by Annamaria Salin Morrill
I have a very personal reason to celebrate every Easter as I became a born again Christian at an Easter service in 1984. I want to emphasize “born again”, because I always thought I was Christian. I grew up in a Christian family, was baptized as a baby, attended confirmation school, took my first communion at age 15, and celebrated all Christian holidays that were part of our Lutheran influenced Finnish culture.
My parents attended an Apostolic Lutheran church that is one of the branches from the main Lutheran church. The Apostolic Lutheran church (also called Laestadian) has tried to stay true to very conservative teachings of the Bible which shows in ways such as how people dress or behave. At least that was true in the church I grew up and I had troubles to accept their ways in my own life. I became very rebellious and I felt confused about what to believe. I stopped going to that church when I was a teenager.
Easter 1984 I went to visit a more charismatic church that my sister had started attending a few months before. She was all excited about a visiting pastor and wanted me to go listen him at an Easter service. I went after she and some of her friends were literally pushing me to go. It turned out to be a life changing visit; my life turned over and it has lasted over 30 years! Becoming a believer was very radical to me, it not only affected my outlook for life, but also changed many of the things I used to do or be involved with before.
Seeking a Change
I became serious about Jesus first when attending to the confirmation school at age 15. I decided to change my life. I gave away a punk style leather jacket, I cleaned up my style and started attending a youth group offered by a local Lutheran Church. That change didn’t last too long. There was no teaching offered and just hanging out with other youth didn’t fill up the hunger I had for more. I struggled seeing some kids smoking outside and not being really serious about their faith, if they even had any. I ended up leaving the youth group and fell into an emptiness that lasted for the next few years.
I felt that I was in such a dark place for quite a long time and didn’t really see the purpose for living. My life was kind of floating by and I was confused by my religious and legalistic background. I couldn’t handle the rules and expectations that were part of the church my parents attended. At the same time I knew I wasn’t making the best choices and felt easily guilty for things I ended up doing. I was also confused that I couldn’t find any lasting answers when attending the church youth group.
I was also very fearful for the future and was affected by world news so much so that I couldn’t even listen to it. I knew there was God, but I didn’t know one could have a personal relationship with Him. At that Easter I came to understand it is not only possible, but a real thing. I felt like something heavy was lifted from my shoulders. It was the first time in a long time I had even heard birds singing.
A Change of Goals
I was at an art school studying advertising. After graduating I was supposed to look for jobs in advertisement agencies. I had one more year left with my school when I became a believer. The change was so radical that it also changed my goals. I couldn’t think about being part of the advertisement world any longer. I couldn’t think about building some unnecessary dreams in people’s minds, being part of advertising something that they wouldn’t need.
I was in a relationship that I had decided to be more serious about it. When I became a believer I couldn’t continue it any longer. It was such a shock to my boyfriend. He mocked me in front of others as he couldn’t understand what happened to me. Many of my friends couldn’t either. The way we used to hang out and things we used to do didn’t feel right any longer. I went to church all the time, I joined a choir, I attended youth group, was part of a newsletter club and started a drama club with some new friends. We presented our plays at the coffee shop on Friday nights and I was also serving there as often as possible. I had lots of new friends and new things to do. I had found a meaning for life and didn’t have to fear tomorrow.
The most important thing was that I now had a purpose in my life. God eventually led me into jobs in Christian field that also felt purposeful to be part of. He also had an interesting and surprising plan for me, to leave everything behind and move abroad to marry a wonderful Christian man and became a mother for three children. Even though I miss my family back in Finland I am also grateful that I have been given a loving family here, and many wonderful friends.
Learning about Grace
It was freeing to learn that God doesn’t require me to dress or look in certain ways. It was freeing to attend a church where I could feel accepted and also could learn about grace. That has been a learning process ever since. I have also learned to be more forgiving for my past. I have learned to see many valuable sides of the way I was raised up, and I have also learned to respect many people who are very sincere with their faith –- even within the church body that I grew up in. I have learned to see that real relationship with God can make us all free, no matter what church we attend or how we may practice our faith.
It has not always been easy. God has allowed me to go through some hard times, but most of the time He has shown the reason why. I have learned to understand why to follow Biblical rules, as there is always a reason, God’s wisdom behind them. Those are not the same kind of rules that the legalistic churches are binding people with – but rather more inward, heart changing issues! Over the years I have learned to be rebellious in healthy ways, finding my voice in the midst of it. I know that it is ok to ask questions, seek answers and even use our own brains.
God loves me how I am, but because He loves me so much He wants to change me to be better and that will be a lifelong process! I have learned to be more graceful toward myself and others as I know it is all about God’s grace that I have been given this new life in Him.
Bio :: Annamaria grew up in Finland. She moved to States in 1996 to marry Greg and they have 3 daughters. She has found that the education she received in advertising field wasn’t for nothing, but has led her to many interesting jobs in the Christian field. She has worked as a visual artist in a Christian publishing house, and also has been able to use her skills when working with a national Christian political youth group in Finland. She has previously taught art at a Christian school for some years and also has been teaching art to home-school students. Currently she is working as a consultant for Lemongrass Spa, selling natural skin care and body products.