We are not our past and we are not what has happened to us. After being born with pulmonic stenosis, Amanda’s parents weren’t even sure she would survive. After being raped in high school, Amanda struggled with her worth, finding herself in a dark depression, questioning why she was even alive. Everything changed when she fell on her knees one day and cried out to God for help.
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Amanda Schneider: There’s a line in one of my favorite hymns that says sin had left a Crimson stain, he washed it white as snow. All of that past pain that hurt that depression, God sent his only son to die and cleanse that. And that is the greatest gift. That is the greatest love we can ever know.
Narrator: We’ve all experienced it. You run into a friend from the past, but there’s something different. They are changed. Maybe there is a calm where there once was a storm. Maybe there is gentleness instead of harshness. There’s a new passion, a new life. What changed? Welcome to Brought Back To Life, a podcast where we explore stories of ordinary transformation.
Amanda Schneider: Hi, I’m Amanda Schneider here to tell you that because of Jesus, I am not my past. I am not worthless or damaged. Because of his redeeming love, I am healed by his grace. Not long after I was born in Tallahassee, Florida, I actually got to take my first helicopter ride. I was flown to Shands Hospital at the University of Florida in Gainesville, where surgeons actually performed immediate open-heart surgery to fix my pulmonic valve. And being born with pulmonic stenosis all the way back in 1985, let’s just say that didn’t really give my parents too much hope for their little girl to continue living. See, for a lot of you out there, the pulmonic valve to my heart doesn’t work like yours, or really most people’s. It can’t open fully, so as a result, the smaller opening makes it much harder for blood to pump to the right ventricle.
But little did my parents know in that moment, that God had a plan for me for my life. I didn’t grow up in a Christian home. Ironically, both my older brothers were sent to private Christian schools when they were really young. My family moved around a ton growing up. We mostly stayed all over the Southeast, which as most of you know, is referred to as the Bible belt.
I remember in elementary school, I would often have friends ask me why don’t you go to church, or sometimes they’d say, do you believe in God? Growing up in the south and hearing about this guy, Jesus, I’m not gonna lie, it definitely made me think. Sometimes I’d sit there and wonder, okay if people are believing in him and talking about this God guy, there’s got to be some sort of truth. Right? So, during my childhood often I would actually lay down before bed and pray to God. A God that I had no clue about. But it seemed nice, and honestly, it was pretty comforting. Along with pulmonic stenosis, I was also diagnosed with asthma and allergies at a very, very young age. To be honest, what I saw myself as was a walking medical bill, from EKGs to inhalers, to allergy shots… my entire childhood, that was my life. Not only did I see myself as this walking medical bill, but also with all the medical issues and having to be on different medications and, and steroids oftentimes, I gained a lot of weight as a child. And on top of that toss in some crooked teeth and acne that I got an early age, and basically let’s say I was every kid’s dream, or not.
My brother, Matt, is a pretty incredible part of my life. When he was 17, he started going to church and this Bible study group, with friends from school. Before we knew it, my brother had actually given his life to Christ. This is that God guy that I had heard of. Now, my very own brother, I’m hearing this name of God, even more, straight from his mouth.
I wanna fast forward just a little bit and share about a pretty pivotal time in my life. I was about 11 and my brother, who I was just speaking about Matt, he was about 18. It was late, and I woke up in the middle of the night to sirens and ambulances. I peeked out my window and realized those sounds, they’re coming from my house.
What? There’s gotta be a mistake. At this point, I could hear voices from the living room. So, I stepped outta my room and asked what in the world was going on. Matt came into my room and explained that dad had fallen and was hurt. My heart was racing. All I could think in that moment, as a scared little girl, was I’m never gonna see my dad again.
I was absolutely terrified. I didn’t understand what it was back then, but my dad has something called arrhythmia. It’s a heart condition where there’s a malfunction in the heart’s electrical impulses. So, basically what had happened, he had a bad episode and had gone unconscious, blacked out and had hit his head on the bathtub when he fell. My oldest brother, Eric called 911 and was keeping my mom calm. Meanwhile, Matt closed my bedroom door to deter the noise and sat me down with a Bible. It was the first time I had ever read scripture. And the first time I had ever sat and prayed with someone. Matt held my hand as we prayed, prayed to that same God that I had heard about.
We prayed for my dad and eventually I had such a peace over me. It was enough to stop my tears and help me fall asleep. The next morning, both my brothers came into my room, and they said, Hey, guess what? We can go see dad. And it was that immediate moment that I knew God was real. It was more than the work and the hands of those doctors. It was the hand of God. I wanted to absolutely shout it from the rooftops. My little heart was filled with happiness. It was a childlike faith. So, after that morning, well, I kind of started doing all the cliche things. For starters, I called myself a Christian. My brother had given me my first Bible, so I started carrying it around with me and I wore across necklace, and I had all the WWJD bracelets, but still I really had no idea what any of this meant. I just knew there was a God, I was excited to believe in. A God I wanted to know, but what do I do now? Is this it? In 2000, my family made yet another move, this time to Olympia Washington. I was overwhelmed at a high school of 3000 students. I mean, 3000, not only that, I was in a new place where it felt like no one knew God.
And on top of that, I felt alone. I still felt like that ugly kid, now teenager. And ultimately, I felt like I just wasn’t like any of the other kids. This Southern gal had been uprooted and moved to PNW. Thankfully, I had my brother, Matt, who had moved with us, but sadly not for long, Matt got a job at a five-star restaurant and left for the east coast about a year after our move out to Washington. As I went through high school, I still called myself a Christian, and actually made some friends who believed in God. But when my brother left, I felt lost, and that’s when it really hit me. I had been borrowing his faith.
Around junior year, I got into running. I wanted to be healthier and kinda look like the kids at my school, but I was practically starving myself. I lost a ton of weight to the point where my mom would look at me and tell me she didn’t even recognize me. I ended up making some new friends. I started meeting boys, dating, and I did start drinking around 16, 17 years old.
I felt different. I felt like I was getting noticed by people. I felt more important, but there was something still missing. I mean, I was getting really good grades. I was always home for dinner. I had this really close, amazing relationship with my parents. All in all, I was a really good kid, but I lacked something. Joy. Internally, I went to battle every single day with myself. Constantly fighting massive depression, loneliness, confusion, wondering who I was. I wore this facade in front of everyone, including my own family. Days before my 18th birthday, I was raped. I was at a party with a friend, and it was her boyfriend’s friend that did it.
I never told family. I never sought counseling at that time. Instead, I got to a very low, very dark place. Honestly, a pretty scary place. I needed hope more than ever. I needed God more than ever. The scariest part was where this tragic day took me. Took me to a place of even greater doubt, a greater lack in confidence, hopelessness, and it resulted in me finding my identity in everything, but Christ. I thought I was completely worthless. Is there even a point to my life? I would wonder. Why am I living? I started thinking the only way I would ever feel beautiful and loved is to let guys take advantage of me or use me. It was either that, or take my own life, just to not feel a thing anymore.
Would I ever be enough? About six months went by and I got to my all-time low. What happened to that feeling I felt when I was 12 years old? I remember to promise, I once read. God tells us he will never leave us or forsake us. That was the truth I knew to be true. That was the promise from the God I first read about that moment with my brother when I was 12 years old.
I clung to that. The night I came home late from work, I was almost 19 years old. I physically fell to my knees, crying out in prayer on my bedroom floor. I will forever remember that day like it was yesterday. Asking God for help, for hope, for guidance. I knew I wanted a relationship with him. I knew God had a better plan for me.
The words my brother told me when I was 16 echoed in my heart that day. None of us have led perfect lives… we just know the one who has. That night on my knees. I gave my life to Jesus. There’s a line in one of my favorite hymns that says, sin had left a Crimson stain. He washed it white as snow, all of that past pain that hurt that depression, god sent his only son to die and cleanse that. And that is the greatest gift. That is the greatest love we can ever know. God knew the day I was born, that he would heal my body in that surgery. That he would breathe life into my little lungs. And he knew that very same day, that 19 years later, I would be standing in the church with my brother by my side in front of loved ones, as I got baptized.
And I said forever to our gracious, loving, gentle scar healing, ultimate comforter, our mighty King Jesus. At 37 years old, I can now reflect every day on how because of him. I have learned I am enough. Because of Jesus. I am not my past. I am not worthless or damaged. Because of his redeeming love. I am healed by grace and his grace alone.
Narrator: We are telling these stories of transformation so you can know and understand the power of Jesus in your own life. If you’d like to learn more about Jesus, He can bring you back to life. Visit us at onpurposely.com/whoisJesus. And if you like Brought Back To Life, please give us a five-star rating and a review.
You can follow Brought Back To Life podcasts on iHeart radio or wherever you’re listening right now. You can also just tell your smart speaker, play Brought Back To Life podcast. I’m Sam Kelly. Rebecca Beckett produced this episode. Our audio editor is Scott Karow. And thanks for listening to Brought Back To Life from Purposely.