My name is Natalie and I was a third generation Jehovah’s Witness. I believed in my heart I had the true religion. My school vacations were spent in the pioneer service, and upon graduation from high school I devoted myself to the full time ministry. I was trained to debate many religions and was taught the Bible in a manner to solely convert others to what was called the “truth.” I literally was a walking theologian.
I was engaged at the age of 17, and when I turned 18 the following October, I was married. I had three children and pioneered with children in tote.
I believed biblically they had the truth, but was tiring out and felt I was being weeded out by God. By 1982 I was disfellowshipped which is what many call shunned. I had no one in the outside world to talk to . . . and no one in the world of Jehovah’s Witnesses would have anything to do with me. My mother and brother have not really talked to me in more than 20 years, except on what is deemed acceptable occasions like weddings or funerals. The exchange of words is cordial, but their demeanor left me feeling unworthy and ravaged with guilt. I can’t find words to explain what this feels like; to know and believe that God detests you, will not hear your prayers, and that you will die at Armageddon. You are nothing more than the dog that returned to his own vomit (2nd Peter 2:22). I lived in limbo away from God for almost 16 years. He was always in the back of my mind, but I knew He did not want me. How could He? I thought I had left His true organization. I had great fear about Jehovah. He was a God who expected exclusive devotion. Love was not talked about much, nor was salvation through Jesus. Salvation came from adhering to the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses. So I respected God, but did not like Him.
In 1996, I decided I wanted God in my life at all costs, so I got out my New World Translation of the Bible. It was all highlighted, footnoted, and underlined from my old Jehovah’s Witness ministry days. I began to read it. The more I read, the more I could not believe how different the things were I was reading from what I had been taught my whole life as a Jehovah’s Witnesses. In the past I would ask myself, “How can this be? Who am I to question God’s only true organization on earth?” Then in July 1998 my father passed away from refusing a blood transfusion. That is something prohibited by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I felt responsible for his death, and hold pain in my heart for not sharing with him the new things I was reading in the Bible. I was still under the influence of mind control after all those years. His death deepened my quest for the real truth.
Through a co-worker, I was invited to attend a service at a non-denominational Church called Calvary Chapel. I felt very guilty going there, but I liked what I heard since it was what I had been reading in the Bible. I was finally hearing the real truth and questions were being answered. Still, I wanted to desperately belong somewhere.
A scripture in Genesis 6:6 brought me to know God like I had never known Him before. It read: “The Lord was grieved that He had made man on the earth, and His heart was filled with pain.” God had a heart! His heart hurt that the people in Noah’s day left Him and did not love Him. It pierced my own heart as if a knife cut through me. I was in Fort Myers, Florida when I was shown that scripture. On my return trip home I would not stop reading the Bible. Over and over the scripture in Genesis resounded in my mind. I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior on that airplane! All thanks to God, He reached me after searching three long years. I got it . . . finally got it!!!!! I was free from all the brainwashing. My mind was free!! I cried hysterically and told Him how I loved His son Jesus Christ, and asked for forgiveness for my sins and for hurting Him.
It was so clear to me that I was the one who had left God. I had hurt His feelings just like the people in Noah’s day. He had never left me!! I had believed in lies. I finally understood that I did not have to belong anywhere. I belonged to Him. He was my best friend, my Savior, my King, my God.
I did not have the answers to Biblical doctrine questions all at once. All I knew was that I understood Grace . . . and the gift of God. The heavy burden of earning my salvation was removed. I did not have to count my monthly hours in the ministry for Him to love me. I did not have to stand on street corners converting people to be saved. I did not have to attend five meetings a week at the kingdom hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses to have His love. I did not have to worry if I would be in His kingdom. I now knew I would. I was no longer under condemnation. The Throne of grace was there for me too. Most of all, I finally LOVED HIM!
No more unhealthy fear . . . but a respect and TRUE love from my HEART. I finally knew Him, instead of just knowing all about Him.
It was October 27, 1999, the day after my birthday, that I became born again and finally knew Christ. Now I preach the truth about Jesus because my heart moves me, rather than needing to fill out a time card. Now it is no longer about me, but about Christ. I no longer feel I need to earn my salvation.
Ephesians 2:4-8: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith and this not from yourselves, it is a gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast.”
Titus 3:5: “He saved us, not because of the righteous things we have done, but because of His mercy.”
Romans 11:6: “And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.”
Mostly, for the first time, I understand Philippians 4:7: “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
The heavy yoke was lifted, and I now enjoy a life of peace in Christ Jesus, The Prince of Peace. My heart’s desire since, has been that all, including Jehovah’s Witnesses, come to understand the gift of grace through Jesus Christ.
My name is Natalie Matina and I’m a HappyXWitness!
Webster, New York