My Testimony (In His Arms)

I had it all together, until it all fell apart. I was an Ivy League educated physician with research accolades, a successful practice, a loving and devoted husband, and a gifted, handsome son. And even a fulfilling, creative hobby that had become a passion – ballroom dance – that my husband and I could share and that had carried us across the globe to share our love of dance with others.

Yet on April 17, 2000, the beautiful melody of our carefully orchestrated lives came to a screeching halt in a crescendo of offbeat discords. A call from the police had interrupted our son’s tenth birthday celebration at a theme park the day before, as the alarm at my mother’s house had sounded and she could not remember how to disarm it, or even how to unlock the dead bolt at the front door to let in the police. When we arrived she was wielding a butcher knife, trying to cut the wires to the blaring alarm, and then she planted herself against the wall, stubborn as a mountain goat, as we pleaded with her to come to the hospital with us.

Over the next few hours she quickly returned to her mild mannered, loveable self, and the doctor could find nothing wrong. Yet I feared that she had had a mild stroke and that Alzheimer’s disease was stealing away the mother I loved, just as it had her mother who had been my constant companion from the time I was born until she died when I was 14.

My grandmother had left me a legacy of faith and prayer that sustained her through a lifelong series of hardships. As a 16 year-old bride she emigrated from the Ukraine to Nova Scotia; lost nine children – all but my mother -- in childbirth or to pneumonia in early infancy; and lost her husband to a brain aneurysm when he was only 35. She moved to New York as a single parent, raising my mother by working long shifts in a bakery as she had never learned to read or write. Yet she was faithful to God through it all, praying to Jesus, drawing strength from her faith in Him, and even scrimping together enough money to donate to her church a beautiful mural of Ruth gleaning in the wheat fields of Boaz (Ruth 2:8).

Despite my grandmother’s example, I had always been a seeker – praying to God without knowing Him, reading the Bible dispassionately as a student of literature and history without grasping its significance (2 Timothy 4:3-4). In college I explored New Age philosophies and Eastern religions, never finding the truth I desperately hoped would transform my empty life and fill it with peace and joy.

An evangelist sat next to me on a long train ride when I was in college, patiently explaining that the only way to Heaven was through Jesus, Son of God (John 14:6), Who came to earth wrapped in human flesh (John 1:14) to be the perfect sacrifice for our sins. His death on the cross paid the debt for all our sins, past, present and future, so that whoever acknowledged and turned away from their sins, and had faith in His death, burial and resurrection, would be forgiven and have eternal life (1 Corinthians 15:1-28; John 3:16). But I was a know-it-all, self-righteous, desperately lost college girl who resented the intrusion into my study time and argued with the well-meaning stranger over the merits of reincarnation.

My futile search continued, leaving me empty and unsettled about my future and about how to cope with setbacks, sadness and trials. On that life-changing morning of April 17, 2000, my husband and I had to travel from Florida to New York for a dance competition, even though our dancing had taken giant strides backward and we could barely step on the dance floor without bitter arguing. Our son was hurt and disappointed that his birthday was spent mostly in the doctor’s waiting room, and my mother’s health was uncertain at best.

That morning we stopped at my office before leaving for the airport, only to find more bad news and chaos. The mail brought notice of two separate legal actions, each without basis, yet both attacking my professional credibility and threatening my career. To make matters worse, our office manager announced she was quitting without notice, leaving the practice in utter turmoil.

As we rushed off to the airport, I was too numb to care, overwhelmed by the office situation, my mother’s health, the legal battles, our son’s missed birthday, and our dancing which now brought more frustration than joy. We boarded the plane with feelings of resignation and doom, and my shoulders and neck were as tense as wet ropes wrung dry. My mouth felt like chalk, and my head throbbed as if a salsa band inside clanged off key and off time. I strapped myself into my seat and pinched my eyes shut for takeoff.

I tried to fight back the tears when suddenly there was no need to fight anything. The tension melted away like glacial ice warmed by the radiant sun, flowing into living water that engulfed me and floated me upward. A divine embrace protected and sheltered me, blessing me with complete peace, perfect love.

“Jesus,” I said aloud. It was both a prayer and a greeting. In His arms the words I had heard before without understanding, that He was my Savior and that through Him I had eternal life, became the only truth, the only reality worth knowing. At that moment I knew I would follow Him anywhere. In Him I was a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15), my sins forgiven (Romans 8:1-4), a child of God (Romans 8:14-17). I had been His enemy (James 4:4) and rebelled against His truth, yet He had adopted me as His own and even had appointed me to be His ambassador (2 Corinthians 5:20), to tell others of how He had changed my life (Matthew 28:19) and to honor and glorify Him in all that I do (1 Corinthians 10:31; Colossians 3:23).

As I remembered the evangelist who had told me of Jesus two decades earlier, I hoped he was not discouraged over planting seeds of truth and love seemingly wasted on my hardened heart (Matthew 13:3-23). I look forward to seeing him in glory and thanking him for the effect his words ultimately had in showing me the Way. Through the years I have thought often of that encounter, and of my grandmother’s loving model of faith and prayer, as they remind me that God’s Word never returns void (Isaiah 55:11) and that our work for Him is never in vain (Hebrews 6:10).

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