How God Saved a Preacher's Kid
father entered his first pastorate two months before I was born. For
the next 30 years or so, he pastored churches in New York, Maine,
and Pennsylvania. I never knew any other life than that of a "preacher's
kid." Being raised almost literally "in church," I became gospel
hardened. I wasn't exactly grateful for the godly influences in my
life. The world looked pretty good to me, and by the time I was
twelve I'd developed a charade to help me get out into that world
without my parents' knowledge.
My father started out as an Arminian, meaning that he believed that
all sinners have the free will to choose Christ or reject Him. An
Arminian rejects the sovereignty of God in the salvation of sinners.
This sort of belief system allows a sinner to accept Christ's
salvation if he chooses to, and to later choose to make Christ Lord
of his life...or not. Although my father later came to understand
and embrace the Doctrines of Grace, I think he subconsciously kept
some of his Arminian thinking. I say this because I don't remember
him ever confronting me about the possibility of my not being truly
saved once I made a profession of faith.
I had made a profession of faith, and had been baptized at the age
of twelve. I remember clearly making a conscious decision to do this
in order to deceive my church. I wanted people to think I was saved
so that they would leave me alone about the whole matter. All along
I knew I was not saved, nor did I wish to be. Of course, I did not
want to go to hell, but I was willing to take my chances because I
did not want to live the Christian life. So I began a path of
deception that would last another eight years.
During my teen years, I developed a strategy of acting "Christian"
around Christians, and being my own wicked worldly self around
everyone else. At church, and around church people, I was the model
Christian Teen: a good example to the younger children, substitute
Sunday school teacher, camp counselor, etc. At school, on the bus,
and around my non-Christian friends, I lived the worldly life I
The deception was harder to pull off at home. I made life miserable
for my mother by insisting on having my own way and making my own
decisions. I didn't want my parents telling me what I could or could
not do. I listened to rock music on the school bus and at my friends'
homes, and one song in particular became my theme: "I don't care
what you say anymore, 'cause it's my life...." I pushed all the
rules past the limit, and getting caught only made me try to do the
same thing again so as to not get caught. During these years my
parents never once doubted my salvation; nor did they ask me why my
life did not match my words. Although they tried to discipline me
for my rebellion and lying, they never questioned my testimony.
In spite of my lust for the world and its passions, I had a great
love and respect for my father and never wanted to do anything to
hurt him or his ministry. I believe God used this love and respect
to keep me from many a sin. I wanted the world so badly, but I
couldn't figure out how to get it without hurting my father. At
times I got a taste of it when I was sure my father would never find
out, but it wasn't enough.
The summer I was 16, I was asked to be a counselor at a Christian
youth camp. I could not refuse without "blowing my cover" and
confessing that I was lost. I spent a miserable week with twelve
9-12-year-old girls, most of whom had come to camp for the first
time. Everyone thought I was having a rough time because I'd never
been a counselor before, but I knew that the real reason was that I
had nothing of any spiritual value to offer them.
During the next year, I did a lot of soul searching. I began to be
seriously concerned about my spiritual state. I tried to make myself
believe that maybe, after all, I really was saved. I had "prayed a
prayer" at the age of six; maybe I would be all right in the end. I
tried to ease my conscience about this by saying
if-I'm-not-saved-please-save-me-now prayers. I confided my struggles
to a friend, who promptly told our Christian school principal. She
talked to me privately, sharing some Scripture with me that she felt
would "give me assurance." She told me that I really was saved, but
that I only needed assurance.
I read those verses, but I was not "assured." Deep down I knew this
was because I still did not want to fully yield my life to Christ. I
was doubling up on my school work in order to graduate a year early,
and looked forward to getting out from under my parents' roof so I
could "cut loose." I dreamed about all I could experience once I
left home. The only problem I saw was that my father wanted me to go
for at least one year of Bible college. The only college I thought I
could attend was the same one my older brother and sister attended.
How could I do my own thing there, with them to see and write home
The summer after my high school graduation, I was again asked to be
a camp counselor at the same Christian youth camp. Although I again
agreed rather than confess to my deception, this time I knew I'd
have to deal with myself. I cautiously approached another counselor,
a good friend who was older and wiser. I was half afraid she'd try
to "assure" me as my principal had, and half afraid she'd blow the
whistle on me. She did neither. When I told her I thought I might
not be saved, she wisely (and rather bluntly) said, "Well, you'd
better go pray and find out!"
She could not have given me better advice. Only the Holy Spirit can
give a true witness to a sinner that he or she has been converted. I
did pray that day, and often throughout that week. I believe I was
converted then, though not everything changed overnight. During the
next three years I began to grow more in the knowledge Christ. The
growth was slow and gradual, but it was there. I prayed a lot, and
read my Bible a lot. I did go to Bible college, where I learned a
lot more from fellow Christian students than from any of my
There was one problem--I still had not come clean before my parents
and my church. The deception was still there, though it had changed
form. I was embarrassed and ashamed to confess that big lie to all
those people. I wanted to think that it was okay for them to think I
really was saved when I was baptized at age twelve. After all, I was
saved now, and had been baptized; did it really matter that much
that the baptism had come first?
The Bible college I attended was Presbyterian. In my Bible doctrine
class, a debate came up over infant baptism vs. believer's baptism.
Not recognizing myself as the hypocrite I was, I argued fiercely for
believer's baptism. Not until I transferred to a Brethren college
where I attended a believer's baptism service did I realize my own
need to obey God in this matter. The more I prayed about it, the
more I was convinced that I needed to go back to my home church and
make this right. I talked to my parents about it, confessing to them
the lie I had been living, and asked my father to baptize me again.
Going before my church was not nearly as hard as I had expected it
to be. In fact, it was a huge relief and a source of great joy.
People I'd known who no longer attended my church brought their
families to witness my baptism. This meant a lot to me because I had
always been considered the "big sister" to their children, and I had
not always been the good example to them that their parents thought
I'd been. I was thankful for the opportunity to tell these children
the truth myself and to apologize to them publicly for failing to
point them to Christ as I should have.
At the same time that the Lord dealt with me concerning my baptism,
He also showed me plainly another path He wanted me to follow. I was
increasingly becoming dissatisfied with college, and was doing badly
in all my classes. I had never really wanted a career, and couldn't
see the point in continuing to pursue a degree in elementary
education. My heart's desire was to be a stay-at-home wife and
mother. The only problem I had was that I didn't know anyone I
really wanted to marry. After much prayer, it became clear to me
that God wanted me to quit college, go home and live with my
parents, and wait for Him to bring me the man He wanted me to marry.
In May 1986, I came home from college. Along with the baptism issue,
I needed to explain to my parents why I was not going back to
college. They accepted this better than I thought they would. Other
people were not so readily accepting, but one couple saw the hand of
the Lord in this and decided to help me out. Largely through their
arranging of things, Tom Newton and I got together. We had our first
date in June, and were married the following November. Several
people protested to my mother that we had not known each other long
enough, but she reminded them of Isaac and Rebekah, who had never
met until the day they were married. She said that God had clearly
brought us together, and that He would see us through.
And He has seen us through. We have been happily married for almost
19 years (at this writing in 2005) and God has blessed us with eight
children. From the beginning He knit our hearts together with a
desire to serve Him with our lives and our service. The path He
picked for us has not been an easy one. I've often failed Him and
have had to learn many bitter lessons the hard way. But God is
faithful, and I trust Him to finish the work He has begun in me.
"Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good
work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ" (Philippians