Today we are beginning a new and exciting addition to our newsletter. On the first Sunday of the month, we will have a Salvation Story, sharing about ourselves and our loved ones, beginning with me and then amazing and wonderful salvation stories from my own family: siblings, nieces, nephews and my own parents. To get us started, the Lord led me to begin with my own that I hope will not only inspire you, but motivate you to share your own Salvation Stories.
My Salvation Story
by Erin Thiele
As many of you know, I was saved at just 7-years-old. It happened while attending a Catholic school and it was the nun who prepared us for our First Holy Communion, who was raised Baptist that led me to Him.
It happened during the preparation for when we did our “test run” for our First Confession (when we’d be late going into the confessional and tell the priest our sins). That’s when our nun explained that even though there was a priest there, to imagine that we were speaking to God Himself, confessing to Him. Then she gave us time to do just that while kneeling quietly in the dark church. It was there in the pew that things changed. Immediately after confessing to God in my heart, I lifted my head and felt strangely but wonderfully different, my eyes tearing up but not understanding why.
Next our nun passed around “unconsecrated” hosts, which later (during our real communion) would be blessed by the priest, and as we were told, would actually turn into the body of Christ. With the unconsecrated host in our hands, we were urged to ask the Lord Jesus into our hearts. To ask Him to come in and dwell there, giving our lives to Him. Bowing my head again, I did so and at that moment I changed instantly and radically.
The change in me was so profound that my parents believed it was the Catholic school and gave others the same explanation when they asked “What’s gotten into Erin? She’s not that rambunctious girl that used to give you so much trouble.”
At the time there was a joke going around that may help you better understand. It went like this, There was a horrid little boy that worried his parents to no end. They had tried everything when someone recommended sending him to a Catholic school. Even though they were not Catholic they knew they needed to give everything a try. After the first day of school the boy changed completely. When the parents asked what had happened, wondering if he had been beaten or punished or lectured, not comprehending what could have made the drastic change in him, the boy said, “When I walked into my classroom and looked up, and saw that man hanging on the cross, I knew they meant business!” (Referring, of course, to the crucifix, or cross that has Jesus hanging on it.)
My parents believed the same thing. That somehow it was the strict schooling and nuns that had changed me. In a way they were right, it was a nun who introduced me to forgiveness and accepting the Lord into my life. And as I said, from that day on I was never the same. That year Jesus became my best friend due to the way God orchestrated my life. Like many people in the Bible, my life was separated from just about everyone. My brothers were much older, and because of being a tomboy, my sisters wanted nothing to do with me.
As far as school friends, our family lived in the valley, but we attended school in Hollywood. So, because it took over an hour to get home on the public bus, I never could stick around after school to interact with the other children. On top of that, there was little to no interaction during a school day. It was just the other day that I was explaining this to one of my daughters, explaining how strict our school was. There was a 10 minute, then 15 and later 30 minute of free play like recess each day. And even while having lunch we sat at our desks and were forbidden to talk.
Much of my aloneness had to do with being a tomboy, that I mentioned earlier. It meant I never had any close girlfriends. On top of that, talking on the phone to classmates was not possible because it was long distances and expensive. The neighborhood children were much younger and during any other activities, like the ballet I took, and later the swimming, also kept me around other girls, but never close friends with anyone due to it being in other cities from where we lived. SO, this meant that for most of my childhood I had only ONE faithful close friend, Jesus.
The other thing I never had was a Bible. During this period in the Catholic church, having a Bible was frowned upon, even a Catholic bible. We were told that only a priest could comprehend the deep mysteries due to them having a doctorate in theology. So it wasn’t until my husband left, and left his bible behind that I really opened and read the Bible at length. Of course, during my crisis, like many of you, I devoured every word and in doing so, the RYM and WW were written from sheer memory. I didn’t have anything as wonderful as Biblegateway.com like we have now.
It was soon after I married that I stopped going to the Catholic church and mass. If my memory serves me, I believe we would take turns attending a Catholic and then attended a local Christian church. Then it became just once a month for the Catholic, until I guess I was weaned off of it. Honestly, I was terrified, because I had been taught that not attending was a mortal sin. Yet, due to my personal relationship with the Lord, I could sense I had done nothing too horrible or He certainly wouldn’t have stayed so close to me.
Even though I believe I carried a Bible to the Christian church, since everyone else did, for the most part I just leaned over and read along with the preacher from my husband’s bible—mostly because I wasn’t able to find a verse. I didn’t know there were many “books” of the Bible, so I was always embarrassingly lost and slow. I was however fascinated when on one Sunday the Christian preacher had us read Matthew 6:9, which were the beginning words of what Catholics call “The Our Father.” It wasn’t that verse, but the prior verse, the portion just above, that caught my attention and shook my faith:
Matthew 6:7-9 And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. In this manner, therefore, pray:
Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
This revelation hit me hard. All my life I had grown up around repeating “The Our Father” for penance after going to confession and while saying the rosary. So I couldn’t understand how the church has missed the portion that came just before it. When Jesus said NOT to REPEAT a prayer over and over again. This is something I pondered for a long time and asked the Lord about again and again. Yet I never got any real epiphany, not until years later, but I could sense that my Catholic faith had been cracked at its foundation due to this inconsistency.
The full collapse of me no longer considering myself a Catholic occurred when I read something else. While reading different portions of the Bible, I noticed how the angels often began with “Do not be afraid.” Like when the angel came to speak to Mary about conceiving Jesus through the Holy Spirit.
So why did this concern me?
The reason is because a very close friend was a priest, and during one of our theological discussions he told me that he often had people in his parish coming to him saying they had seen an angel. He had been taught in seminary that the first thing to ask was, “How did you feel?” And when they said, “Afraid” or “Frightened” then he assured them they hadn’t see an angel at all. That it had to be something else entirely because IF they really had seen an angel then they would have felt nothing but peace. Yet if seeing angels brought peace, then why would the most common greetings by angels begin with “Do not be afraid”?
It was with these two fallacies and inconsistencies, along with knowing I was still right with God, even though I’d begun missing mass again and again (especially later when I stopped going completely), yet Jesus hadn’t forsaken me. Nevertheless, since I have never once been rebellious the moment I got saved at 7, which is how my parents knew something radical had happened to me, I still fought the feeling of guilt. It wasn’t until many years later, not until I was spiritually mature and farther along in my faith, when I understood that guilt and condemnation wasn’t at all from God, but was instead from the enemy to separate us from the love of God.
Thankfully my journey with the Lord, which began at a very young age, that led to marrying someone who wasn’t Catholic, who later left me, was used and worked together for good! It was me who He called to be then pioneer of my family.
Once I fully understood that none of my siblings experienced the same salvation as I had when they had their first communion (the nun that introduced me to the Lord was at our school for only 2 years), and, more than likely my own parents didn’t know Him personally the way I did. That it was up to me to do something.
Yet, rather than debate with my siblings (since we are called to peace) or confront my parents (which would have been insubordination) with questions like: “Do you know where you’ll go when you die?” as we are told to do while witnessing to the “unsaved.” Instead, I turned to the Lord, and began traveling along my family’s salvation journey, that began, as usual with a crisis. My older and favorite brother was dying of leukemia.
This is the next Salvation Story that I am excited to share with you next.
But, while you wait, speak to the Lord and ask Him if you’re ready to Share your own Salvation Story. If you’re not sure you know Him in this way, or if you’re hanging onto religion, still afraid of letting go to gain a relationship with the Lord as I did when I was just seven, then tell Him that. I’m certain that had I not known Him personally I would never have been willing to let go of my church, which would have meant the difference in where my family would spend eternity.
In the coming weeks I have more than a dozen Salvation Stories from my own family I am excited to share to help you see how AMAZINGLY the Lord works when we simply trust Him and His word.
Acts 16:31 TLB—
“They replied, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, and your entire household.’”
It’s nothing WE do, but what He has done!!
“Do not fear! Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today..."
2 Chronicles 20:17—
You need not fight in this battle; station yourselves, stand and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf . . . Do not fear or be dismayed . . . the Lord is with you.”
And instead of “witnessing” confronting others about “where they’re going when they die” instead, we want them to experiencing knowing Him in order to live each day with Him!! And that’s what others need to witness in our lives.
* Witnessing is being an epistle or open book read by everyone who looks at our life.
2 Corinthians 3:2, KJV “Ye are our epistles written in our hearts, known and read of all men.”
2 Corinthians 3:2 “You are our letter, written in our hearts, known and read by all men.”
* Please be sure to you take the time to CLICK on each of the Bible Verse Links (above) to read the same verse in other versions that will enhance your experience!!