I grew up in a religious denomination that only further kept me bound to my perfectionist tendencies and rule-following nature. The Bible was just a nice center-piece on our coffee table, and I was never really encouraged to pursue the truth that is found in it. My religious upbringing and struggling relationship with my dad, who was an on and off again recovering alcoholic for many years (that eventually cost him his life) negatively impacted my view of God. Sadly, I saw Him only as vengeful and angry who would smite me down if I was not perfect.
My parents divorced when I was about ten years old, and my mom remarried shortly after that and became pregnant with my sister. My younger brother and I moved around a lot with my mom, baby sister, and step-dad (who would eventually abandon our family in 2011) through most of grade school and junior high, which only created a deeper sense of insecurity within me and around me. I longed to find contentment and consistency, but all I could find was chaos and confusion within my young heart.
Dealing with perfectionism, rejection, countless insecurities, depression, anxiety, and a giant void in my heart that only God could fill, I quickly became ensnared by sexual encounters beginning at the tender age of twelve (cyber sex and pornography) and began pursuing attention from boys, giving myself away piece by piece. This pull to find genuine love and security (in the wrong places) only grew worse as I got older, and I wrestled with my sexual sin, all while feeling disgusted and hating myself even more. (This pattern in my life continued until I was about 22 years old- an entire decade of internal struggle, pain, sexual sin, and self-loathing).
But by my freshman year of high school, the gossip being spread around about this “backseat cheerleader” cut me deeply, and I didn’t like who I was becoming. I then found myself surrounded by a group of friends at school who I wanted to be like. They were the Christians in the school; I tried to blend in with them by imitating their words and actions, thinking that maybe this would help me change into a “better person.”
Although it would be a painful six-year journey, God was drawing me to Himself.
At age 16, I attended a youth conference with my Christian high school sweetheart and youth group friends and heard a Gospel presentation for the first time ever. There was an alter call invitation given, which I responded to because the weight of the shame of my sin was crushing me; I wanted to be free. It was a very emotional experience for me that night because I knew I was definitely in need of forgiveness.
Falling to my knees, I laid my sins at the foot of the cross, and cried out to Jesus to forgive me. But looking back, this entire experience was not genuine repentance- merely worldly sorrow over my sins. For the next six years, I would pick back up those very same sins that brought so much guilt, shame, and feeling of being “dirty,” try to be “good” and “clean myself up” yet failed miserably time and time again.
Sadly, I wasn’t attending a very solid church in high school (the pastor was a woman for starters, which is completely unBiblical)- I wasn’t even encouraged to be baptized or discipled after I professed faith in Christ. I knew John 3:16 by heart, but I didn’t fully understand it. I knew Jesus died so that I may be forgiven of my sin and restored back to the Father, but I just couldn’t shake my religious upbringing; I still thought that I had to work to keep that forgiveness. Obviously, I didn’t understand the Biblical Gospel at all- that I was justified through grace alone by faith alone in Christ alone for the glory of God alone. The seed of the gospel message I heard fell among the weeds and the cares of the world choked it out. I clearly didn’t fully trust Christ’s finished work on the cross- I was trying to trust in my own works as well. I didn’t want to obey because I loved God, I wanted to obey for works-sake, to uphold a good appearance before my peers. I continued to attend church and youth group, including mission trips, through high school, but I never cracked open my Bible; I had no desire to.
My performance-driven mentality affected all areas of my life throughout high school and college. No matter how hard I tried to be perfect, I never felt like I was becoming a “better person.” Soon enough, I gave into temptation after temptation; I found myself entangled with alcohol and harmful relationships with men. I did many dangerous things that only served to create glue-strong attachments— things like an adulterous relationship with a married man when I was just 19 (although shortly after that relationship ended, I gave my virginity away to my college boyfriend- who I later discovered tragically took his own life in 2018) and countless one-night stands with random men I followed home from the bar.
After my freshman year of college, I transferred schools, ditched my plans to become an English teacher, and switched my major to theatre performance instead. My love for theater and acting became my means of escaping the reality that I hated who I had become, so as an actress, I could just be someone else. I tried to find fulfillment in the fantasy relationships I had with others on stage and tried to make it exist off-stage (this is where my adulterous relationship came into play). My pride caused me to become the center of my own universe. I would attempt to prove that I was worthy of love by my talents and good looks, trying to fill the emptiness inside even more, but it only made it worse. I was constantly anxious and depressed.
I knew God was there, but I had no revelation about His grace or love towards me (How could I when I never read my Bible?). Again, just like in high school, I found myself utterly disgusted with myself. I would cry out to God to help me, but my sin always felt stronger.
Since I never opened my Bible, and I was not attending church, I searched for answers in astrology and horoscopes and read books like The Secret, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, and A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle. Obviously, none of that helped because it is completely void of absolute truth (that can only be found in God’s Word). I then reached a point where I stopped trying to “do better” and “be better.” Instead, I chose to live in my pit of sin and made plans to run away to Los Angeles to become an actress to pursue my “calling and purpose” and prove to the world my worth, talent, beauty, and charm.
But even in my pit of sin, God was still pursuing me and calling my name. With arms wide open, He was waiting and ready for me to come to my senses, to the end of myself and come home. In God’s providence, the Holy Spirit would raise this dead one to life, and I would truly repent of my sins, take up my cross, and follow Christ.
One Sunday morning, only a couple months after I graduated from college, I attended church with my mom and sister for the first time in many years; she had been watching the pastor on TV and invited me to come check it out with her. During the worship service, I believe the Holy Spirit brought the parable of the prodigal son to my mind. I began to experience this deep conviction that I was living a reckless and sinful life that offended God who is altogether holy and that I had been running away from the Father. It truly was my prodigal son moment— I came to my senses and the end of myself (Luke 15) and no longer wanted to live in the filth of my sinful life. Immediately, I knew I needed to repent of my sin and start running toward the Father. He was there, all along, waiting for me with arms open wide.
In that moment, I realized where I truly belonged. Right there, with hands lifted in worship, and tears streaming down my face, I repented of my pride and rebellion; I told God that I didn’t want to live this life on my own anymore, and that I wanted to surrender to His plan, stop living for myself and live for Him instead.
As I loosened my grip on the plans for my life (one finger at a time, of course), I began to discover my purpose and identity in Christ and His great love for me. I laid down my prideful desires to become an actress in LA, picked up my cross, and committed to truly follow Jesus, no matter the cost, for the first time in my life. But because I was still so ignorant about the Bible, the church I found myself in was a WOF/hyper-charismatic church (even though at the time, I had no idea what that even meant).
My husband Paul was born and raised in that very WOF/hyper-charismatic church. We met there a few months after I began attending in 2008 and got married in 2009. Even though we were still deceived by certain false teaching, we left that church in 2010 when we began to see how worldly it had become; it was broadcasted on TV and had become more of an entertainment business than a church, using Jesus as a marketing tool instead of the object of our worship.
Paul and I were involved in several churches and ministries through out our marriage and have served in various leadership roles in ministry together such as worship ministry and student ministry.
In 2013, I was convicted that I finally needed to be baptized as a believer (even though I was baptized as an infant in the Roman Catholic faith).
A few years into my walk with Christ, I became fascinated by prophetic worship, the house of prayer movement, and hyper-charismatic/NAR type of experiences at various conferences featuring Karen Wheaton’s The Ramp and Bethel associated leaders like Heidi Baker and Randy Clark. I was always chasing encounters and looking to experience “more of God.” I truly just wanted to serve and worship Jesus.
I fasted constantly, attended Bible studies, read the Bible from cover to cover (unknowingly without proper exegesis and with Word of Faith/prosperity gospel filters on), and spent hours of time in prayer and worship where I would receive “downloads from heaven,” making sure I wrote down every single word in my journal— all of this only made me more self-righteous and judgmental of those who were not as “on fire for God” as me. I truly just wanted to serve and worship Jesus with everything in me.
At one point in time, Paul and I were even both working for Joyce Meyer Ministries before I became a stay-at-home mom in 2014.
But in 2015, our eyes were opened to the utter deception we were under and our hearts were reminded of the true gospel of Jesus Christ that we believed, even though our eyes had strayed to lesser things in the allure of the prosperity gospel. The Lord used various sound teachers such as Paul Washer, John Piper, John MacArthur, and R.C. Sproul to help us out of that movement, but Justin Peter’s “A Call for Discernment”, now called “Clouds without Water,” seminar was probably the most impactful in our lives. The Lord also used American Gospel: In Christ Alone in January 2019 to convict us to cut the very last tie to the WOF movement once and for all…Paul’s job at JMM. Before Paul put in his resignation, he presented a document to the executives about the countless errors and heresy found in Joyce’s teachings.
Paul and I have repented and turned away from our false beliefs completely, and we are members of a sound and Biblical church (FINALLY! ??). Since coming out of the Word of Faith movement, we have grown immensely on our walk with the Lord and in our discernment and theology. Because of that, our faith in God and love for God (and the gospel) has deepened and has become so much richer. We no longer read the Bible using eisegesis or with WOF filters on (praise God!), and we have learned how to study the Bible in its proper context. We are now teaching our sons about the grace and sovereignty of God and reading the Bible (context, context, context!).
I no longer seek out extra-Biblical experiences that I practiced for many years (ecstatic tongues, trance-like meditation and prayer, automatic writing, and listening for prophetic revelation from heaven), which I later discovered have their roots in Eastern mysticism and the New Age Movement (just like the astrology and self-help books I read in college), and I have since repented.
Paul and I both believe in and rely on the sufficiency of scripture. Most importantly, we long to study the scriptures like Bereans.
“We do not study to be smarter than the next man, but to behold God’s glory.”Paul Washer
Paul and I also now have a passion to minister to others who have been deceived by false teaching, specifically the WOF/hyper-charismatic/NAR movements. To connect with us and to learn more about our ministry, visit www.wewouldratherhavejesus.com.
Although I was caught up in the deception of false teaching for a time, I have never stopped running after God, and He has never stopped running after me.
God has shown me His overwhelming love as my Father, who will never leave me nor reject me (unlike my earthly fathers). I rest in God’s sovereignty and lean on Christ’s grace and strength. I fully receive the Father’s forgiveness, no longer working to earn it or keep it. I also no longer strive to “do better,” but fully rest and trust the Spirit’s sanctifying work in my life.
Knowing that I have been forgiven of so much, I long to be filled with God’s redeeming love to then pour it out to all who I meet. I desire to proclaim to others that they can never out-run God’s love.
If you are one of God’s sheep, He will continue to call your name until you find your way safe and secure into His arms.Tweet
The Lord has been so incredibly faithful to me, even when I have not been faithful to Him. As the great Potter of my life, God has completely healed me, delivered me from deception, transformed me, and given me such a hunger for His Word. For that, I am forever grateful, and I will live my life to be a vessel for Him to reach others.
I pray that through my life, I always point others to Jesus Christ and His truth most of all.