This is not my “testimony”…but it certainly is a big part of who I am, and why I am…what I am.-anita
I was brought up in an Independent, Fundamental, Bible Believing, Baptist Church; my dad was a pastor for over forty years, the ninth to come out of his family. Very strict…very conservative!
When I say that…I mean, no drinking, no smoking, no cursing, no dancing, women were not allowed to wear pants because they were men’s apparel -Deut. 22:5, and definitely NO mixed swimming…ladies were to dress in modest apparel!
When I would ask ‘why?’ I wasn’t allowed to do some things, he would answer like he was taught by his folks. About smoking, he would say: “If God would have wanted you to smoke, He would have put a fire-box in your belly, and a smoke stack on your head!” OR…”Fool on one end…fire on the other!” About dancing, he would say: A dancing foot, and a praying knee, don’t grow on the same leg!” When it came to Field Day in Grade School, I was the only one running the dash in a dress! In Gym class, he told my P.E. teacher I was not allowed to climb the ropes because God had given him a child…not a monkey!
EVERYTHING WAS A “NO!”
But, thank God, even among all the “NOs!”…I did realize that, “YES!!” , Jesus died for my sins; and I made Him my Savior at the age of 17.
When Mike and I got married, we were in our 40’s, and were looking for something more than “NO!”. He was a new Christian, and had been raised in the Catholic Church, where religion seemed a mystery, and only the priest could talk to God.
I frankly was sick of all the “NOs!”, and wanted an answer, other than all the clichés, to all the “WHYs?” in my mind. We had a friend that attended a Pentecostal Church, so we decided to visit.
Mike is a musician, and had played in bars all of his life. After attending this new church for a while, he decided to stop playing in bars. Not long after his decision, he was asked to join the band. I was so proud of him for giving up the worldly music, and he loved playing in church! I began video taping the services as an encouragement to him.
In on particular service, unbeknownst to me, I was caught on camera. Worship service was going on; I was standing in one spot, hands folded…conservative stance. The lady next to me in the pew began to raise her hands…I moved an inch or two in the opposite direction. Not long after, she started speaking in tongues, and then broke out into a dance. The look on my face can only be described as terrified! Within five seconds, I found myself at the opposite end of the pew, which was about six feet from her, and I was already running down the aisle heading for the exit! After that experience, I sat on the back row…right next to the exit door! LOL!
We attended that church for nine years, and I eventually found my way back to the front…and YES…I even began to raise my hands and clap to the music. In that church, I learned what you SHOULD and SHOULDN’T DO as a Christian. I learned much about the power of the Holy Spirit. It was life changing for me!
After we left there, we began to attend a non-denominational church. It was primarily African-American, and everything taught there was about Love, Grace, and Freedom. Pretty much everything I had been taught in the Baptist Church, was taught the opposite way in this church. Women could were pants…even to church, and even short shorts were fine! Some people in ministry smoked…pretty much everyone drank…at least occasionally…they all danced, and used the words “damn and hell” like salt and pepper! It was very foreign to me, and extremely confusing! Even though love was always talked about…there was a great deal of prejudice. It was subtle, but still felt. We were there thirteen years.
I have only attended The Gathering for a short time, and all I have ever heard here is the truth. Not the truth as I see it…but the truth as God’s Word proclaims it…with Scripture to back it up! In this church, I have learned that God is primarily concerned with the thoughts and intents of our hearts…not with what we do, or do NOT do, nor with what we say or how we act…or even how others perceive us; but what God knows about us in the recesses of our hearts.
I look at what God says about David…how he was a man after Gods’ own heart. I pondered on that for sometime, remembering David committed adultery, and even had her husband killed to cover up his sin, for she became pregnant. In one Psalm, David is praising God and exalting Him…and in the next, he is pleading with God not to cast him away! It seems contradictory, but it’s not. Then, I look at myself. I’ve done some really terrible things in my life; some deliberately…but most were just mistakes due to my fleshly house. Most were not intentional, – just foolish choices, – done on impulse. God KNOWS the desire of my heart is to be just like Him! That was David’s desire as well…so now I get it!
Here at The Gathering, I have learned what I CAN DO… “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!” I have learned what I SHOULD DO… “Make my calling an election sure!” I have learned what I OUGHT NOT TO DO… “Judge others, lest I find myself in their shoes!” And, I have learned…I have unlimited freedom in Christ’s atonement for my sin. AND…when I do fall…His Grace is there to pick me up, for His forgiveness is boundless!
By: Anita Mondragon Oct. 2015