My Story (Part 2)
September 1, 2016
Welcome to part two of Emanuel Schrock’s true life story.
- Lost and Hopeless
I longed for God, yet the desires of the flesh kept pulling me away from him. Every day I faced strong temptations in all areas of life, and, though I tried my best to fight them, I could not resist. I was Amish; everything I did and everywhere I went, I could not be anything else. My clothes were Amish, my house was Amish, my family was Amish, and most importantly, my church was Amish. But I did not know God. I heard about him, and read about Him. But I didn’t know who He was, much less love Him.
My body didn’t care that I was Amish; when I was faced with temptation, I did what the rest of the world did: I gave up on righteousness, and chose sin instead of God. My straw hat did not keep the dirty and vile thoughts and pictures from floating inside my brain. My suspenders and homemade clothes didn’t keep me from outrageous fits of anger, and vile cursing and swearing. They couldn’t control the evil lust that burned in my heart after I saw that first glaring page of pornography. I was taught to obey my parents because that is what Amish do, but I didn’t love them. Many times I hated them.
In short, being Amish did not change who I was as a person, and I knew that someday I would stand before God, all alone, and I wondered if it would matter than that I was Amish. I had a foreboding feeling that, even though I looked different and more religious than the rest of the world, I was of the same class as they were, and would be judged by the same law as they. Somehow I sensed that the law of God would someday cut through my Amish cover, and the sinful person I really was would be exposed for God and the world to see.
Life continued, and there were some changes in the family. My oldest brother had left home and the Amish church when he was 18, just before he was scheduled to be baptized. Since he had left the church, I was told that he had fallen into the devil’s hands, and was not only deceived himself, but was now a dangerous threat to our family, because he could deceive us as well.
I was young, but I well remember the confusion and turmoil our family went through when my brother left. Having a family member leave home and the church was the next thing to someone dying. My dad retreated into a major state of depression; my mom’s grief was so deep the pain showed constantly on her face. My older sisters walked around with red and swollen eyes. My next older brother was angry.
I wasn’t sure what to think. I knew that what had happened was serious. Yet, there was a strange secret feeling of excitement. Something new was in the air, and as a young Amish boy, nothing was ever new, nor did the future have any promise of holding anything new. As I grew older, I often scorned him for deserting the faith in front of my friends, but deep down I wondered if perhaps he wasn’t closer to answering the same questions that I was being bothered with; questions like “How can I know that I am right with God.” I was secretly jealous of him at times, because he had the advantage of searching for answers outside the box; an advantage that I was told is sin and deception. But in the back of my mind I wondered if my brother was closer to finding the answers than I or my parents. At least for him there were no limits to hold him back from pursuing the answers. For me and the rest of my family, there was a barrier that loomed in front of us, beyond which we were not allowed to go. It felt like being held in a fenced in pen.
My brother often wrote letters to us at home, which we read eagerly. In them he stated his reasons for leaving, pointing out areas where he claimed the Amish church did not agree with the Bible. Some of the letters had an impact on my father, because my brother pointed out that if being a member of the church wasn’t able to give victory over sin, and peace with God, why was my father asking him to come back?
Five years after my oldest brother left home, my second oldest brother left as well. His departure from the faith sent a wave of shock through the community, since he had been a faithful and respected young man. He was soon dismissed as another deceived young man who wanted to go out into the world to have fun, and used the Bible as his excuse. Yet, those of us who knew him, and lived with him, knew that he was in desperate pursuit of the truth as he found it in the Bible. He cared more about God and righteousness now than he did before in his life. But that didn’t seem to matter to most in our community. He had left the faith, and there didn’t seem to be any hope for him. They took it as a serious warning of how deceiving it can be to listen to those abgegangenie, (deserters) who use the Bible as an excuse to live like the world.
These dramatic changes, among others, drove me to the Bible. I began reading it in English, though it was discouraged by the church I attended. I started reading the familiar passages that I had heard preached all my life in church, and suddenly the words of the Bible came alive with meaning, simply because I was able to understand them. I discovered that the Bible in English was saying the same thing as it did in German, only now I understood it better because I understood the words in English.
The new change in life, and some relationship problems between my parents made life confusing and unstable at home. I longed more than ever to have the answers to life, and more and more I found myself going to the Bible for those answers. I read it intensely, hoping to find the answers I was looking for. Gradually, I allowed it to be free in saying what it was trying to, instead of what someone else told me. The fierce temptations of lust that all young men are faced with drove me in desperation to find some source of power and victory that would help me overcome, and slowly the Word of God became that source of victory.
The question of where I was headed still loomed before me, and I could not avoid it. Simply belonging to a certain culture seemed like an increasingly fragile hope to build eternity on. But where else was I supposed to turn to find peace with God? What was it that I needed to do to be born again?
As I read the Bible, I was faced with a few questions. I had grown up hearing that it is impossible to know that you are born again. It was considered pride for a person to say that he knows he will make it to heaven. But why then did Jesus say: “You must be born again, or you cannot see the kingdom of God.” Why would the Bible tell us that we need to be born again in order to see heaven, then turn around and say there is no way we can know we are going there? It would be like a father telling his son he must go to the grocery store, but then telling him there’s no way he can know if he is on the right road to get there. Then I would read verses like this in 1 John 3:
10 He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.
11 And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.
12 He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.
13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life...
I became convinced that there was definitely a way I could know I had eternal life. If Jesus came to die for me, and to give me life, why could I not know that I had it? According to these verses, if I have the Son, I have life, but if I don’t have the Son, I don’t have life.
Eph.2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.
This was scary stuff for me. I realized that I could not get to heaven by being good enough. This was frustrating, because now I didn’t know what to do, since God would not accept my works in exchange for salvation. Being good was the only thing I knew how to do to please God, and if that didn’t work, I didn’t know what else to do. I felt like my salvation was outside of my control; that there was nothing I could do to get God to save me.
I tried all the things people told me I needed to do. I confessed my sins, and was as sorry for them as I could be. Many, many times I asked God to forgive my sins. I often prayed until I felt better, but I was never sure whether God had really forgiven me or not. I always felt like I couldn’t be sorry enough, or feel bad enough about my sins for God to forgive them.
As I continued to read the Bible, I came across verses like these:
John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
Even though I had heard these verses in German many times, I couldn’t understand them. I had heard about der glauben (faith) growing up, but I didn’t know what the Bible meant when it said I must believe in Jesus Christ to be saved. To just believe was too simple; there had to be more involved to salvation than just believing in Jesus. Surely there was some work that I had to do; surely I must do something to clean myself up before God would save me.
Yet, the words of the Bible kept coming back to me: “He that believes is not condemned.” That sounded so easy. And it was exactly what I was looking for. I wanted be free from this condemnation; this guilt and fear of death and hell. I wanted to be free from the judgment that hung over me, and in this simple verse, I saw a way out.
Many times I thought to myself, “If I could just believe.” But I didn’t know how to believe. When I tried to believe, I would look inside my heart, and try to make faith rise up inside of me, and try to find a feeling telling me that now I believed. But when the feeling didn’t come, I would give up, and decide that I must not have truly believed. Therefore, believing was always something just out of reach, and I felt like I would never be able to reach the point where I truly believed and was born of God.
I hated this feeling of helplessness. I wished that God would just come down and save my soul because I asked him to. Didn’t He see that I wanted to be saved? Didn’t He know that I was trying to be a Christian, and wanted to do what was right? Didn’t He see that my heart was sincere, and that I truly wanted to know Him, and to serve Him? Why then could He not just do the miracle that it took to save me? What more could I do to show Him that I was serious about following Him? It seemed like I was doing my best to do my part, but God was just not doing His part. I did all the things I knew how to do to be a godly young man, but it seemed like God didn’t care. I fought sin as hard as I could, and did my best to be righteous, but none of my efforts succeeded in giving me peace with God. There were many times when the full weight of the importance of my salvation was so heavy upon me that I cried out to God for mercy, because I didn’t know what else to do, but it seemed like God didn’t hear.
I was in this state of despair for a long time, and I wondered if I would ever see the light. I envied other people who were rejoicing in the peace and forgiveness they had found in Christ, and I became even more exasperated. It was frustrating to see others possessing the peace that I was looking for, and which the Bible said I could have, but they had it, and I didn’t know how to get it.
In my mind, I put way more effort into my salvation than many of them did, and I couldn’t understand what they did that I wasn’t doing that worked for them. It seemed to me that God was being partial, by only giving salvation to those who were lucky enough to meet the right requirements. And how I longed to be one of those lucky ones.
— Emanuel Schrock
To order a free copy of My Story—in booklet form—please contact the Amish Voice at (419) 962-1515, or send a note to P.O. Box 128, Savannah OH 44874.
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