Denise Clark’s Testimony
Saved January 8, 1998
“Just A Little Talk With Jesus”
I was born on August 28, 1978 in a hospital in Portsmouth, Ohio. You see, the town that I’m from is o small that there is no local hospital. I grew up in a little town called Vanceburg, Kentucky on the Ohio River. It’s a beautiful little place. Very quiet, tucked away in the knobs of the Appalachians.. It was a good place to grow up.
During the summers I would spend time with my grandparents who lived in Hamilton, Ohio. They were more citified and tried to instruct me in the ways of decent civilized folk. My grandmother believed that one of these responsibilities was going to church. She and my grandfather had been out of church for several years, but decided to take me to an Easter Sunday Service because one of the remembrance lilies at the front of the church was for my great grandmother. I don’t remember much about going to Park Avenue United Methodist. Just that my clothes were uncomfortable and that it was very dark inside. I had to sit very still and follow all the rules, and nobody looked like they were having a good time. later, my grandfather asked me what I thought about it. honestly, I didn’t like it all that much. It just looked like people putting on a show to me.
At home, God and religion were topics that just were never talked about. At Christmas we’d get out our Christmas decorations, and I always got to put up the nativity scene. I didn’t understand what it was. I just thought that they were neat “dolls” to play with. I remember asking Mommy if Joseph was Jesus’ Daddy or not. I finally came to the conclusion that he was Jesus’ step-daddy.
At Easter we would dress up, and we’d open our Easter baskets. I can remember watching the African Queen a couple of years. One year I was watching a movie about three men on a cross and one man lived and later went up into the air. When I asked Mommy about it she got very angry with me, but I just couldn’t understand why.
When I was in the second grade we would recite a poem every day before lunch. I really didn’t understand it, but Grandma thought it was nice so she had me recite it at every meal at her house. I also memorized something called the 23rd Psalm because it was on the inside of my school box.
My cousins went to a Christian church, so when I’d stay with them I went to Vacation Bible School. I didn’t really understand what was going on. None of the kids like me much because I was new, and I didn’t know where to sit or the answers to questions. I remember making a church moue at one and a stain glass window at the other. My window was a balloon that said “Jesus lives.” Of course I didn’t know what that meant. On the last day, it was called “Sunday School.” We kids were put in a far corner of the church. At one point they passed out what I thought were snacks. Until one boy said, “That’s blood and flesh!” Another said, “no its not, its wine.” I just thought they were crazy. I took one of the little cracker looking things. It was awful! How could these people let their food get so stale?
Based upon these experiences and the teachings of the school system that gave me so much of my moral and ethical ideals, I concluded (not so formally, mind you) that religion and God in general, was not for me.
School taught me that we can improve ourselves. That our government always knows best and is infallible. Nature is to be respected and loved, because we are one of its creatures too, and that the Christian God is nothing but a figure people less intelligent than I invented to fill in what they couldn’t understand.
. In school I got straight A’s, and I thought I was something because of it. It was me against the whole system. When I was in the 7th grade, I saw my first graduation, and I saw the valedictorian lead everyone in. They said her name in front of everyone and she even got to talk in front of all of those thousands of people. I thought, “You know, I want to do THAT!” That idea would consume me for the next five years. My pride wouldn’t have it otherwise.
I lived quite happily with my cartoons and friends and schoolwork until my junior year. Then it seemed like everything that had been going right in my life suddenly went very wrong. At my first high school dance, I was sitting with a good friend of mine, chatting about comics, giggling at the shows we’d both watched as kids. Talking innocently about Batman, superman, and the like. Neither one of us really wanted to dance. A friend of his dragged him off the stage to dance, and I was left alone. The song that they were playing was “Can you feel the love tonight?” For some reason, I started crying. Just wept, openly. I couldn’t feel any love. Something profound had happened, and something was very very wrong. Suddenly my happy innocent existence was obliterated. That was January 13, 1995.
The next year and a half should have been one of the happiest times in my life. Instead I became embittered and disillusioned. School work became all consuming to the point of which I considered suicide if I failed.
I remember the first time I considered suicide. Some night alone in my room after writing about feelings I couldn’t really understand. I don’t think I’ve ever seen myself so bleak, tortured. Eyes so worn out from crying for a reason I truly didn’t understand. A soul tired of living. I believed I could be stronger than religion. “It’s a crutch for the weak minded.”
As my senior year of high school drew to a close, I saw myself inside of my 5 year academic goal. I lost a good friend of mine that year to Falconis Anemia, and that compounded my emptiness inside. They read the 23rd Psalm at her funeral, in the same Jr. High Sym I’d later graduate from. I burst into tears. I just couldn’t take it anymore.
My senior English teacher required that we read the book of Job as a work of ancient Hebrew tragedy. I hated every minute of it. I never ever thought I would hate reading, but I severely disliked that book. I just couldn’t understand why Job would be foolish and stupid enough to put faith in a god that put him through all of that.
High school passed, and Graduation had come. I was valedictorian with a 4.0 GPA, Captain of the academic team, in 8 more clubs, the only senior band member and had received a superior on tenor sax, clarinet, and my senior English writing portfolio. I had fulfilled every single one of my goals, and surpassed ALL expectations, and yet as I stood there and delivered that valedictorian address I had never felt Sao cold, so empty, so lifeless in all of my life. I felt as though there was a big abyss in my soul, ready to swallow me at any minute.
I attended the University of Louisville that fall, and even though I thought living out on my own would help, it didn’t. I was still missing something. As I look back on it now, its a miracle I never got into trouble, no drinking or parties or anything, just a lot of Star Wars, movies, and friends. That year I fulfilled a lifelong fantasy of not only going to the Kentucky Derby but actually playing My Old Kentucky Home there and still that empty bitter feeling I had at my graduation followed me.
As I came back to UofL that fall, I felt an extreme feeling that I was getting a second chance, and I couldn’t wait to act upon it. Tony and I became closer that fall. He was always so sweet and kind, trying to cheer me up, even when I didn’t want to be. Eventually, we started dating, and he asked me if I wanted to go hear him preach on December 7, 1997. It was strange because I had brought the little Bible grandma had given me ten years before he had even asked.
I went, and felt awkward and uncomfortable the whole time. I knew I loved Tony, as best I could. He preached on the one man who built his home on rock and another who built on sand. I couldn’t figure out why the man who built on the sand couldn’t just make pillars deep enough to hold his house up. Near the end he read the 23rd Psalm. I recognized that from my youth, but there was something different in the way he read it. Something I couldn’t wrap my rational scientific mind around. Then he read the last verse, “and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever,” and I know that he meant it. He knew he would be with God forever, and that went against everything I had been taught as a child. I loved Tony and I trusted him, but you can’t know God, can you?
Soon after, it was Christmas break, and I was in turmoil. I felt sliced in two. I could see the two paths in my life: one the way I had always been and known, and the other was the way that my beloved Tony had preached about. I was tired of my old life; I wanted to have what Tony had and follow that way, but I thought I couldn’t.
I came back to UofL for the spring term, and after a basketball game on January 7, I expressed my torment to Tony. He said, “I can’t help you, but I know someone who can.” Picking up the very same Bible my grandmother had given me ten years ago, he began to tell me about Jesus. I kept saying, “How do you know?” “You just do.” he replied. I certainly couldn’t wrap my science around that one. I still believed that I couldn’t know God because I was too old and wretched and I hadn’t been raised that way. Then he read Ephesians 2:8, “For by grace ye are saved through faith, not of yourselves for it is a gift of God.” That verse struck true with me, for I thought, “Even me?”
The next day, I spent cleaning my dorm room. AS I cleaned I just couldn’t get Just a Little Talk with Jesus (A song I heard at church) out of my head. Later that day, it was still bothering me as I tried to finish a letter I had begun during Christmas Break. Physically I was snug as a bug in a rug, but eventually the anguish that had tormented me returned. I got to a point where I just couldn’t write anymore, so I laid it aside and thought where I sat in bed and looked at the clock on my VCR (it said 6:45), “Well, Denise, you know where the razors are and there’s the window. You can do the same old thing you’ve been doing, or you can swallow your pride and give God a try.”
I bowed my head right where I sat and tried to pray. I really didn’t know how but I tried my best. I’m not for sure how long I prayed there, but eventually I knew I didn’t have to pray anymore. My first instinct was to try and rationalize it , but I quickly squashed that. I knew something major had happened, and as I smiled through the tears I thought, “I have to tell Tony!” But he was in Elizabethtown. Then I thought, “Well, I can get the number from Gran and…wait I don’t know about that…Hmmmm…doesn’t the Bible start somewhere with “In the beginning?” I picked up that same Bible and remembering how I tried to read it in 6th grade but got fed up with the begats after Noah, opened it and began to read. And just like light flooding a pitch black room at the flick of a switch, I could understand it!! I read for a little bit giddy with newfound ability and knowledge and finished the letter to my friend. I suddenly had all the answers I had been searching so long for, I closed it with, “Well, I guess I’ll make a pretty good preacher’s wife after all!” That was January 8, 1998.
I was on cloud 9 for a week! Tony could tell something was different, but I couldn’t work up the courage and get enough of the old me out of the way to tell him. Finally one week and one day later, sitting in the same bed, wrapped up in my Batman blanket, I tried to tell him what had happened to me. His eyes got big, and he took a shaky breath, thought and asked, “If you were to die right now, where would you go?” I knew in my head what the answer was, but for the first time even I could look in my heart and find it too. I told him softly and teary-eyed, “I know I’d go to Heaven, because Jesus died for me.” He immediately wrapped me in the best warmest hug, and insisted we tell everybody.
At the time I knew what had happened, I just didn’t know what to call it. Tony tearfully called his mom an half choking said, “Mom, I’m with Denise, she just told me about getting saved.” I smiled to myself, because I finally knew what to call this feeling of wonderful peace and joy in my heart I had experienced.
It was 2 years and one month later when Tony called his mom again and told her in that same voice that he’d asked me to marry him. My preacher and I got married 2 years and 6 months to the day after I got saved on July 8, 2000. In the same church where he got saved 12 years before, and where we were both baptized, a decade apart.
I now have the security, the assurance, the very wholeness I had been missing so long. The Almighty Creator of the Universe is a friend I can talk to day or night, good or bad, and a guide. I’ve been privileged to bring friends to church, and testify to them, and hear how my best friends and I have the same thing without even knowing it when we became friend!
I would also like to say that I’ve been given the opportunity to study for my Ph.D. at UofL in Pharm/Tox, and even though I am a scientist and am pursuing an advanced degree, I believe that God created the world in six days. I can say this without doubt, because my faith tells me so and is more sure than any conclusion found in a laboratory.