I’m David Westerfield, 33, and have lived in Fort Worth my whole life, and so has my wife, Courtney. We have two wonderful sons, Grayson and Asher, 5 and 2, respectively. I was raised in your pretty standard Bible Church (affiliated with Dallas Theological Seminary), which we left to go to Christ Chapel Bible Church (also associated with DTS) in Fort Worth. The former church began employing many of the marketing techniques and the “Robert Schuler-style” pastoral ministry dominating a lot of evangelical churches nowadays and so my parents became dissatisfied with where things were headed. We then left to attend Christ Chapel and I have now been there since I was in fourth grade.
Before going into my childhood, I must address my mom’s (Catherine Westerfield) because it had a deep, profound and lasting influence on our family. To put it ever so bluntly, she was severely sexually abused by her mother from about the age of two to her early teen years. Unspeakable things happened which I simply won’t go into. Abuse followed her pretty much all of her life, in one form or fashion. She was raped by multiple men in her early adult life, treated with contempt by others for some reason, and abused verbally by others both in the church (sadly) and out in the world. Oddly enough, later in her life, after my parents had both my brother and I, more persecution came to her from within the church walls than without. There were agnostic unbelievers who were kinder and more caring toward her than many of the supposed believers she knew at church, yes, sadly even at Christ Chapel. For some reason it seems Satan had a particular target marked on her for all kinds of demonic and human oppression.
But back to my childhood, during the early years of my existence, things were going fairly well for our family … that is until my mom had a total psychological meltdown and memories began flooding back from her childhood and later parts of her life that had been blocked out. The abuse was so severe and the memories so psychologically damaging that her mind split into multiple personalities to deal with it all (top psychiatrists around the state were astonished to say the least and had little knowledge of how to help her). This all happened when I was about four. She was in and out of psyche wards and mental institutions all my growing up life and things just got worse as I got older, as these events became more frequent. So needless to say, there were great trials in my family in which many times my mom’s suicidal personalities came out and she would cut on herself and then go into psyche wards for about six weeks or more as she was a danger to herself. That is the dark backdrop upon which all the other things in my life played out.
I heard about Christ and the Gospel from a young age from both my dad and mom, as well as church leaders in Sunday school, and “invited Christ to be my Savior” when I was about five. However, I still wonder to this day if it was genuine at all, only because of the evil turn my life made when I became a teenager, and lining that up against hard things said in James and 1 John. As a teenager, sinfully rebellious at heart, I began questioning (as everyone does at some point I think, though my questioning was in the form of cursing at God to His face) how an eternally loving, intimately sovereign God could permit such evil in my life to 1) befall my mother, and 2) our family as a result of those wicked acts.
The questioning turned into bitterness, which ate me alive. I became the center of all that was in the world. My actions then fell in line with what I perceived to be reality concerning the nature of God and His control over all things, especially my own life. I got into drugs, partying, slandering my parents, fits of rage, etc., all based upon a false idea that God and everyone in the world owed me. There were two particular instances where I literally should have died as a result of my rebellion against God: 1) from “huffing” or using inhalants to get high, such as lighter fluid; and 2) from alcohol poisoning after drinking way too much. It is a wonder God did not just give me over to wrath and let me drop into the eternal pit that I deserved for my blackened, sinful, infinitely offensive heart. He indeed should have. But clearly, He had a different agenda for me in His sovereign plan, for it was not my own agenda at all that I later turned to Christ as I never would have jumped on board in the first place had He not intervened. I was desperately sick at heart, spiritually dead, and unresponsive to God’s calls while in my sin, which is also one of the reasons I doubt whether I was actually saved when I was five, though certainly God could have been planting seeds back then.
After continuing in that lifestyle for several years, at the age of 17, things began to turn. But I can clearly remember now that it was not my own doing that brought about my convictions concerning Christ and the Gospel and my lifestyle, but it was the Lord putting those desires, affections, and change into my heart that were coming to life by His power, seeds starting to grow that had been planted years ago, and were now being watered by the Holy Spirit. At the end of my sophomore year in high school, I was at my wits end. I had reached the end of my rope. So I began to read the Psalms at night after work because I knew there was hope in the Scriptures, but I didn’t know where to start, so I started there, because it was easy to find in all honesty. During this whole time I was still pursuing drugs and the party scene, but slowly and gradually, reading Scripture each night (yes, even while I was high … is that not in itself a clear testimony to God’s irresistible grace in my heart? Good grief), there began to be a shift in my thinking and conviction concerning all of it. I felt increasingly out of place with my actions and the company I was keeping. This continued into the summer until it finally culminated in late July of 1996.
I had been watching TBN (yes, the Lord can use anything :] ) and they had these scenes of nature, cheesy music (which I muted), and Scripture passages to go along with each scene. I had been watching this in the middle of the night for many weeks, along with reading the Psalms. But this one particular night at about 2 am I went outside to read Scripture and pray to God (which I had been increasingly doing all summer). And suddenly I was overcome with a deep convicting sense of my own unworthiness before the Lord in how I had back-slapped Him in the face my whole life, but also a deep convicting sense of His goodness to me in Christ, made effective in the cross, shown so clearly to me in the Scriptures He sovereignly brought to me on the TV screen that night. I then asked Christ to forgive me for the way I had treated Him and the Great Burden of sin, shame, guilt, and fear lifted instantly, knowing Christ to have taken it in Himself on the cross on my behalf.
Looking up to the stars in the sky that night with tears of gladness streaming down my face, I then felt as if I was caught up into eternity that evening with Christ, with one foot on earth and one in heaven. His presence was overwhelmingly strong and I was at complete peace, a final and eternal peace I had never experienced in my inner being. I had been saved, spared God’s just wrath for my sin, and was finally accepted by the only One whose acceptance ultimately matters. The Holy Spirit had overwhelmed me and lifted me up from the mire, as David says in the Psalms many times. I wept for several hours that night at His mercy toward me as to why He would have ever saved me after pursuing such licentiousness with my life. I deserved pure, unhindered wrath and I knew it. And all I received was grace upon grace in my inner heart because of His satisfying presence at the deepest levels of my being. All I can answer to the question, “Why did God choose to have mercy on me?” is that He had always specially loved me long ago, and would not let me go, and He effectively made it so that night by His effectual grace purchased in the cross for me.
There were a whole lot of other factors as to what precipitated my conversion including my father who was a big influence because of the truth he spoke for years to me concerning the Scriptures. Also the Lord sent people from Christ Chapel who pursued me in the ministry, one of whom passed away in a car accident in 2006, David Phillips, a father-figure in the faith to me, who was the minster over the student ministries. He was the first one to really begin pursuing me upon arrival in the high school ministry. In addition to him, there were other leaders in the ministry that came along shortly thereafter: Ryan McCarthy and Jon Dansby in particular, who invested in my life, who are now peers of mine and friends in the ministry of which I am still a volunteer to college students, though they are both vocationally involved.
So I really got plugged into Christ Chapel’s student ministries in 1996 after what I believe to be my true conversion my sophomore year (versus my five-year-old confession), and then after high school, started leading as a volunteer in the middle school group in the Spring of 1999. I then began dating my wife, my best friend, Courtney, in early 2000, who I had known throughout high school. We were then engaged in October of the same year, and were married on June 8, 2001.
Shortly after that, as in three weeks after we were married, my mom passed away from causes that were undetermined. They performed a full autopsy and have no clue as to what killed her. I personally believe it was the accumulation of high levels of anti-psychotic medication over the years that resulted in a Gran Mal seizure (many of which she had before her death and seemed to increase over time), but we will never know really. She loved Christ and was converted when she was four under the preaching of S. Lewis Johnson in the 1950’s at Believers Chapel in Dallas. The Lord spared her soul, but not her suffering, all in ultimately bringing glory to Christ. That was her hope despite her agonizing years of tears and pain. And that has been my hope through all of that (Romans 8), that though we had no real resolution to her life, Christ was her joy and satisfaction and she now rests in His arms of comfort in the presence of His majesty, and He is our joy and satisfaction, knowing that He will make all things right at the end by His power. That is resolution enough.
Continuing on, my wife and I then left the middle school group as volunteers and became involved in the high school group, ministering to high schoolers’ alongside the friends I mentioned earlier with their wives. After having kids, we stuck with high school for a while and then Courtney stopped, however I continued. Now Courtney is co-leading a mom’s group at our church.
Courtney and I had Grayson in August of 2007 and he has been such a wonderful blessing to us and has brought such joy to our hearts. Asher was born on January 27, 2010 and has just added to our fullness of blessings! Unbelievable gifts of mercy from God. There aren’t words.
God’s faithfulness and love to us cannot be overstated. Not only has He rescued us from sin and its consequences, His wrath, but He has also blessed us with gifts in this world we are unworthy of as well. ‘Tis mercy all, immense and free, for oh my God, it found out me. That’s my life’s story in a nutshell. The undeserved, free, electing grace of God is what saved my soul. And this had much to do with why I had no real contention with the Doctrines of Grace (i.e. Calvinsim) and Reformed theology when presented with the doctrines formally, because this was my life’s story.
What made me to differ in faith and works from my friends who to this day cannot understand my change but the grace of God alone within me? Was it something I did that I can take credit for? Surely not! God saved me, nothing I did, thought, or willed. He granted the faith, gave me the eyes, transplanted my heart, turned my will. That was the work of God’s Spirit in applying the Gospel to my heart; Jesus’ substitutionary death and resurrection for His people who were rebelliously running astray and then reconciling them to God by His blood through the Holy Spirit. That is me.
I pray this testimony of mine makes you consider your own salvation (or even if you don’t think you’ve been saved by God and rest under His wrath even now – John 3:36) in seeing that Christ alone is the only way to the Father. The message of the cross is foolishness to the world (and are we not all by nature from the ‘world’?) … that is until the Lord shines the light of His glory in our hearts to make us see the transcendent yet imminent truthfulness of Him and the Gospel, that we may look upon His beauty, be satisfied, and thus glorify Him forever. Ask for His forgiveness for your sins by the application of the blood of Christ to your soul. Ask God to shine the light of His grace revealed in the Gospel of His Son Jesus in your heart that you may see and believe these things. It is the only way to be reconciled to God.
I will close my testimony by echoing the words of C.H. Spurgeon and Martin Luther concerning their own salvation experiences that I can truthfully say is exactly my own:
“The thought struck me, How did you come to be a Christian? I sought the Lord. But how did you come to seek the Lord? The truth flashed across my mind in a moment—I should not have sought Him unless there had been some previous influence in my mind to make me seek Him. I prayed, thought I, but then I asked myself, How came I to pray? I was induced to pray by reading the Scriptures. How came I to read the Scriptures? I did read them, but what led me to do so? Then, in a moment, I saw that God was at the bottom of it all, and that He was the Author of my faith, and so the whole doctrine of grace opened up to me, and from that doctrine I have not departed to this day, and I desire to make this my constant confession, ‘I ascribe my change wholly to God.’” – C.H. Spurgeon, A Defense of Calvinism
“I believe that by my own reason or strength I cannot believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him. But the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, and sanctified and preserved me in true faith.” – Martin Luther, Smaller Catechism