Pastor’s wife realises she was self-deceived
For many years Zoe Williams thought she was a Christian – she was even married to a pastor, but it wasn't until she had a profoundly life-altering encounter with Jesus in her kitchen one morning that she truly became a child of God.
As a little girl, Zoe had believed in and prayed to God, even though she had very little understanding of Christianity. However, she left all that behind when she started secondary school and it became "cool" to be an atheist.
As she grew, her life reflected her beliefs. "Obviously, because I thought there was no God, I was not accountable to anybody and how I lived did not matter," she explains. "Through my growing up years I was ashamed to even speak of [spiritual] things."
When Zoe met Kevin and they fell in love, they got sexually involved and eventually got engaged. Ten years later, they still had not married.
"We thought that we did not have to get married or make a commitment and we could still do what we wanted," she recalls.
Then Zoe fell pregnant and "life really sank in". The pressure of the impending responsibility of parenthood caused the couple to split up.
Dylan was born soon afterwards. Six months later Zoe moved back in with Kevin so they could try again.
One day, she woke up and Kevin was not there. "I thought, 'He's gone and left, he's had enough,'" she remembers.
When he returned, Zoe was surprised to hear that Kevin had felt God tell him to attend a local church.
"I thought, 'Who goes to church nowadays?'" Zoe recalls with a laugh.
Kevin started going every Sunday and eventually Zoe and Dylan joined him.
"I remember going [there] for the first time and it was like taking me back to the past," Zoe smiles. "All these memories just came back of being at school and at church, singing songs. Something within me started to light up again."
Seven years later, Kevin became a "born-again" [spiritually renewed] believer in Jesus. His entire attitude changed as he passionately pursued God by reading the Bible and going to church regularly. Zoe read the Bible, too, but she "tried to find things that really aggravated me so I could grab ahold of them and say that faith was ridiculous and it was all just nonsense. I tried to tear Kevin's faith down. I just did not want the Bible."
When Kevin changed churches, Zoe found the new people so friendly and lovely that she decided to try and just "fit in". She convinced herself that she actually knew the Lord and was reading the Bible in an honest attempt to see what God wanted for her life, but "I would read it without really believing it," she admits.
When Kevin later was asked to pastor a church, Zoe's self-deception was complete. "I really felt I had grown spiritually and gained so much knowledge. I convinced myself that I was fine with the Lord," even though nothing had really changed.
Kevin began preaching on the need to be born again to truly be a follower of Christ. This upset a large part of the congregation in this traditional denomination and challenged Zoe herself. "Rather than support him," she admits, "I pulled him down."
In 2009, they left that church and Zoe sunk into a deep depression as her "fairy-tale expectations of life began to fade".
"I began to seek the Lord more earnestly," she shares. "As I was reading my Bible, I came across the verse, Romans chapter 10:13: 'For whosoever shall call upon the Name of the Lord shall be saved'. That night, I went to bed crying over that Scripture. I said, 'Lord, Your Word says that if I call upon Your Name, I shall be saved. You have to save me!'"
The next morning, Zoe cried out, "God, I cannot go on like this; I feel no different." She went into the kitchen and prayed. "Everything that was on my heart just came out; all of my sin and anger came out. I held nothing back."
She says she then saw a vision "of the cross and it's like I saw the Lord Jesus on the cross. For the first time in my life, I realised I was a vile sinner. And I saw that the Lord Jesus Christ actually died for me, for my sins. And it absolutely broke me. I prayed, 'Lord forgive me! Save me!'
"[I was flooded with] this peace, an absolute peace, and all this burden that I was carrying around with me from life, it just... lifted. It was gone. I was free, and for the first time in my life I was absolutely ecstatic... it was wonderful. It was like the sun suddenly came up. It was like, 'Wow, I'm free. He's forgiven me; the Lord Jesus has forgiven me'."
Since then Zoe's life and walk with God have been noticeably different and she encourages others not to just pretend to serve God, or to just go through the motions of religious practise, but to examine themselves closely to see whether they really have been born again into a new life in Jesus Christ.
She loves the verse Isaiah 43:1 where God says, "Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine," and she delights in the deep certainty she has now of knowing that she belongs to God.•