Accepted by the One Who Matters

By Wilma Neal   •   June 19, 2007

Anger boiled up inside me. I had been watching a sporting event on television in my bedroom, and our local team won. I had wanted the team to lose so the students at my school—those who had made such rude, hurtful comments about me—would feel pain. But the home team won, and I couldn’t hold in my frustration any longer.

I kicked the television and broke it. Immediately I felt horrible, because my mom had worked so hard to buy the old, used TV for my room. I felt so hurt, but I didn’t know what to do.

My step father was in the military, so my family had lived in different locations for several years. In the mid-1980s, after we moved to Washington state, feelings of inadequacy, alienation and uncertainty took root in my heart. I was attending a high school with mostly affluent students who would say things like, “My parents took my car away.”

Car? I used public transportation to get to school, though sometimes Mom would bring me in her old car. At times, we didn’t have a thing to eat, but my mother would say, “God will provide”–and He always did. In fact, my mother and my great-grandmother spoke about Christ as if He were everything to them.

But I did not yet know Him myself, and the situation at school was unhappy. The students seemed so unfriendly; even some teachers made demeaning comments about me. I was withdrawing into a shell, becoming angrier and actually hating myself.

Not long after the incident with the TV set, a Billy Graham Crusade was on television. My mother always watched Mr. Graham, so I joined her in the living room in front of the family TV. As Mr. Graham spoke, I knew that I didn’t want to be angry anymore, and I knew that I needed Jesus Christ. When Mr. Graham turned to the camera and invited viewers to commit their lives to Christ, I knelt down and prayed, asking Jesus to forgive me and to be my Savior and Lord.

The program said I could send away for materials to help me in my Christian walk, but I didn’t have enough money for a postage stamp. Still, Jesus changed my life. My anger was gone, and joy came into my life. I was no longer concerned about whether or not people accepted me. They might not want to be my friend, but Jesus was my Friend. They might not show me kindness, but He had. When people put me down, I would simply remind myself, “God loves me.” And because I knew He did, I no longer had any excuse to hate myself.

I started to find a few friends after my conversion, although I didn’t have any dates during high school. When a guy would ask me out, I would say, “Well, you’ve got to be like Jesus.” They thought I was crazy. I didn’t really know how to explain my faith, but I don’t regret how I responded to those guys.

After high school, I joined the Air Force Reserve and later the Navy, serving for a little more than 20 years until my retirement last December. In the military I grew closer to Christ and bolder about sharing my faith. When people realized that I didn’t go out drinking and partying, they would say to each other, “She’s got religion.” But that didn’t bother me. I simply explained how Jesus’ love had changed me and had given me joy and peace.

These days I volunteer at my church. Once a month I work with the toddlers, and I assist my church in producing sermon tapes and with other tasks. This past May, I served as an usher and a greeter at the Greater Hampton Roads Franklin Graham Festival, in Norfolk, Va. I loved being there and seeing God work. During the meetings I would look around at the other ushers, and many of us were crying and praising the Lord.

The simplicity of the Gospel and the love of God were so clear. God has given us an open “I love you” letter. He says, “I love you. I care about you enough that I paid for all of the wrong you have done. I love you enough to say, ‘Let’s walk this life together. If you let Me be Lord, it’s going to be alright. I’ll walk with you when the storms come, and I won’t leave you.’” How could anyone turn away from that?

As someone who once struggled so much with wanting to be accepted, I can say now that my desire for others to know God far outweighs any fear that someone might reject me. I’ll tell anyone about God.

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