Let me borrow the words of Charles Spurgeon from Morning and Evening Day 161: "I will speak, not about myself, but to the honour of my God. He hath brought me up out of an horrible pit, and out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings: and he hath put on a new song in my mouth, even praise unto our God. The LORD hath done great things for me, whereof I am glad."
I came to know Jesus Christ as my Savior when I responded to an altar call one Sunday. I was only around 10 years old when a group of Elders in the church I attended laid their hands on me and prayed for me. As I went back to my seat that day, I was sure in my heart that I will go to heaven when I die.
I attended Bible studies not in Sunday school for kids but with adults. At home, I read the Bible on my own and the first verse I memorized was Isaiah 41:10 "So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." I also remember questioning the grammar of Galatians 5:22-23: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and self-control. Against such things there is no law."
I grew up basically a good kid and graduated from college NBSB - No Boyfriend Since Birth. However, during the waiting time for my first job I prayed "Lord, dyan Ka muna ha,” and started dating. I was confident that as long as I knew my boundaries, I will be fine.
Little by little, I started seeing my mom, who was my bestfriend when I was growing up, as my enemy. I resented her for reasons I couldn't understand at that time. I started lying. One lie led to another and before I knew it, I became hooked to sex. My first heartbreak caused me to be bitter about men and on my darkest moment, I bargained my soul with the devil for charm.
I wasn't outwardly flirtatious but I had a way of 'getting' the men I wanted. As long as they were not married, it was ok with me to date them. I entertained phone calls from strangers and had one boyfriend after another. One of the guys I met thru a random phone call eventually became my boyfriend for 5 years.
About 2 years into the relationship, the guy proposed marriage but I refused because, being the eldest daughter, I felt responsible in helping out with our family's finances as a sort of payback to my parents. The following year, I found out I was pregnant and we aborted the baby.
In 2004, while still in a relationship, I dated another guy whom I thought would be the perfect guy for me: he was athletic, tall, handsome, had his own car and worked in the same casino. My boyfriend of 5 years found out about it and he broke up with me. The guy who was the cause of my breakup was literally a basketball player and he figuratively caught me on the rebound. I told him upfront that I didn't want to have sex with him and wanted to be just "good friends" and get to know him better.
However, after a few months of dating the rebound guy, I decided it was OK to go "all the way" with him because we liked each other since day one anyway. A few weeks after that, one morning, all emo and hung over from heavy drinking, thinking whether or not I "deserved" to be with the rebound guy, I cried out to God in my heart and told Him how messy I have become. That time, I bargained with God instead and promised Him that if He allowed me to go to Laoag, I will begin my journey back to Him.
My youngest sister, incidentally, was graduating from highschool and our family needed funds for her college education. I asked for a branch transfer to Laoag, Ilocos Norte for that reason. My request was granted sooner than expected and in no time I was on the trip towards the very first time I will be living on my own. As soon as I stepped into my hotel room in Laoag, I started reading the Purpose-Driven Life.
Little by little, things started changing in my heart for the better. I read the Bible, journaled and started praying on my own like never before. I read books by Christian authors and started blogging. I found myself enjoying my times alone with God without needing the attention of men. I started seeing the rebound guy as a true friend and I became more concerned about his soul than my happiness. It hurt me that I cannot be with him but I knew it was right to let go of my complicated relationship with him. I poured my heart out to the Lord for him in prayer and little by little, my lustful desires and promiscuous tendencies faded.
My father was diagnosed with cancer in October 2004 and passed away on the Easter morning of March 2005. Around that time, I was still studying the Purpose-Driven Life and my heart's desire was to see who my real friends in the casino were. In my father's wake, God revealed the answer.
I transferred back to Manila and started attending a small Baptist church with my mom and my youngest sister. My relationship with them improved and we grew together in our walk with God. We went to youth camps together and prayed together as a family. We served together in the Data Entry team for the Metro Manila Franklin Graham Festival. I also started being accountable with a fellow single lady who taught me about real love and purity. I also started running regularly.
One Sunday, in search of a more mature support group, I found the church group that one of my workmates in the casino attended. I walked-in and listened as the preacher talked about love. I started attending that church on my own and desired to have a dgroup. In May 2007, I attended a Singles' Retreat in Caliraya called "One Way" with the prayer that I get plugged in to a dgroup. God answered that prayer thru my breakout leader who invited me to attend their mixed singles' dgroup. I also got baptized in that retreat, with the declaration that Jesus is not only my Savior but the Lord of my life. As I emerged from the water that day, the conviction in my heart was formed: "No turning back". In September 2008, after confirmation from God during my personal time of prayer and fasting, I resigned from the casino.
Many things have happened in my heart and in my life since I made a U-turn to God. I never would've experienced the rewards of being a full-time ministry worker if I didn't quit my casino job. I never would've known what it truly meant to be content and thankful if I still had a job that paid close to or even more than a thousand pesos daily. I never would've learned what difference was there between light and darkness, righteousness and compromise if I was still caught up in a comfortable job. The job I got afterwards didn't even pay half as much but the spiritual growth that ensued in my life cannot be matched by any amount of money.
Though I found myself in between jobs and had some periods of depression, I've managed to 'rebound' each time, by God's grace, thru prayer, God's Word and the encouragement of my dgroup leader and accountability partners. Many times, still, God also used strangers to bring me back to my senses - like when I unintentionally got lost in 2009 in Singapore and ended up in a Bible-believing church and when, just recently, after almost 24hours of intentionally wanting to get lost, I ended up in a Christian gathering in Sta. Ana.
These days, by the grace of God, I am serving as a volunteer assistant facilitator in a recovery program that has helped me to deal with my anger issues and address the emotional consequences of my past sins. I am now helping other ladies process their own hurts, hang-ups and habits, sharing with them the comfort with which I have been conforted by God.
Though it was never easy to turn over all my hurts, hang-ups and habits to God, I believe I am here today not because I have chosen it but because God chose me for it. Today, I am fully convinced that abortion is an abomination to God and the devil can use people to condemn me for all the mess I have done in the past. But God, in His great love for me, never fails to assure me that "There is now no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus."
From a person who viewed sex and marriage merely as a matter of preference, I now understand sex as a God-given gift to be enjoyed and shared by a man and a woman only within the covenant of marriage. From someone who taught child-bearing as optional and abortion as acceptable, I now view child-bearing as a privilege and abortion as a grievous sin that can only be paid for with death. "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus." (Romans 6:23). From a daughter who used to be resentful of her parents, I now only have gratitude for them that can never be repaid by any amount of money. I want to honor my parents by being the person that God intends me to be. I am grateful that God in His great love and mercy, gave Jesus for me so that I can have the life that He intended for me when I first believed in Him: being friends with Him forever. "For God so loved the world, He gave His only Son; whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16).
Please pray with me that...
...those who are single today will make a decision, with God's help, to not engage in premarital sex or casual sex or to stop doing so until they are married.
...young people and singles ascribe to purity, learn to wait upon the Lord and enjoy the friendship of Jesus Christ more than any other relationship.
...those who are married today will not even consider divorce for whatever reason except marital unfaithfulness as God hates divorce.
...Christians who live lives of compromise turn away from their sins and be fully committed to love God first, obey His Word, lead others to Jesus and to live right everyday with the help of the Holy Spirit thru the counsel of God's Word.
...those who think their lives are in a dire mess or even those who think they are OK on their own, will surrender their hearts and lives to Jesus not just as Savior but as Lord and trust Him to turn their messes and stories into a wonderful message of His redemptive love and grace.
"Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." - Philippians 3:12-14
I am Anna Corazon Alejandria Paredes Evangelista, an imperfect child loved and being perfected by a perfectly loving Father, now joyfully married and pressing on for the glory of God and the expansion of His kingdom!