On December 9, 1972, I met God. From that moment my life was never the same again. Eight days later, on December l7th I yielded my body, soul, and spirit to Him to be His forever. As a consequence of this, I lost my friends, my close family ties, my career, my reputation—my all. But I gained everything.

In retrospect, I can see the hand of God throughout my life which brought me to this powerful experience, and I marvel at His longsuffering and mercy. For I had wandered through this earth constantly rebelling against His pure witness in my heart; yet, He still loved me and sought me out. This is the story of God's faithful dealings with my soul which led to my conversion and my present walk toward heaven.

I was raised a Roman Catholic in Boston, Massachusetts. Throughout my early youth I had a tender conscience concerning sin. I innately believed that God was holy and that what I did had eternal consequences. This belief was reinforced by those small reproofs that I felt from time to time deep in my heart. When I was bad, I felt bad; but oh the peace I experienced when I repented and unburdened my soul to God, whether it was in a dark confessional or alone in my bed at night. I never forgot what that peace felt like.

As I approached my teens, it became harder and harder to obey my inner convictions. An appetite for the world began to increase in me and grew stronger than my desire to keep pure. More and more I blocked my ears to my heart and sinned against my conscience. Nonetheless, like a faithful friend, guilt would follow hard after me, eventually overtake me, and finally stop me in my sinful tracks. The fear of hell, combined with a deep sorrow for my sins and the memory of the sweet peace that I once knew, would break me. Then as I endeavored to amend my life, a measure of that peace would be restored.

In high school these melting seasons of my spirit grew fewer and fewer. Peer pressure, inconsistencies in moral standards, my struggle to maintain my inner convictions, and the strong passions within my breast increased my reasonings with that tender place deep in my heart. By the time I was in college I began acclimating myself to the prevailing belief that "God is love" and that "everything will be all right." By the end of college I had stopped going to church, and I began to forget about God.

However, during these years I was never completely free from stings within my conscience. Often I would even bring the concept of God into my conversation with friends. It was obvious that I was a hypocrite; yet somehow my acknowledgment of a God and my confession of guilt appeased me, and in my deceitfulness I hoped they would appease God, too.

A few times, when my burden of sin pressed upon me, I even attempted going back to church. The last time I recall having done this was in 1971, during my second year of teaching. A close friend persuaded me to attend some services in churches that were affected with the new Holy Spirit movement that was beginning to appear. But neither the guitar playing nor the hand-holding, neither the singing nor the people involved in the ceremonies did anything for me. I knew that my comfort could only come from my ceasing from sin. Once again I attempted reform, but my weakened will was a poor defense against my passions.

By the end of my second year of teaching, all efforts to clean up my life had ceased, and I began to experience freedom from guilt. The world and the world's religions were slipping in their stand against sin. Things that had once plagued me with guilt were now being accepted in society.

I lost my teaching position in the spring of 1972; consequently, I accepted the invitation to temporarily live with ten other people on a farm in Maine. We grew a large garden and basically lived like children—free from any real responsibilities. I used to wake up at 5:30 to weed my section. It was so quiet there, cradled in a beautiful New England valley. Off in the distance were rolling hills. In the background was the plaintive call of the chickadee for his mate. In this awesome solitude, so different from the city life to which I was accustomed, I found myself thinking about God again.

What was this life all about? Where was I going? I could not deny the existence of a Creator when all around me was the witness of His handiwork. Hot tears from time to time would fill my eyes. My sinful life shamed me. The thoughts of my state caused a fear to grip my heart. Deep down inside me I had the horrible sense that I would go to hell if I died.

But I could push away these moments, and they were quickly forgotten amidst all the activity and new faces there in Maine. Then something happened that tore my heart open, and years of repressed feelings were painfully exposed. Two of my close friends went to California, claimed to get saved, and became part of a Christian community there.

I did not know much about the Jesus Movement that was the cause for their change, and although I doubted its sincerity, nonetheless this news and their letters that followed had a deep effect on me. Conviction for sin returned and increased steadily, and I began to think about God in terms much deeper than ever before. The concept of total commitment began to enter my thoughts. I had always thought of God only in terms of gross sin, but now I found myself wondering about God in terms of my career, my lifestyle, my relationships with others.

One day in the beginning of October, having been troubled by these thoughts, their letters, and my failing at renewed efforts to reform, I ran sobbing out of the farmhouse and across the field. I ached inside because part of me wanted God; yet, at the same time, I was angry and bitter towards Him because I did not know how to serve Him. Why, if there is a God, I thought, does it have to be so impossible to stop those things for which I feel condemnation? And how am I supposed to know all the things I should do if I want to serve Him? Only the deep silence of the woods and stream followed; yet, in it I felt an inexplicable presence which comforted me and kept me from despairing.

During these weeks I had considered joining my two friends in California, but I felt uneasy about leaving Maine. In my letters to them, they sensed my religious perplexities and frustrations. They assured me that I was a sister and that what I needed was the fellowship of a Christian group.

I was embarrassed at their acceptance of me as a Christian because I knew I was the same Paula. How could I be a sister when I was still a sinner? I knew that only the peace that came from a clear conscience would make me feel like a Christian.

However the idea of being with a Christian group seemed as if it might help me. But much to my dismay, one of the groups that they suggested was one belonging to one of the churches in Boston that I had attended services—the guitar playing, the hand-holding during prayer, brought back the empty, depressing feeling that I had felt there. I knew that they could do nothing for the ache in my soul. I had no desire to go there or to the other places they suggested.

In November, our money running low, two of the women from the farm and I went to the local hospital to fill out job applications. While waiting in the lobby for our interviews, I picked up some religious pamphlets to glance at. Normally I would never have wasted my time reading the religious literature that is common to waiting rooms, but I was curious and it was going to be a while before the interviews. One booklet talked about something like the "six steps to salvation." I tossed it back onto the table.

Finally, I took one titled The Way of Life. The first few sentences in it caught my attention. As I sat down to read, I could feel the humorous disgust of my two friends from the farm. But I did not care. There was something about what this booklet was saying that held more sway over me than they.

I could not read fast enough. The words were alive. All my former heartfelt convictions were quickened and verified by the force of them. As I read on, I had the awful feeling that God was there looking over my shoulder and that this moment was not chance.

In essence, the author stated with authority that God's whole controversy is with sin. I knew it was true. I read faster and faster. The last paragraph turned its attention to me, the reader, and assured me that that day, two ways were set before me—the way of death and the way of life. The choice was mine.

This whole experience climaxed when my eyes fell upon the accompanying address. It was only about four miles from our commune. I closed the booklet and placed it in my back dungaree pocket. I felt sick and frightened inside. An overwhelming sense of Providence enveloped me. For the first time in my life, God seemed real to me, and I was afraid.

When we returned to the commune, I showed the booklet to one of the men. He, too, seemed to be troubled by what had happened to our two friends in California and by the underlying controversy that it stirred in our midst. He thought that sometime we should go see the man who wrote the booklet.

We procrastinated for over two weeks. The possibility of a people who were serious in their endeavors to serve God frightened and threatened us. But finally on December 9th, late in the afternoon, three members of the commune and I visited the author. I secretly hoped that a long-haired, sandal-shod hippy would answer the door. Then all my fears could vanish.

Instead, a bald middle-aged man met us, said that he wrote the booklet, and invited us in. As we sat down, his wife joined us. She was clothed in a long grey dress with her hair neatly combed in a bun. There was something different about these people. I did not know what they believed; yet, their uprightness, their unpretentiousness, and their tenderness toward us impressed me. They were slow and cautious with their words, being directed, it seemed, by some higher influence.

I cannot clearly remember all the conversation that took place in the half hour that we were there, but once again my old inner convictions were painfully revived. My heart became so heavy. I felt so physically burdened down that I wondered if I was going to have a heart attack. Gradually, I became aware of a presence that grew stronger and stronger. Time seemed to stop. I felt something so near, but I did not know what it was.

The visit drew to a close, and the wife began to ask each of us what we thought of all that was said. My friends seemed unaffected. When she came to me, she tenderly said, "God has been talking to you, hasn't He?" I never knew that God could talk to people.

Suddenly a lifetime of memories culminated into the awesome realization that it was He. It was He who had made me feel guilty all my life. It was He who had wooed me, reproved me, warned me, chastised me. It was He whom I had blocked my ears against, reasoned against, denied. It was He who had worked, planned, shifted, and brought me to this awful moment. It was He that I was feeling so near as I sat there, and my heart was pounding, pounding, pounding. I sobbed, "Yes," and burst into tears.

We left shortly after this. I told the man and his wife that I would attend the next meeting. When I walked away from their house, I was not the same person. An eye was opened in me. I began to see things in a totally different way.

In the eight weighty days that followed, God began talking to me and gave me glimpses into what it would mean for me to become a Christian. I saw the simplicity and universality of the means that God had designed to make Himself manifest to man—the still, small voice in the heart, the light that enlightens every man. I saw that with Him as the inward teacher there would be no more doubts concerning what is sin or what is His will for me.

I saw my lostness. Because I had had only a head knowledge of God during my whole life, I perceived with poignancy the fact that not only had I been lost when I was irreligious but that I had been hell-bound even when I had been fervently involved in religion. Consequently, I saw that even all my past good works were valueless in the sight of God because they did not originate in Him, but they originated from my own idea of what I thought would please Him. They were motivated by pride and vainglory. I saw that the only work God accepts is obedience. It is the only acceptable sacrifice.

Then God began revealing to me specific things in my life that I would have to change if I wanted to serve Him. I saw plainly that God's standards had never changed and that they went far deeper than the world's idea of sin and Christianity.

If I wanted to serve God, I would have to leave the commune because our mixed living situation was sinful and because God had ordained that light hath no fellowship with darkness. I would have to dress differently because immodesty was sinful and because God had a controversy with the loose masculine spirit that marked modern woman. I would not be able to come and go as I pleased anymore. God would expect me to take my plans to Him for His approval: where I lived, where I worked, when I went home to visit my family in Boston. I saw that giving up my will in these things, which the world would label harmless, was far more difficult than parting with my obvious sins.

And I saw that God was with the Friends of Jesus Christ, the body which the author and his wife were part of. God had led me to this people, had manifested Himself to me amongst them, and expected me to become a part of them. If I rejected this people, I rejected God.

On the eighth day, December l7th, I attended my second meeting with the Friends of Jesus Christ. Waiting for me back at the commune was my small knapsack in which I had selectively packed my jewelry tools and supplies. After meeting I planned to have one of my friends from the commune drive me to Lewiston, Maine. There I would board a bus for Boston where I planned to spend the holidays with my family and where I would finalize my decision to fly to California for an indefinite visit with my two friends at their Christian community. I was running away from God.

I wanted to serve God and go to heaven, but I wanted a way that would give me some liberty. In California I could still be with my friends, I could use my craft to perhaps make silver Christian symbols that their community sold. And I could bring them all the light that God had shown me. Not only was I wickedly disregarding things that God had revealed to me, but worse than that I was deceitfully planning to use the revelations to my personal advancement and preeminence in California—as if God were a genie in a lamp, and I could make Him come and go at my own will.

I do not remember anything that took place during the meeting. I had numbed myself, hoping that if I did not think about it at all anymore that it would all go away. Towards the end of the meeting, as I sat there growing more and more anxious to leave, a voice clearly shot through my consciousness saying, "Don't go to Boston." I knew it was God and I knew what it meant.

Suddenly the preceding eight days of God's dealings with me toppled back upon me. I knew unquestionably that if I left for Boston God would not go with me. He had brought me here to Him and His people. I had to yield to Him on His terms. Meeting ended. Everyone stood for prayer. I glanced up at the man who had written the booklet and he was looking at me. I knew that he knew. He said, "How about it, Paula?"

As I stood there, I closed my eyes. In my aloneness I could feel the Lord waiting for my answer; that God who had so faithfully pursued me all my life; that God who had tenderly wooed me and beckoned me since a child; that God who had marvelously and mercifully brought me to this moment. I knew that if I did not yield to Him, that He would fade away like a dream. My time was now. I could not make Him come back again. Why should He? I knew too much. At the judgement He would look at me with those piercing eyes. I would vividly remember this moment when I had my chance, when I knew. I would be without excuse, and I would be cast headlong into hell to burn for all eternity. Then I remembered that peace that I had tasted as a child when I was truly penitent. It was the only true happiness that I had ever experienced in this life. How could I be such a fool and turn my back on God? Was anything that this fleeting life had to offer worth an eternity in hell?

I opened my eyes, looked up toward heaven, and cried out, "I give up." And then I broke down and wept in shame and sorrow for my sins. With all of my heart I gave myself to the Lord to be His forever and I knew that He forgave me of all of my sins. This was the beginning of my walk toward heaven.

I now braced myself for the old battle against my lusts, but I quickly saw that I had not understood what the grace and power of God meant and could do. For my heavenly Father had come into my soul, filled me with a measure of His Spirit, and given me victory over those sins that had enslaved me for so many years. Desires after holiness welled up in my heart. I could hear God's voice. I truly was a new creature in Christ Jesus. I had been born again.

But my story does not end here; it only begins. For my salvation is not finished. It is a living salvation that depends moment by moment upon my obedience to my Saviour as He makes His will known to me. Therefore, I press after the mark of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Dear Reader,

The Lord has been laboring with you since you were a child. Softly and tenderly He has called to you from that secret place deep in your heart. Won't you turn from your sins and give your whole heart to Him? Is anything this fleeting life has to offer worth an eternity in hell?

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