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My love story.
I was number 6 of 7 siblings, second to the youngest. I was born and raised in a Catholic family for which I am grateful.  I learned at an early age that God is real, He is the creator and He is to be respected. My mother struggled with mental illness and yet thankfully, I never questioned her love for me. My father passed away when I was in the 4th grade.  He was my mother’s stability.  After his death, we left our little Gentleman’s Farm, as my father used to call it. We began to move and move and then move again, typically at the beginning of a school year or in February, sometimes both in one year.  I went to 12 schools from 5th through 12th grade.

With each move, I was always starting over and longing for the feeling of belonging to someone or something. At the tender age of 12, Strawberry Hill Wine and Marijuana was a gateway to a new type of community.  I found a community that was easy to jump in and out of, regardless of moving. However, it also created a lifestyle that welcomed very pitiful and stupid decisions for me to feel as though I belonged. Deep and unhealthy relationships began to weave in and out of my life.

I will skip a lot of war stories and fast-forward to my high school senior year. I had no purpose in life, other than to survive and belong. I had no dreams or plans for my future.  However, if I continued my education, as a widow my mother would receive a check from the government. So I signed up for classes at a local community college.

Have you ever seen a mother cat pick up her kitten by the scruff of the neck and plop her baby in a designated place?  That is exactly what God did to me. A friend told me about a four year college in Branson Missouri, now called College of the Ozarks.  Every student worked 20 hours a week and it paid for their room, board and tuition. I signed up for the work program in what just so happened to be a Christian college. It just so happened that I met Gwen, my best friend to this day, in the registration line.  Gwen and I just so happened to be in the same dorm room, workstation and some classes together. Our sense of humors clicked and we immediately hit it off. And yet I kept wondering why this good girl wanted to be my friend.

I began to think I had somehow joined a cult! There was an iron rod gate at the entrance that was locked at midnight.  There was a curfew that you had to be in your dorms at a certain hour. There was a dorm mother whom you had to inform if you were going to be away for the weekend. Not to mention, there was a bit of a dress code and mandatory chapel attendance. (I have some funny stories if you ever want to hear the longer version of this experience.)

As Gwen and I did college life together, this blond haired, blue eyed, Baptist girl kept gently telling me about Jesus.  One night we were outside talking.  There were two other people behind us talking.  Now I know that Gwen was presenting the Gospel to me. I was sitting there thinking, “Great, these Bible beaters just got out of some big meeting and are trying to see who else they can drag back with them.” And suddenly I hear Gwen say, “So would you like to pray?”

Me, “No, but you can pray if you want to.”

In her prayer, I heard her say, “God, you love Lynn so much.”

I was sitting there looking at her with one eye open thinking, “You have no idea where I’ve been or what I have done. You cannot say that God loves me.”

Time went on and Gwen got me a Bible.  I had never read the Bible before. I started learning about Jesus. Some things I liked about Jesus and some things I did not like. In those early days of our friendship Gwen was Jesus in the flesh, loving and praying for me along the way. Eventually, I began to get a better well-rounded picture of God but I had two sticking points.

  • Even if God could forgive me, why would He want to?
  • Jesus was to be accepted as not only Savior of my soul but could I submit to Him as Lord of my earthly life as well?

God gently wooed me to Himself. I continued to learn of the depth of His love. I finally understood why Gwen could say that God loved me and because of His love He would want to forgive me. My level of commitment and loyalty as a follower of Christ began to grow to the point of not only submitting to, but wanting Jesus as Lord of my life.

Fast forward maybe 3 months, and Gwen and I are in my dorm room watching television.  We were not having a spiritual conversation.  I turned to Gwen and say, “I think I’m ready.”  It was so random, I think she said, “Ready for what, popcorn?”

Me, “No, no. You know, to pray.  I think I’m ready to pray.”
And at that, Gwen led me in a simple sinner’s prayer.

That was the day I said, “I do” to God.  I became part of the church, the bride of Christ.  “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.“ Ephesians 5:25-27

I had no idea how faithful and loyal God would remain to me after that covenant prayer. And I had no idea how loyal I would become to Him.  I fell in love with Jesus and on that day I said, “I do”.

There were no fireworks and my life did not change overnight. But I became born again. I was an infant with a ravenous appetite. I could not get enough of reading the Bible. On days that I didn’t want to read, I would pray, “Father, make me hungry for your Word.”

As I read the Bible, I would try my best to respond and grow into what I was reading. I found that obedience opens the door to growth.  I had to make some decisions about my lifestyle and relationships that felt as if I were cutting off my right arm.

I began basking in His love and longing to bring Him pleasure.  To this day, I rest in the truth that He sees me without stain or wrinkle, holy and blameless, a beautiful bride who is waiting for His return.  I know I still get my feet dirty as I walk through life on this earth. He is the one I go to and ask to make them clean again. Over and over as I ask for forgiveness and He washes my feet to be clean once again. As His beautiful bride, I am waiting for His return! John 13:8-10

I was so skeptical and I had so many questions when Gwen was trying to tell me about Jesus. I often ask Gwen, “What was it like being on the other side?”  .

She said,“I felt like a bumbling idiot. But I couldn’t help myself.  God put such a strong love for you in my heart.  I felt desperate to share Jesus with you.”

I’m so thankful she pushed through those foolish feelings for Christ. I Corinthians 4:10  She truly spoke truth from the Bible I had never heard or read.

This is the short version, if you’d like to hear the medium version let’s have coffee. And the long version? Just do life next to me, as the author of faith is still writing my love story, until He returns!

Lynn Jackson
Thrive Leadership Foundation