
    It's so interesting to hear about your journey in receiving Christ as your Savior.
    What a wonderful Testimony. Thank You for
    sharing it !