A lot of people hope for that "Bright Light" power testimony that Paul had, but mine started off, like a lot of people, kindof boring: I heard my pastor, Dr. Rick Blackwood, preach from the book of Revelation and knew I didn't want to be left behind when the rapture occurs. That night, at the age of 12 years, I prayed looking up at the Holly Hobby canopy on my bed without seeing it, for I was gazing straight up into heaven, and asked Jesus to save me from my sins. I know that He saved me that night, even though fireworks did not explode and a choir of angels did not serenade me to sleep that night.
But oh! I was on fire for the Lord! Read the Bible my dear Sunday School teacher, Mrs. Pratt, gave me, and even sung in the choir. As I grew up, though, and went to high school, then went on to college, I discovered a crucial truth: muscles that are not exercised don't get stronger.
Romans 12:1-2 (NIV) states this: "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will." Quite simply, even though I was saved (justified), I did nothing to grow my faith and allow God to transform me by Him renewing my mind (sanctification). Because of this, I fell out of step with God, and fell into friendships and relationships which a Child of God has no business having.
Subsequently, I found myself pregnant in college. Even though the doctor at the college infirmary made it clear there were many options available (meaning abortion), the Lord's clear, small voice shattered through the scar tissue of my heart and soul and I knew killing my child was no option at all. I married three months later, and my son Sam was born six months after the wedding.
From the beginning, Sam was different. He was inconsolable. Screaming, crying, never sleeping. Something was wrong but I didn't know what. When I became pregnant again, the father did not want another child and demanded I abort. I refused. He launched into abusive behavior that was driven by an undiagnosed mental illness. Jacob was born during this time period -- an incredibly happy little boy. He was named Jacob not because it's been the most popular boy name for a million years but because, I thought, if God can redeem the Jacob of the Bible, He can redeem any situation.
The abuse continued even though we moved to a different town, participated in marriage counseling, obtaining a diagnosis of bipolar disorder for the father, and joining a church. Sam was diagnosed at this time with ADHD, high-functioning autism, epilepsy and other learning disorders. Having a name -- autism -- for Sam's disability only helped me learn more about it in order to help him, but his father did not believe this diagnosis and began to neglect Sam in addition to continuing the abuse he intended for me, which was physical, emotional, spiritual, and in other ways.
A few years later, at the very end of my rope, I asked Jesus again for forgiveness -- I knew I was saved, but I needed to know He forgave me for the way in which I had lived my life. At that time in 2004, I surrendered my life to Christ and didn't look back.
Still, the abuse continued. He was a non-believer. He ridiculed my family, my faith, and stopped going to church all together. We would go to counseling sessions in which he would be all smiles and nodding and pleasant -- only to get me home after the sessions and hit me for the truth that I had spoken in the sessions.
At this time I started a Bible study and immersed myself in His Word. I had a brand-new Bible for Christmas and it was like the words were freshly written and printed just for me -- hot off God's printing press. I read Matthew 19:6, "So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate," and 2nd Corinthians 6:14, "Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?"
I also read and studied this passage from Ephesians 5:25-33: "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church -- for we are members of his body. “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband."
Reading these passages of Scripture, I realized some very incredible truths: Lust does not bring people together in relationships that are glorifying to God. Lust does not bring together people in relationships and marriages that last. We are not to be yoked with unbelievers -- especially if those unbelievers are so categorically against the faith and persecute their spouses. Just as wives are to respect their husbands, husbands are called to love their wives just as Christ loves the church.
These things were not happening in that "marriage." One night it all came to a head: in a rage, he hit my chest with such force it sent me flying back, feet flying up, and I landed flat on my back. He sat on top of my chest, pinning my arms under him, and, grabbing my hair, pounded my head into the hardwood floor. I had to have surgery to fix a catastrophically herniated disc at the L4/L5 vertebrae that had made me paralyzed in my right leg. I had a concussion and bruising all over. He ordered me to choose: him, or Jesus.
I chose Jesus.
After much, much prayer, nine days after back surgery, I told him I wanted a divorce. He said he had been wanting the same thing, and wanted out. I gained full custody of the boys and the house. When he left on Ash Wednesday (most people just give up chocolate for Lent), Jesus entered my home with a peace that passed all understanding. Jesus provided for the boys and myself through love and support from my church family, through food, incredible support from my employer, and most of all -- Himself.
I must interject here: I do not believe in divorce. I believe that a man and woman should enter the marriage covenant with God at the helm and not steer away from that. I also believe firmly that spousal abuse is a sin. If you are experiencing abuse at the hands of your spouse (husband or wife), get help. Get out if necessary for safety. Do not become a statistic. Try counseling, medical help, everything -- but most of all, pray -- for your spouse, for your children, for yourself.... and know that you are not alone.
.....Six months later, my parents moved in with the boys and I so we could help each other out. A week after they moved in, my dad was diagnosed with terminal small-cell lung cancer. God provided the blessing of being able to spend every day with my dad and take away burdens that my mom had during this time. Daddy went Home with Jesus on March 12, 2006.
God does have a sense of humor, though. The night I was moving my parents in with me, I prayed and said, "Lord, you know my taste in men. So, when YOU think I'm ready, would you please bless me with someone whom YOU want for me? The only things I ask are these: that he be a Godly man, and taller than I am." I am 6 feet tall.
That very night, my good friend from church, who had the previous year been transferred to the NC mountains, called me, told me to go outside and look at the moon for it was beautiful. It was by far the most romantic thing Greg ever did. I am hoping he will surpass that one day. I pray on it. Greg and I dated, and he asked me to marry him after my divorce was finalized. He is a Godly man who sings in the choir, teaches Sunday School, prays with and for me, and has taken on the incredible role of step-father to my two boys, one of whom has profound special needs and the other who has severe ADHD. I became a step-mother to his precious daughter, Ellison, from a previous marriage. We had a child together, in 2010. Laura is a joy and a blessing to us all. The funny thing is this: Greg is six feet, one inch tall.... God answered my prayer by one inch. I still giggle over that.
The Lord started off my walk of faith with a boring testimony, but has been with me and never left...even when I stopped praying, reading the Bible, or going to church. He has always been with me, nudging me back to Him, with the experiences He has given me.
2nd Corinthians 1:3-4 states this: "Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God." I believe God has blessed me with a wide variety of experiences and testimonies so that I can give Him the glory, to comfort others going through similar situations. To share the hope that exists in a relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Great Physician Who has the cure -- Himself -- for the disease of sin, for the trauma of poisoned relationships, for the hurt that we all feel. God is the Provider....and the Provision.
Even though my first marriage ended, God DID redeem it. God has brought women in my path that were experiencing similar horrors of domestic violence, and allowed me to share the one Gift I have to share: Jesus. God even abolished my intense fear of flying and called me to Africa, where He enabled me to share my story with a woman who had also been abused at the hands of her husband....and led her to Christ, our Husband-Redeemer.
My testimony gained a horrific new twist in November of 2015 when my family and I experienced a violent tragedy in which my husband was shot and paralyzed from the waist down. This tragedy has been the hardest thing that my family has dealt with to date. Yet -- and I do love that our Lord is the Lord of Yets -- God's Presence, Power and Provision has never been more real. "Clinging to the Cross" has taking on a whole new meaning as my husband has gone back to work, driving with hand controls, and I added "caregiver" to my list of things I do. Our whole family has been affected by this, but this tragedy is not bigger than our God. Jesus has been with us at each step and we continue to trust Him even though life is incredibly difficult. We covet your prayers.
To God be the Glory.
Terrie Bentley McKee