Julianna Mathers Testimony
I was born into a Christian home with believing parents and grandparents. My daddy was a pastor when I was born and has served the Lord with his vocation in one capacity or other all his life. My granddaddy was a pastor too. Growing up we were church people – every Sunday, often Sunday night and Wednesdays too. My people were true believers that loved Jesus. Earnest, sweet, genuine believers. Imperfect believers.
When I was 8 years old I attended Vacation Bible School – this was a fixture in my childhood – orange drink, animal crackers, and Jesus. The culmination of the week included a program. The children would perform a song or two and the parents would come to watch. They also showed the Jesus film. Then they had an alter call. I knew the story of Jesus. I had sung about Him ever since I could sing. But when I saw the nails, the blood, and the pain it pricked my little heart. To actually see Christ’s sacrifice portrayed in live action made it real for me. And then I was asked if I wanted to walk the isle to salvation, I remember thinking, “Well, if He did that for me, this is the least I could do for Him!” To my parents delight and surprise I accepted Jesus in that little VBS program.
Sometimes when you’re raised to know the truth you coast in it. That’s what I did. I coasted. My parents and grandparents, their faith carried me. After all, I was “saved,” so the pressure was off. I didn’t seek to grow my faith. I was just a kid who knew where she was going when she died.
As a teen I was so insecure. I longed for love and attention and I sought it out in the wrong places. Usually in the eyes and arms of unworthy young men. In college I was a sorority girl, a party girl. I remember telling the Lord, “I’ll get back to you later.” What a rebellious and arrogant thing to do. But you know what? God is so faithful and His purposes so firm that even when we are half-hearted He is all-in. 2 Timothy 2:13 says, “If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” How grateful I am for His abiding grace and for the prayers of my parents and grandparents. Prayers that were surely more authentic and heart felt than mine.
And God is so clever and funny too. My re-committal of faith came through a boy I was dating. God knew how to get my attention! My boyfriend was exploring his faith for the first time, and as I saw his eyes open to the grace of Jesus I felt ashamed, convicted…and homesick. I missed my Jesus. In a very emotional journal entry on Valentines Day of my senior year I wrote the words, “I SURRENDER,” in big red capital letters to the Lord. I gave myself fully back to His open arms of grace. Arms that were comfortable and known, but challenging and real. That moment began my adult walk with the Lord. I said “yes” to Him and made the faith of my family the personal faith of my heart. I didn’t date that boy for much longer. He wasn’t “the one.” The Lord knew I needed time before I could make that commitment. Time with Him.
Shortly after college graduation I found a wonderful church through which I met one of my best friends. We volunteered for the youth group staff and were mentored as a group by the youth leader and his wife. As a community of young believers we grew deeply and quickly. I became so hungry for knowledge of God and His word. I had loooong quiet times, “dates with Jesus,” where I’d explore the word and how it impacted my life and my heart. I was living as a young single woman in the Washington DC area with a vibrant community of believers. The Bible studies and fellowship during this time of my life were such a sweet season. Such a gift of training for the life of ministry I’d lead. I wasn’t perfect by any means. I still longed for love and attention. But through the love of Jesus and the sweet friends He was surrounding me with, I learned that my true sense of self is found in Him.
That was many years ago now. Since then I’ve married the man of my dreams, walked a journey of infertility, adopted two children, (one of whom has serious medical needs requiring nine surgeries in her 12 years,) and moved seven times in 16 years! I’ve been honored to disciple young women, teach children’s Sunday school, ladies Bible study, co-teach couples with my husband, and tell my miracle adoption story to hundreds of women. I have amazing stories of the Lord’s grace and faithfulness. So many examples of His unfailing love. The Lord hasn’t allowed life to be easy but he’s made it sweet most of the time and meaningful all of the time. I’ve learned through the years that more than anything, l want more of Him. I’ve learned to let Him define abundant life for me instead of trying to force a life I think will make me happy. I try to live with open hands, receiving with joy what He brings, knowing He sees the beginning, the end, and all the time in-between. His plans are perfect.
As women I feel we are so bound by what we think life “should” look like. My heart longs to encourage women to ask God, “what is your path for me? What are your assignments for me on this earth?” I think He will surprise and delight each one of us. Only God knows what we are fully capable of with His help! My life doesn’t look remotely close to what I’d planned in my sorority days. And you know what? I wouldn’t change a thing. Trust the one who loves you beyond measure to accomplish what only He can in your life.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18