Today's post was written by Brook Hills' member, Jeannie Jackson. Look for Part 2 of Jeannie's testimony next Tuesday, June 18.

I grew up in a family of 10 - 7 boys and 3 girls, raised by a single mother, extremely poor. My mother was a believer but had herself grown up in severe circumstances and never really knew the true love of Christ - His complete forgiveness and love - and so, sadly, never knew His healing of her woundedness. I think she always felt so unworthy.

I was not raised in church but always have been aware of God and a desire to belong. The problem was I saw Him as the fire and brimstone, wrathful God. I thought He was harsh and punishing and cold and very, very angry. I was really afraid of Him.

There was abuse of every sort in my life. I witnessed things as a child that most adults have not seen. And so there was guilt and shame from as long as I can remember, and as far as I was aware, I was not fit for God. I did not experience being loved and did not see God as loving at all. And, like so many others, I built walls around me to protect myself. I vowed at a very young age that, while you may hurt me, I would not let you see me cry. I was on my own, something else I always knew. There was so much sin and evil around me, and I knew it was wrong and "resolved" to be a good girl, forsaking drinking, drugs, sexual immorality, and the crime that was all around me. I maintained that resolve until my heart was broken senior year of high school. And so I reckoned, "what good has being a good girl ever gotten me?"

I entered into the life I had sworn to stay away from. I learned later that God was at work in my life even then, for while I was still a sinner, Christ died for me (Rom. 5:8). I totaled 3 cars before I was 25 and walked away from all of them! God gave me ambition and enough tenacity to make a pretty decent living in spite of only a high school education. I had a better career than I could have ever imagined, a nice house, everything I thought I ever wanted, and far more than I could have ever hoped for. I went through two husbands. They, much like me, in their lifestyle choices. But none of that filled the hole in my deeply wounded soul. I lived this ungodly life for 20 years, suppressing the guilt for what I knew to be wrong. My continued lifestyle feeding the shame I had always had. I was harsh, cold, mean, offensive, unforgiving, and morally and spiritually bankrupt.

I even tried to "get saved" and baptized when I was 25, but it didn't "take." I kept living the same ole life. Years later, God brought me to a place on my life where I had such torment in my mind and conscience that I could not go on. Still, I resisted for a few more years, miserable as I was, until He finally broke me and I could resist no longer. But what was I to do? I couldn't go to God. Not the mess that I was. Immoral, drunkard, liar, cheater, profane, mean, cold. I absolutely knew He wanted nothing to do with me. I have never had a problem with believing in God. I just knew he didn't want me. I was so unfit.

I had a child. That changed a lot, as any parent knows. I got divorced from a man I loved as much

[caption id="attachment_511" align="alignright" width="300"] Jeannie and her daughter Savannah[/caption]

as I could love someone with my heart as wounded as it was. I went to recovery meetings, and that is where I heard something that changed my life. YOU DON'T HAVE TO BE CLEAN BEFORE YOU COME TO GOD! Really? How did that work? How could someone like me come to God? I knew NOTHING about the Bible except my predisposed notion that it was full of holy people. I knew little about church except that all the folks there were clean in contrast to my dirtiness. Folks, never assume what unbelievers are thinking. I was 40 years old with a good thinking mind, and these were my assumptions.

My daughter, who was 5, and I started visiting churches, quietly slipping in and out, not speaking to anyone. I didn't want them to know what a dirty sinner was in the building. I received Christ. I didn't tell anyone. I received Him over and over and over because I didn't think it was working. I didn't FEEL forgiven and I didn't FEEL clean. What if He didn't want me because of my past? For three years, I sat in the church listening and being condemned, not convicted. It wasn't the pastor. He was preaching great truth. But the enemy did not want to let me go. He accused and replayed everything I had ever done, not just in church, but constantly. "How could I sit in church with all these clean people after the way I had lived my life. Remember this thing? Remember that thing? What a hypocrite you are!" Over and over and over these things played in my mind until I finally had a full blown mental breakdown.

That's what the professionals called it. They really didn't know what was wrong with me. But I was to the point that, had it not been for the fact I had a daughter to raise, I would have taken my life. I don't say that lightly. It was the absolute truth. I just could not live with the pain of the torment my life was. It was really enemy oppression. Prozac and all other types of drugs only numbed me and made it possible for me to go back to work after three months, but what a mess I was. I was in bondage. I was still in torment. I was able to keep my job only by the grace of God because I certainly was not productive mentally.

Part 2 of "The Mess that I Was" will be posted next Tuesday, June 18.