By Marni Arnold:

Some look at their lives and think, "What a mess."

Some look at their lives and think, "This is a piece of cake."

Some look at their lives and think, "I can't do this."

And some look at their lives and think, "I so can do this!"

We all come from different backgrounds, and those backgrounds formulate how we view our lives. I’m no different, and am one of many who lives with a changed perspective on their life. You see, I haven’t always thought and believed the way I do now.  Up until nearly 8 years ago, my life was in shambles.

I was born into a reformed Jewish family, and raised in the traditional Jewish ways. But while learning much about history and ritual, my family didn't show much in the way of relationship. When it came to guilt and shame, I took to what came easiest: hiding.

I hid from myself, and I hid from my family, friends, and God starting around the age of 13.  That’s when I became a Bat Miztvah and began to really dig my heels into the "why" questions about God. I found no answers, so I retreated to the confines of my room – opening my thoughts up to a pen and paper, and keeping them all to myself.

I thirsted to understand God and have a relationship with Him, but this concept was unheard of.  So I retreated further, like a tortoise into his shell.  I wandered through my teenage years, and moved from Arizona to North Carolina - during which I met the man who would become my husband.  He practiced Wicca, and being discontent with Judaism as I was, I found myself ransacking his bookshelf and discovering the answers I’d been looking for. Within a handful of months, I had embraced Paganism into my life.  For the next 6 years, I practiced as a witch in the religion of Wicca.

Delving deeply into the occult workings of Witchcraft, I was enticed by the darker side of life. The allure of control, the scent of power, and the caress of knowledge captivated my soul, mind and heart.  The last two years of my Pagan life, I engaged in ritualistic practices that appalled even my Pagan friends. I conjured spells to acquire what I wanted out of life.  In response to feelings of abandonment and hurt from earlier in my life, I placed curses on others to protect myself. But in trying to do spiritual harm on others, I was truly only harming myself. 

What pried me out of the cold grip of this lifestyle? God.

It took a deep physical pain to grab my attention.  It happened after my last Pagan ritual, on December 21, 2002. That night, as the ritual opened around the bonfire, I started to feel physically ill. I looked toward the night sky and saw a dark swirl not emanating from the bonfire and began to pray, “God, get me out of here now!”  This was the first time I prayed to God in a very long time – and within a matter of moments, the ritual ended and I clutched my stomach, ran to my car and left. On my way home, I wanted to pull over many times to throw up – but something kept telling me to just drive and get home, so I did.

I practiced the last year of my Pagan religion in solitary, but eventually God revealed himself to my husband and I through a group of Christians we had begun working with.  I accepted Christ as my Lord & Savior at a Christmas Cantata on Dec. 21, 2003.  I entered into His arms with a heart dripping with religion and needing deep healing. It took nearly 8 years to get this relationship into full gear, as my own parents opted to forsake me because of my decision for Christ.

Yes, it hurts...my parents refusing me; but it would have hurt far worse never having a true relationship with God. 

My story isn't one so much of a Jewish girl gone astray...or even simply a child who found herself at God's feet. While these are all true statements, my story is about relationship.  It takes an intentional decision to have a complete relationship with Christ and let him completely heal every mess we think we can't be healed from. The life we lived before, and the things we did, don’t matter ─ we can all be People of the Second Chance.