Testimony of Patria Rector
My story may be a little surprising in the sense that I considered myself a happy, contented Seventh-day Adventist. I had no sense that there was anything wrong with my belief system. In Bible classes, while attending Adventist elementary schools, I took in the information about the early days of the Millerite movement and the young Ellen G. White with awe and wonder. I felt no conscious confusion about the Law or its effect on my young life.
My family was loving and kind. I don't recall thinking something was missing in my life. God didn't seem mean. I was always drawn to spiritual things. And, I liked the comfort and security that qualities like loyalty, honor, and undying commitment yielded. My identity as a Seventh-day Adventist was firmly surrounded by the borders of these kinds of feelings and understandings. I was so contented within these walls that I didn't even outwardly rebel as a teenager. I grew up and married a nice young Adventist man that I met at Union College in Lincoln, Nebraska. We did everything the right Adventist way. To us, that meant going to all Adventist schools, always paying 10% tithe, knowing in our minds that Ellen White had the true gift of prophecy, and, most importantly, keeping the seventh-day Sabbath. Sabbath began Friday night at sundown and ended Saturday night at sundown. On those long Friday nights, while we knew many of our friends were closet TV watchers, or secular novel readers, we happily turned off the TV and turned on our Christian music. We were quite blissful in that life. As we look back on those years, we can honestly say that neither one of us had any awareness of a need for anything more, anything beyond what we had. We loved our home, our church, and our family just the way they were. We were content. They were all we knew and we had no burden for change.
On June 6, 1997, there came a head-on collision with what was about to cause radical change. My youngest brother, my childhood best friend, was in a severe car accident that left him comatose and hanging onto his life by a thread. My husband and I were expecting our first child and due within the month when we received that phone call. It felt like time stood still. My happy, blissful life came to a screeching halt in that moment. I remember feeling a huge part of my heart just going dead, instantly, when I heard the words across the telephone line. For months, he remained in a coma, and I began to hate God—or at least I hated it that He had hurt me! Deep in my heart of hearts, I felt that because I was an Adventist, I was due certain special privileges, and one of them was avoiding pain like this. I had been doing everything right. God owed me health, wealth, and happiness. This kind of pain wasn't in my plan. I thought He would give me an easy life. Now the question "Why?" reverberated through me so forcefully that I fell into a deep, dark depression.
I began to question God . . . deeply. My Adventist upbringing had taught me that God would never cause disaster to happen, but still, He had allowed it. I wanted to know if there was a difference! During this time, I went through all the same motions as before. I went to church and led out in children's Sabbath school every single Saturday. I poured myself into the only thing I knew . . . tradition. Not once during that time did I pick up my Bible or seek guidance. I just silently screamed at God . . . day after day, all the while pasting a smile on my face so no one knew. It was my own silent pain. During this same time, I watched people who had claimed lifelong friendships turn away from my parents as the days and weeks turned into months and years of their caring for a disabled person. I was angry, sad, frustrated. Where is Jesus?! was the cry of my heart.
One Saturday after I had taught Sabbath school, a "non-Adventist" who was married to an Adventist, and attending our church with her husband, invited me to Bible Study Fellowship. I was quick to decline and angry at the thought. "Who has time for Bible study?" I grumbled silently and vehemently to myself! "Wouldn't THAT be nice!" This same dear woman asked me again the next year and I again quickly declined. By the third time she asked, I couldn't think of an excuse fast enough, so I reluctantly agreed to go.
That was the beginning of my journey out of Seventh-day Adventism.
I remember walking through the doors, full of trepidation, but in the first 10 minutes becoming aware that these people were on FIRE for God. It was the first time in my life that I remember physically being aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit. I didn't know what I was sensing, but I knew I wanted more.
Along with that realization came questions. I asked myself why they were like this and NOT Seventh-day Adventists. Somehow I had believed that only Adventists had the privilege of having intimate relationships with God. Yet there was Jesus in a living, breathing, tangible Body. There, Jesus reached my heart.
It was there that I learned that we as Christians are to expect trials, that the holy God of the universe owes me nothing. And YET, He gave everything when He squeezed His omnipresence into a human body and came here to suffer and die so that I could experience eternal life. And, to my utter astonishment, I learned that eternal life is secured the moment I accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior! The most amazing thing began to happen inside me: I felt new life flickering. Jesus awakened me to Him. He brought me from a place of pure anger, bitterness, and resentment to full acceptance that He is Master and Lord over all.
During this time of study, God lit a fire in me that was unquenchable. I became filled with truth about what the Bible says and Who God is. Still, I didn't realize the fundamental differences between Christianity and Adventism because the vocabulary is the same. All the same words are used, but the meanings are very different. The way that Adventist doctrine teaches Christian fundamentals such as grace and the new birth are simply unscriptural.
I was in a better place, but there was more . . . . One day, as I was listening to a popular Christian broadcast, the host took a call from a person who asked about Ellen G. White. The host very simply answered that she is the false prophet of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. I was stunned and angry. I thought to myself, He obviously hasn't really studied this well; I will prove him wrong and present him with the evidence. Upon investigation, I was utterly shocked and devastated to discover that, indeed, she did make false prophecies. Further, some were edited out of books and tracts, and other of her early writings were changed from the originals. The more I uncovered in my study, the more overwhelmed I became with the enormity of the problems surrounding her works. I began discussing what I was finding with my husband. At first, he was sure I must be misreading the information, and, honestly, I hoped I was. I hoped he could straighten me out. We scavenged on the sly in my parents’ basement and found first edition Ellen G. White books (a rare find). We pored over quotes, comparing old with more recent, seeing for ourselves changes and edits and false prophecies.
After agreeing that Ellen White was a false prophet, we went through a time of intense grieving. We were angry and couldn't reconcile the idea that so many people in the Adventist Church are aware of her blatant problems (which we had found out in our study) and are still unwilling to—first of all—repent and, second, make the necessary changes.
We stayed in the Adventist church for the next two years because we thought we could sift out Ellen White's teachings. After all, we reasoned, there were so many good people in the church. It eventually became apparent that we couldn't sift her out, that perhaps everything we knew about the Bible was somehow tainted by her teaching. We determined that we could no longer stay, yet the thought of leaving was devastatingly painful. All of our friends, family, and business contacts (what we considered our whole life) were in the Adventist church. In order to follow Christ, we had to surrender everything we knew in our physical world. We took a giant leap of faith and followed Him out of the doors of the Adventist Church.
The first Sunday I sat in a church service, tears streamed down my face. I intuitively knew that HERE was the Body of Christ. HERE I was hearing the Gospel. HERE was freedom in Jesus. I was flooded with the most intense, intimate joy I have ever known. We have found pure, sweet, unadulterated freedom in the loving arms of Jesus. We have never looked back. Jesus just picked us up—right out of the pit of our pride, guilt, and shame—and put us in the center of His grace. It's stunning and humbling. I always think that once a person truly tastes (even just a taste) of Jesus' sweet grace and mercy, the dry dust of the Law isn't even appealing anymore.
It's been over 14 years now since Michael's accident. You know, I don't have any more answers as to why the accident happened now than I did then. The difference is that God in His mercy is changing my paradigm, and my life. The why doesn't reverberate through me so forcefully. I'd be lying if I said that I don't still ask it at times. I do. But now I know that Kingdom-building for the purpose of eternity is His focus and His heart, and His heart has become my own. He has given me a purpose. God is so good to me. He doesn't just do good. He IS GOOD. He is the GOOD STANDARD. Even when it hurts (and so many things still do), when I can't understand why or how or WHAT (and so often I don't), I am learning to trust His heart.
I am learning that Jesus is trustworthy. And as I learn to walk in a real relationship with Him, He is slowly and surely changing me from the inside out, even in those dark moments when I can see nothing at all except the promise that one day, the pain will cease, and that for now, I am not alone.
I could not find Jesus and His Life-giving love and truth on the shifting sand of Adventism. Every time I tried to put my feet down, they sunk into a pit of mud and mire. The solid Rock of Christ is so very different. It's difficult to put words to how different it really is. But, for one thing, I could never be assured that my eternal life was secure because I didn't know if Jesus would decide to remind me of a sin I'd forgotten to confess or instead put a black blot by my name. Seventh-day Adventism teaches that seventh-day Sabbath-keeping will be a requirement for salvation, if not now, then in the "end times" just before Jesus comes. One never knows, however, when the "end times" begins in that belief system. In that doctrinal construct, Sabbath-keeping would be necessary to remain saved, and the work of Christ is thus nullified.
Most Adventists have been taught Christian words like "grace" and "salvation" and may even use them frequently in conversation, but, I believe that few SDAs truly have a biblical understanding of them. Few truly know what Jesus accomplished at the Cross, through the power of His blood. I don't believe they know that the price He paid for us was expensive and He has made us wealthy beyond our wildest dreams.
I pray for each Adventist. I pray that Jesus will personally make Himself known in ways that are undeniable. I pray that He will use me as His vessel, that His light will pour out of me so brightly that many will come to know His love and Life.
Patria Rector, 2011