Lately, I have been asked to give my testimony by two different churches, and because I have always believed 1 Peter 3:15 was written to all of us, I said yes. Using the Apostle Paul's example of how one should tell people about becoming a Christian, I tell what my life was like prior to accepting Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior; I tell what happened at the time I was saved; and I tell how my life has changed as the result of allowing Him to reign in my heart (Acts 22:1-16; 26:9-18). I was twenty-eight when I accepted the fact that Christ, being God manifest in the flesh, died as payment for my sins, and that He was raised from the grave having finished the work the Father sent Him to do (1 Tim. 3:16; Rom. 5:8; Jn. 19:30; 1 Jn. 2:2). Having lived without Christ ruling my life for so many years, I have a great deal of ungodly behavior from which to choose. For the sake of brevity, and because I do not particularly like remembering how vile I was, I will sum it up by saying that I broke every commandment numerous times. I cringe thinking about it.
I was born while my dad was in the Navy during World War II, and although my birth name was Paul, I was known to all as "Skipper." It seems that Dad somehow realized that I was in charge, changing his and Mom's life forever. We lived in St. Louis before he started a business in central Illinois when I was about two. I have very few memories of my Mother, as I was taken from her by my father when I was about five. He was apparently a violent man, and my mother took me and went into hiding out of fear for her life. It was not long before he found us through bribing a mailman to get our address off of a letter to my grandparents. With a buddy of his and carrying his pistol, he drove to Cheyenne, Wyoming and took me from her. I never saw my mother again until I was twenty-six. My dad had told me many lies about her and as a result, I did not try to contact her. Praise God, I did get to spend two days with her over the next twenty-five years, and I wish now that it had been many more. When she died on my wife's birthday in 1995, she had left what little she had to me. Among her "treasures" were my baby book and numerous pictures of me from my childhood. It was not until I saw how she had cherished my memory that I realized how much she had suffered over the years. We certainly had that in common.
When I was eighteen, I learned my dad's sister, Aunt Eleanor, was my Godmother. She had waited until I was considered an adult to inform me that I had been baptized as a Catholic. I never thought of myself as being Catholic, because after my dad divorced my mother, he no longer had anything to do with the church. My stepmother and he sent us to the nearest Protestant church, so that we could walk there and they did not need to take us. We moved many times due to his job, and so we attended churches of all kinds. Although I am sure the Gospel was preached in all or most of them, I do not remember ever hearing it. Now at eighteen, I began studying the Catholic Catechism, and was baptized again and confirmed within a year. It was excellent timing because that same year, I met my future wife who was also Catholic. We were married eighteen months later. Not having a car for the first three years of our life together, we seldom attended Mass. One might accurately surmise that religion was not a priority in our lives.