On a journey to find a spiritual guidance, Maria continued to be challenged by a simple sign pointing her to God. As she began her journey with Jesus she found one significant challenge, Her husband was uncomfortable with it... Could someone seemly so closed off to God become saved?
I knew the Lord from when I was a child. I had been brought up in a family that taught me who Jesus was, but I hadn't followed Him as such. So I didn't really know what a relationship with Jesus looked like or anything like that. It wasn't until I was in my early twenties that I started to look at other types of spirituality, because I'd always just had Christianity. I started to read different books like Eastern philosophies. But all the while, I was living in a relationship that had addiction in it. It was volatile and it was inconsistent and so my life was up and down and I was also trying to practise these things to keep myself in check.
I went along this path for quite some time. My relationship with my older children's dad ended quite badly. Then I met Honiana, my husband. We had an amazing romance for a year; he swept me off my feet. He just treated me amazingly, which was awesome as I hadn't had that before. He was attending Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous meetings. He knew that I had a background of living with someone else's addiction and he suggested I go to Al-Anon, which is for people who are family members or friends of addicts. He said, "Oh, it'll be really good. It's the spiritual programme."
So I would go into the Al-Anon meetings. They have slogans in there that they put around on the floor and every week, on a Friday lunchtime, I'd sit in front of one that said, "Let go and let God". It was bothering me, because I would sit in front of it every week. I'd go in, not looking where I'm sitting, and I'd sit down and there it would be again. I would look at the floor and look at the slogan and listen to somebody share.
One week, all of a sudden, I felt the presence of God enter the room. It was a tangible presence of the Lord. He came into the room with me and I remember looking, thinking, “I'm going to see Jesus.” I saw the room go bright. Everything was bright. I heard Him say that He was still with me, but that I had gone away. I didn't see Him, but I knew it was Him. I've told people about this, especially people who don't know Him, and they say, "How do you know it was Him?" Well, you know it's Him when it's Him. I didn't have any reason to think it was Him, but it was Him and I knew.
I remember really clearly hearing God say, "Worship the Creator." That might sound simple, but I was worshiping creation for a long time. It was like an instantaneous understanding of who God is and how deceived I had been. I was so aware of deception in those early days. So I went on this journey of seeking and seeking, looking at people's testimonies. I wanted to know if other people had experienced what I'd experienced. I went on YouTube, finding out if people have had such direct encounters with Jesus before.
I started going to New Life Church; it was Aspire Church in Nelson. Honiana wasn't a Christian at that point and wasn't very happy that I was. He handled it for a little while. I couldn't stop talking about Jesus all the time. I'd try to tone it down and I'd maybe manage it for two or three days and then I'd say something else that I couldn't help myself say. But I remember praying and God clearly told me to leave Honiana to Him. And I did after that, because I had been trying too hard.
It suddenly dawned on me that I wanted to get baptized. I really wanted my family to attend, of course, and so, I went home this Sunday and I said to Honiana, "Oh I'm getting baptized next week", and I invited his friends as well. I invited my friends, his friends, because I was a brand new Christian who wanted everyone to know Jesus. So I was trying to get as many people as I could in the church. Honiana reluctantly came. He was really uncomfortable in the church. I was so grateful that he was there, really grateful that he was there. So I got baptized and it was incredible. He witnessed people share words and all sorts of stuff in that environment and he just seemed like he was still really closed off to it.
After that time, I tried to get him to come to church with me. Eventually he did. He came, but again, he wasn't happy about it. He came reluctantly, everything was sort of reluctant. I remember feeling disappointed, just wanting so much for him to know Jesus, so that we could be on this journey together. And then being disheartened all the time. There was this one particular day where we had to drive about 25 minutes to go to church. Honiana was arguing with me, and he was angry with me, and I was looking out the window and listening to him and praying. We got into town and I went to get the kids out of the car, and he said he wasn’t coming in. I looked at him, frustrated. You’ve come all this way and now you're not coming in.
I went into the service, and he ended up coming in anyway. I was in the Children's Church during the service - I ended up stuck in there with one of my children who wasn’t letting me leave. A friend of mine came in and she said, "Maria, Honiana's just put his hand up for salvation!" I was like, "No way! Like today?” because I knew what had been going on before we got to church. I just couldn't get my head around it that this was the day.
We went home that day, and it wasn't until later in the afternoon that he said, "Oh, I’ve got something to tell you that happened today. I put my hand up for salvation today." I was just like, "Wow, that's amazing." But he was quite flat for a few days. He'd had an experience with God in the church service which he knew was Jesus. He'd asked for it before he'd gone in, not knowing he was going to have it.
His transformation has been incredible. He's softened so much. His heart has softened. I was just thinking the other day how different Honiana is now to how he was. He's still Honiana, and so the essence of who he is, is still him. He's always been a really cool guy. He's just a cool guy with Jesus now, which is next level. It is a process and it's a refining that God does in all of us. I think it's chiseling off the rough edges and smoothing us out a bit as we go on our journey with Him and get closer to knowing who He is. He transforms us more and more.
I think a word of encouragement that I would give to other women who may have a husband that is not walking with the Lord with them, is just to keep praying for him and just remember that God has him. We might feel like we want to be in the driver's seat and controlling things and trying to make things happen, but God actually has all of us. And so, just like He had us and He called us, He has our husbands.