My name is Audrey Williams. I am a 56 year old pastor’s wife of 36 years, a mother of 4 grown children and we have 12 grand children ranging from ages 16 to 9 weeks. We live in South East Texas where my husband has been the pastor of Pioneer Baptist Church for going on 14 years. I started a little business making picture frames and signs just because I enjoy doing it!
I was born to parents who were both unbelievers and grew up in South Carolina where we attended a Methodist church. After I was around 11 or 12 we were invited to a Baptist church for a revival meeting and joined there soon after. As I went through my early teen years there, I heard a lot about sin, getting saved, the second coming, dying without Christ… All of which I never remembered hearing at the Methodist church. And because I was eager to please and I loved God as much as I could at the time, not really having much of an understanding what that really meant, I made frequent trips to the alter out of fear.
Each time I would get to the alter, those who met me to counsel and pray with me would always run me through what they called a Romans Road and asked me if I believed and agreed with God’s word. Since I knew they expected a “yes” from me, they then told me to repeat a prayer after them. So I did.
I did believe and agree with God’s word but only intellectually. It was never a work in my heart. I never had any real peace or assurance that God did anything after those experiences.
This went on for years, sometimes several times a year. I tried to rest in what I thought was a work of God in me when I was 19 and secretly battled with doubts that I just quit telling anyone about.
The Baptist churches I attended from my early teen years until I married were independent Baptist churches who practiced strict legalism. Women couldn’t wear pants and so on. We were taught that living a life full of do’s and don’ts was the way to please God. And this belief spilled over into the way they taught a person is saved. They taught that it is by grace through faith alone but when it came down to “leading someone to the Lord” there was something we had to “do”. You “ask Jesus into your heart”, you say the “sinners prayer”. Well, you don’t put God in your box and expect Him to work your way. He saves us His way and in His time or not at all.
After we married in 1979, my husband Michael. who was called to preach as a 14 year old young man began to realize that he was lost. After we were married for two years, he was gloriously saved at our church one night after he heard a message God had just for him! I was happy for him, but still knew that I was still unsettled. I began to see a real change in him. Not that he lived different but he KNEW God in a personal intimate way that he never did before. He preached different too. The more I heard and the more I saw God in him, the more I opened up to him.
For about 6 years I sought God like I had never sought Him before, but even then it was on and off. I had to learn what it was to be lost. I found that it is more than a word or a conclusion. I was still “doing” the things I thought God wanted from me. I thought I needed to pray the right prayer, repent hard enough and long enough. I thought I needed to cry long enough as if that would force God to save me.
It was all a work I felt I had to perform. After all, the scripture says that we are to repent. I never could figure out what I was to repent of and I couldn’t stop committing sin long enough to confess what I had already done!
I wanted peace with God so bad but I didn’t want to experience being lost.
Every command turned into a work I had to do. REPENT! BELIEVE! Both were commands but both were also God’s work in me. That confused me. How am I supposed to do something that God gives me as a gift?
I had a lot to learn!
Godly sorrow works repentance. While it is a work of God in me, it is something I am commanded to do. Godly sorrow is a sorrow that God works in us that is toward Him. It feels the shame our sin has caused the Lord. And it causes a sorrow that doesn’t result in an inward look but a Godward look. It does not make excuses but takes full guilt. It isn’t a “sorry I got caught” worldly sorrow. I offended God not just by my acts of sins but because I was an unbeliever, because I was His enemy and I was a daughter of Adam and born in sin. It was my very nature!
As God worked these things in me, I became more and more lost! There was no hope for me apart from God. If He didn’t rescue me, I would live in eternal damnation without His mercy! All this time Godly sorrow was working repentance in me over my unbelief, my lack of love for Him and every prayer I prayed thinking that was what He wanted and would save me because of it.
Salvation was not in my right prayers, my right confessions, my enough crying or feeling sorrowful, or in my sincerity. Although, all those things are necessary in salvation.
God brought me to the end of ME! He brought me to the end of my tries and my attempts to get Him to save me. I didn’t know that was what I was doing. When we try to add ANYTHING to what He has done in us and for us, He backs away from His working in us and doesn’t save. He will not share His glory with anyone.
The day I was saved, I was reading a book by Horatius Bonar, titled God’s Way of Peace. As I read about what and who I was apart from Christ I began to feel the guilt and condemnation of my sin. I read about how I was an unbelieving hater of a Holy God, and how I did not love Him.
I had always believed in God and I had always loved Him, or so I thought. But that day I realized that I didn’t believe in His promises or in His faithful character. I had doubted His love, His goodness and His mercy for me. And it tore my heart out. I began to pour out my heart to Him agreeing with Him and siding with God against myself. I told God that I was sorry for not believing Him and for being His enemy.
I kept thinking that this was what He wanted to hear and what He was working in me. And it was, BUT I was depending on MY WORDS and FEELINGS to merit Him saving me. There I was again, trusting in my efforts and attempts to get God to save me!
Frustrated with myself and the whole situation, I gave up! I told God that I quit! I quit trying to believe! In my heart and mind I backed away from it and thought to myself, “that’s it! That’s what God wants! He wants me to give up on me and trust Him.” But I found myself trusting in me for doing what I knew was scriptural.
I broke because I knew I was STILL TRYING to please God with my filthy rags AGAIN. Finally, I just said, God if anything is going to be done for me, you’re going to have to do it. And before the words were out of my mouth, there was a restful peace like I had never known! Before there was a horrible storm, then there was peace.
I didn’t try to rest.
I didn’t try to say the right thing.
I didn’t try to feel or think the right way.
God just brought me to the end of myself where all I had was HIM. And HE was ALL I NEEDED!
I didn’t need any magic words or feelings. I just submitted to the righteousness of Christ. And that submission was a work of God in me!
I thank God for not leaving me in my sin and for bringing me to Him so sweetly! Thank you for reading my testimony of God’s work bringing me to Himself. I pray it is a blessing to the reader and aids someone in finding Him!
Audrey is pastor’s wife, mother of 4, and grandmother to 12. She lives in Texas and owns a small business, designing and created hand made signs and picture frames.