I Wouldn't Take Nothing for My Journey Now!

The Personal Testimony of Lori McKnight

I moved to Pontotoc, Mississippi in 1982. I was 16 years old and a junior in High School. My parents made me move and finish my last year of school in Pontotoc, instead of staying behind and continuing my education in Illinois, which I was planning on doing. We moved five times in three different states before I finished the third grade. I felt very unsettled and was not a crowd pleaser. So, eating, television, movies, and music were my way to escape reality. These are not the best combinations or a solution. I had no self-esteem and I hated my surroundings. I look back now and see how God's grace was always there. I pushed a part of my ability to love deep within me and I became sarcastic. I had extreme burst of joy, then went to deep times of depression. I had a warped reality.

When I was a young teenager, I began to see the danger in the world around me, so I stayed in a state of defense to the outside. Everyone seemed to be in control of who I was, how I was to act and when I could act that way. However, none of those in charge were acting like they wanted me to act. I was like a puppet on a string and I could not cut the strings loose.

When I moved to Pontotoc at 16 years old, I had very little exposure to church and what I heard did not make sense. The people I knew who went to church were the very ones that were so bad in the world. I had to fight to keep them from sucking me into their troubled lives. (Thank you God for grace.) I felt very alone and as if no one understood me. For years I felt as if I were searching for something to make me feel like a whole person.

I attended a tent revival in the fall of 1982. A preacher told about how God loved us and if we did not want to die and go to hell we needed to pray this prayer and we would be saved by God. I did not want to go to hell and felt as if this must be what I had searched for. So I did as he said and started attending Green Valley Mission in Pontotoc, Mississippi. I was interested and enthusiastic about this new venture. However, I wanted to be around kids my age so I went to other churches also. I met with strong opposition to going to church. Unfortunately, I was very easily led astray and felt as if my strings were pulled in every direction. I had no control of my life and seemed I could not make any right decisions.

It seemed as if attending church caused a great struggle inside me.

Before we moved to Pontotoc, we lived in such a wicked and dangerous area that you had to be on the defensive. I now lived where I could leave my house open at night, my car doors unlocked and not worry about getting attacked as I walked down the street. But, by not being on the defensive, it left me wading into territory I had never been in and was not ready to handle.

I had something in me telling me that all the opposition I was hearing about church must be true. I had not really trusted in God, I had just started to hear about God and His word. Most of the people I knew thought that you go to church on Sunday morning and Wed. night, but it does not take over your life. I was very vulnerable and I turned away from church. Then I began to make bad choices and went with the wrong crowds. Always trying to be good, but feeling miserable. I visited a couple different churches, but the more I heard about God, the more my human nature would kick in until I quit fighting it. I seemed to embrace it, I was overpowered by it. The one part of my life I felt was missing was love and acceptance. Churches talked about love but I was still empty. All the things I had turned to in the world left me feeling more empty. As people get older; they put away childish ways. I knew I was getting older and I wanted a family of my own. I married in 1986 and gained a stepdaughter. I had a daughter of my own in 1989. In my eyes I thought I had failed as a woman. I had no college education, because I did not think I was smart enough. I did not have the support to push me in the direction I needed to go. I was hoping that I would be a good mother and give my daughter a life style that she deserved. By the time Kim was 3, with the help of my husband's family I realized that children should be in a church environment. I started attending a local church with my mother-in-law, her daughter and son-in-law. They were kind, loving people, and I had grown to care deeply for them and respected their opinion. Having Kim in church was something they felt very strongly about. I joined the church and thinking I was saved just backslidden. I had never been baptized, so when I joined the church, I was baptized.

I spent a lot of time being depressed, because all that I was learning did not seem to be working in my life. I figured that I was not doing something right. I worked for many years to find out what that was. Did I pray enough? Did I help people enough? Should I work harder in the church? Or, was I just not praying enough for the specific things? The only thing that did keep me from feeling the lack of worth was helping somebody. As long as I felt I was needed to help someone I felt I had some self worth. The battle inside me grew to an unbearable form. There was nothing at this point kept me from feeling like a black hole. I did not need anyone to tell me how worthless I was because there was a continuous recording in my head to remind me. I had failed as a wife, a mother, a daughter, a worker and everything else that came along.

By 1994 this battle took its toll on my health. I realize now it was the grace of God that kept me alive, kept my husband from walking away and kept my child safe. I did get some help from doctors to control some of the damage I had done to myself. But the problems were still there. I learned to cope with the battle as best I could and tried to build my life again. I quit church during this time and tried to keep anyone from knowing how I could not handle things. When I felt like I was getting overloaded and could not cope with life, I would (as in the past) try to seclude myself. I spent years going through the motions and at times, I know, God would let me enjoy life. I still felt as if there was something missing. The joy and praise of God was not in my world. I was easily offended and not very forgiving. I felt I deserved things that I had lost or were taken away from me over the years.

I truly believe God needed to pull me out of the world I was in to make me helpless, so He could do His work. I was laid-off from my job and lost my insurance for my family. These were two things that I felt I contributed to the family and they gave my a great sense of self worth. The world around me now had me confused, and I felt too old to start over. When I interviewed for jobs I did not fit what they were looking for. I spent nearly a year with no work, with the exception of a couple of temporary jobs that lasted a few weeks. Through it all, my family seemed to draw together during this time.

Everything in the church where I had attended was divided. I felt turmoil in the place in which I was looking for refuge. I was supposed to lay my burdens down and all it was doing was adding to my confusion. All I knew to do was separate myself from this confusion.

I had heard God speaking to me a few times in the past, to me that was the reassurance that I was saved. God always seemed to pull me out of a mess just enough to get on my feet again. I knew enough to realize God had me on this journey for a reason and I had to ride it out.

Kim had found an interest in visiting some churches with some of her friends were she went to school. My conscience told me I needed to find a church for us to go to, but I was reminded of the lack of guidance and confusion I had experienced in the past. I did not know where to turn. Kim was in the High School Band at Pontotoc High School. I tried my best to teach her right from wrong and that included her choice of friends. I did not let her go out much and I was very sure to know the family of the friends she spent the night with or spent much time with. She became friends with Caley Owen, who she met in the band at Pontotoc High School.

Caley's father is the pastor of Grace Baptist Church. This was also the church where Sandra Bramlitt attended, a friend I had known for years and had worked with at Ashley Furniture for five years. Many times I would ask her questions about salvation and a lot about problems I was going through. I always knew she would answer me as honestly as she could. She had invited me to her church many times and I loved to hear about their one another services and festivals. I did not really understand what she was talking about because everywhere I had attended, people had never stayed in one another's homes or got together to honor one another. At least I never saw it. Sandra spoke highly of her pastor and how she had a shepherd to help her and guide her in times of need. She talked to me many times about talking to him, but I was very unsure of it. Besides, some of the answers I would get were not always ones I wanted to hear. I felt her pastor was the one who helped to provide these answers I so desperately did not want to hear. But, I always knew she was praying for me, to find help, and she was there every time I needed to talk, no matter how many arguments I would cause.

Caley invited Kim to church with her, and I wanted to go and see what they were teaching because I felt it was my place to make sure what information she was exposed to. I called Sandra to make sure she did not mind me coming. I really needed to have someone with me because I was scared to death to venture back to the turmoil I felt was waiting for me. Everything was fine and they invited us to attend their festival in a week or so. We went on Sunday and that night I asked Sandra some questions I had about my salvation before preaching. As I sat there Bro. Tim Rutherford began to touch on every point that I had questions on. I was sure she did not talk to him because she was there with me, but I could not figure out how he knew. I was so shook-up I had to go out for air as soon as it was over. This festival went on all week and I really was not sure I wanted to go Sunday night. But after God began answering my questions I knew I would be there the next night.

Monday night we went back to Camp Liberty with two hundred people who loved God and were thankful for what they had been given by God. I had never seen such love coming from so many people. I found myself asking Sandra more questions, who was with me all the time. I found myself not understanding. Bro. Dewitt Robinson was sitting across from us at dinner and told me how he knew he was lost and was glad to share it with me. The preacher for the night again filled in every question I talked with Sandra about earlier. I knew this was not a coincidence. God had placed me right in the midst of the truth I had been searching for. All the men agreed with what was being preached. There were 7 different churches represented from all over the country. The preacher would start a sentence and the other men could finish it with him. It was as if they were all unified in the word of God. I was very emotional during and after the service. I knew I had never seen nor had I ever experienced what these people had. These people did not just experience the love of God, it was in them. It was as if it oozed out of them.

I talked to Sandra and she saw I was broken and asked did I need to talk to someone. I did not want to face what I knew was true, but I was not able to go on like I was. I needed help. After the services Bro. Terry and Miss Connie talked to me alone. They wanted to know what was going on inside of me. I explained my feelings as best I could, and told them I did not have what all these people had. I knew I was lost. I expected him to pull out his bible, read scripture and ask if I understood what he read. Then **voila** I would be saved! He did not do any of those things. He told me to continue to listen and hear what God would say and I would be able to be saved. He seemed so excited to hear that I found out that I was lost. Then he reassured me that now that I knew that I was lost I could be saved. I felt like a load had been lifted for me. I was happy and less confused about the way I had been feeling. No wonder Bro. DeWitt was so excited to tell me he was lost. He knew what I was going through and I needed to come to that realization myself.

God immediately started working in me showing me who I really was and how I had been fooling myself for years. Bro. Terry was true to his word. When I needed guidance, he took God's word to help me. He never sugar coated anything to get God's meaning across or to spare my feelings. I was there for the truth and that is what he gave me whether I liked it or not. I was elated because I now had hope. My hope came from knowing that I was lost and I would be saved.

I began to attend Grace Baptist Church on a regular basis. I felt like a bird that had fallen, broken its wing, been picked up, sheltered and fed. They all knew I was lost (I told them), yet they still embraced me with open arms. They sat and ate with me, opened their arms and loved me. They included me in all of the activities as if I belonged and had always been there. They showered me with love and kindness when I deserved nothing. I knew I deserved to die. But mostly I was being told the truth. It was if I had never heard the words of God before. Over the months I grew to hate my life, ways, and even my very thoughts. All of my human nature, my fleshly nature, was eating away at me. I was not worthy of anything God had graced me with and I had not even been thankful for that.

The joy of knowing that I was lost was soon gone when the devil started bombarding me from every direction. I found myself with many questions again. What was happening? Who was I? God spoke to me at a revival I went to in Myrtle, MS. I was struggling with my problems. I still did not see, at that time, that Brother Terry was there to help me. So I held it all in. I knew that the sermon being preached was for the people in that church, but God found me there and reassured me that I was in the right place. I was right where He planned for me to be. He told me I would know my purpose and all that I had been searching for was coming. He also told me that He was going to make me into the person He wanted me to be. I was over whelmed to say the least. I then knew that Bro. Terry was the shepherd I had needed. As I prayed and thanked God, at the altar, Bro. Terry was right there asking. "What's going on? He began guiding me to where I needed to be. I was now one in his fold and I knew I was in a blessed place.

I had a new understanding of what it took to be saved, but even then I never grasped it completely until it happened to me. Over the next weeks I began to see it was not what I was doing, but what I was not doing! I was not resting in God. I had to be needy. I did not know how to be the needy one. I was supposed to be the strong one. To be needy was a sign of weakness and I did not want to admit that I was weak or needy.

Psalms 107:27+28 (..., and are at their wits end. Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses.) All the preaching had turned toward salvation and all the aspects of it. I was still not sure how this was going to come about. Bro. Terry preached how Jesus would manifest himself to you and this was the time to go to Him. In John 14:21 says “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me; and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him and will manifest myself to him.” This was something I has never heard before. How and when could this happen to me? I did not fully understand it, but I did believe it. So I waited for Him to manifest himself.

Sunday, Sept. 19, 2004, Sunday school was about how salvation was represented in the lives and actions of stories in the bible. We were studying Joseph and how God used the circumstances that happened in Joseph's life for the good of His people. God took care of Joseph even in the worst situations and was obedient. God was there with him and turned his despair to goodness. Something in me knew God's plan was to take my despair and turning it to goodness. I began to feel His presence all around me. I was at my wits end. I knew I had done all I knew to do and I was helpless as I could be. I started crying and could not stop. I had a heaviness in my chest and felt as if I could not catch my breath.

We broke for Sunday school and I tried to compose myself before the rest came in for church. We sang our first hymn and the word was stabbing deep into my heart and telling me how God was there for me and loved even a wretch like me. I was broken, crying, and needed help when the second hymn was sung. We sang, "It is well with my soul". I knew it was not well with my soul and needed God's help. I rushed down to the altar and fell on my face, begging for God's help, I knew it was not well with my soul. I heard Bro. Terry saying how God was there and I knew He was there for me. I did not know anyone else was around, just Jesus and me. Then this voice was there asking, "What's going on?" I just could not stop saying that I did not know what else to do and all I deserved was to die. At that moment, I felt as if something picked me up off the altar and a breath entered deep into my lungs. I went from a hysterical cry to a dead calm. In an instant I realized God had breathed the breath of life into me and saved my soul. All I could do was thank Him and praise God for He had saved my life. Now I knew what resting in God meant. It was not what I did but how I had to give up trying and fighting the work God who wanted to do something to me.