Redemption's Story

Redemption’s Story

Have you ever been clinically depressed? The kind when your shoulders feel like they have heavy weights on them; when it’s difficult to lift your arm to brush your teeth or hair? The type when you only get out of bed to use the bathroom or force down a little food? The sort where showers or baths are neglected for weeks at a time; when phone calls go unanswered and unreturned?

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in December 1982, but I’d only experienced mania (“unipolar”) until Mom died in June 1997. Mania is fun! Euphoric! Grandiose! Sometimes superhuman! Bigger than life! But I learned that depression, the other pole of bipolar disorder, is the pits! Debilitating! Hopeless! Dejected! Heavyhearted! Desperation! Sadness! Despondency!

One September Saturday, my 12-year-old son David came into my bedroom about 10:00 am and tugged at my feet.

“Mom! Mom! Please get out of bed today!”

I slightly raised my head and acknowledged his presence with a half-cocked attempt at a smile, but made no promises. Then I laid my head back down and said a silent prayer.

Oh, Lord. Please let me die today. I’m of no use to my children or anybody!”

I dozed back to sleep, undisturbed until noon. It was again David who came in holding a phone in his outstretched hand. Usually I would refuse phone calls when depressed, but he told me it was Katya, and I would never hurt her feelings by rejecting her. She was so fragile.

A couple of years earlier the pastor of my church announced one Sunday night that the daughter of the Russian couple in our church was immigrating to Knoxville with her husband Sergey and their 10-year-old son Peter. He said they would need work and asked if anyone knew of anything available. The next day I called the church office and said I could use Katya to do housework and Sergey for yard work and general handyman tasks.

The first day they came to our house their English was so poor I had to draw pictures to show them what I wanted done. Often they just guessed and made up things to do. But I didn’t say anything; I was almost always pleased with their work. I said almost always. 

At that time David and my daughter Megan were going through their “preppy” stages during which they thought they had to wear “Abercrombie clothes.” Katya had filled the washer with David’s best clothes. Since she couldn’t read English very well, she reasoned that the bottle of Clorox sitting on the dryer looked like a liquid laundry detergent. She ruined all of David’s clothes! When she discovered what she had done, she began crying. I hugged her and reassured her that it was okay. Of course David didn’t care; he knew he would be getting new clothes!

So when David said Katya was on the line, I knew I had to speak with her. She told me Sergey and she had bought some tennis racquets at a garage sale the day before, and wondered if i would teach them how to play tennis that afternoon. As I thought about all they had done for us, it would have been almost impossible for me to say “No” to her. I reasoned that depression always gets better as the day progresses, and a little exercise would help. So I told her to come over about 2:00.

They arrived punctually at 2:00 and came in briefly before we all climbed into my van. Sergey sat in the front with me. I’d never seen him in such bad shape. He looked like he hadn’t shaved for four or five days. He had a very worried look on his face; he kept wringing his hands. My imagination ran wild. Was he running from the police? Were they having marital or financial problems?

I drove to the local high school’s tennis courts. David and I stood on opposing sides. Katya and Peter joined me, and Sergey helped David. We explained the rules to them as best we could, but mostly we just practiced hitting the balls back and forth across the net.

Sergey’s hand wringing persisted on the trip back to our house. Before I could invite them in, Sergey asked if they could come inside. He had something he wanted to talk with me about. My curiosity heightened.

Megan joined us as we all sat down in the living room. It didn’t take long for Sergey to tell me what was bothering him.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about God lately. What will happen to me when I die?”

I thought, “Oh, no. Anything but this! Why couldn’t he have just wanted to borrow money! I’m the worst person in the world to help them with spiritual issues; I’ve lived such a hedonistic lifestyle. Why didn’t they pick my Christian doctor Bob whose father was a minister? They’ve done work for him, and he could help them a lot better than I can!” 

But what I said was, “I think we can help you. Let me get a Bible and I will be right back.” I didn’t really expect to look anything up; it just gave me confidence knowing I could if I needed to. Also, leaving the room bought me some time and helped me to regain my composure. As I walked, I silently breathed a prayer. “Lord, please help me!“ 

As I strolled back into the living room, I remembered the two diagnostic questions I was taught to ask when I took Dr. D. James Kennedy’s Evangelism Explosion (EE) course fifteen years earlier at my church. I asked for Sergey’s permission to ask these questions.

“Do you know for certain that if you died tonight you would go to heaven?”

“No. Not for certain. That’s what I’m so worried about.”

“If you stood before God and He asked ‘Why should I let you into My heaven?,’

 what would you tell Him?”

Sergey thought about it for a minute, and then he said

“I guess I’d tell Him I’m an honest man. I provide well for Katya and Peter, and 

I’m good to them and to our parents.”

His answers revealed that he didn’t have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. 

“Sergey, you can’t earn your way into heaven! It’s offered as a free gift. You  must 

realize that we’re all sinners and we need forgiveness. None of us are worthy 

under God’s standards. Jesus said

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except 

through me. [John 14:6, NIV] 

“In Chapter 3 of this same book, John wrote the most quoted verse from the Bible.”

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever 

believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” [John 3:16, NIV]

I didn’t think I remembered much of the rest of the EE presentation plan, but I did. I’ll give a detailed description of their conversion experience separately in Evangelism Explosion Conversions.

Now, twenty years later, I believe there’s a better way to tell people about Jesus and lead them to become Christ followers. [See] I share my personal testimony, explain what it means to be a Christ follower, and, if they choose to become one, I ask them to repeat a simple prayer like this one phrase by phrase after me.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for your never-ending love for me! I admit I have done many bad things and I deserve to die for my sins. I believe that Jesus died on a cross and rose from the dead to pay for my sins so I can have a personal relationship with Him for eternity. I repent of my sins and place my trust in You alone for my salvation. Jesus, forgive me of my sins and take control of my life. I accept salvation as a free gift; there’s nothing I can do to earn it. Holy Spirit, please come into my life and lead me each day. I pray all of these things in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Sergey, Katya, and Peter prayed a similar prayer and received the free gift of salvation. Katya and Peter were crying. Sergey’s face beamed a contented smile, and he was no longer wringing his hands. They embraced me and expressed their appreciation. 

After they left, David hugged me.

“I’m so proud of you!”

“Don’t be proud of me. It was the Holy Spirit that brought those verses back to my 

memory from fifteen years ago. And I’m proud of you for knowing so many Bible

  verses at your age!”

“Mom, every time you quoted a verse, I was thinking that same verse in my head.”

“It was the same way for me each time you said one.”

That day both of us were surrendered to God’s will and in tune with the Holy Spirit. I remembered my prayer in the bed earlier that morning. I’d told God no one needed me and asked him to let me die. I realized that there was a double redemption that day!

Ruth Ann,
Sep 4, 2018, 8:19 AM