NEW BIRTH: Profs caused her doubt, but friends help woman find Truth

FRANKINTON, N.C. (BP)--For dog groomer Linda Lee Justice, her six years of college and graduate degree work were a "waste of time." It wouldn't be until January 1999 that Justice would discover God's plan to use her academic background to graft her into the family of God.

Born into a non-Christian family that made frequent moves, Justice changed schools every year for seven years. Describing herself as a "high-stress person" with no coping mechanism, Justice experimented with drugs during junior high school and later turned to alcohol. The addictive habit soon sent her life into a downward spiral. Rock bottom came when her college fiance announced he "got saved" and was returning to his wife.

"I thought he had joined a cult, but looking back now I think he was saved," the 41-year-old recounted. "It seemed so outlandish to me that he had become a Christian. He changed his behavior so radically. The fact that he got religion and went nuts from my perspective made me interested in religion. So I decided to investigate this religion thing."

Because Justice couldn't distinguish between the world religions, she enrolled in classes at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill to find the reason behind her former fiance's lifestyle change.

"The first class I took was an introduction to the New Testament," she said. "That class made me so mad, and I remember I was mad at Jesus in the parables, because I thought they were so stupid. Anyone who said they understood what they meant was a liar. They were stories that went nowhere. I didn't like the New Testament, but I liked the Old Testament."

In discovering that she enjoyed studying the Old Testament, Justice also discovered she had a talent for linguistics. "I took all the language classes they offered," she said, adding, "but no New Testament Greek."

As an Old Testament language and literature major, Justice took Hittite, rabbinical Hebrew, and Akkadian, a Semitic language written in cuneiform script with about 600 different signs for either words or syllables. She also enrolled in German, French and Latin.

In studying the Old Testament and its ancient languages, Justice also learned that her professors held little regard for the veracity and truthfulness of the Bible.

"They didn't believe Moses wrote any of the Pentateuch, or that it was a unit. They were happy to show you how to chop it up until it didn't make any sense at all -- how it is not historic or true or written by anyone who claimed to have written it," Justice said. "I believed what they said, and it seemed pointless to me [to continue]. If the epic of Gilgamesh is more meaningful, then why aren't we studying it?"

After two years of master's level work, Justice withdrew from UNC and spent five months in dog grooming school. In 1987, Justice began grooming dogs and cultivating a great love for border collies.

Although Justice dismissed the Bible as a viable religious outlet, she was still interested in religion.

"I was interested in Buddhism, because I was in a lot of pain and turmoil, and Buddhism offered a relief from that. It offered an absence of pain -- absence of emotionalism," she said. "There's a lot of emphasis on cleansing yourself, and I fasted a lot, and I didn't eat meat for 12 years. I was trying really heard to clean myself up. I had a sign in my house that said, 'Suffering leads to salvation.' It kills me now, but it was His suffering that led to my salvation."

Justice's search for cleansing and peace was ultimately noticed by two Southern Baptist women who befriended the dog groomer and invited her to church.

"They knew I was in a mess. They witnessed to me. They gave me books. They knew that I was going to go to hell and that I was miserable on earth, and they were broken about it," Justice recounted.

"They were moral and had a clear conscious. They weren't afraid of anything, and that had so much appeal," said Justice, who over the next two years began to notice a difference in her friends.

Still desiring to "clean herself up," Justice agreed to go to church with her friends the week after Christmas. At Cool Springs Baptist Church in Sanford, N.C., Justice heard the Gospel for the first time.

"The youth group was doing a re-enactment of the crucifixion. I got something about blood and some really good person was murdered -- that was my understanding of the Gospel."

For three weeks, Justice attended the church, searching for more information in much the same way she picked apart the ancient languages of the Old Testament seeking answers.

"The very first Sunday, I went to Sunday School and the ladies were going to a nursing home to sing hymns. I would have chosen to jump in a pit of fire over that, but I went and had a good time and the ladies were really nice to me. They said, 'Sing watermelon,' because I didn't know any of the words," Justice recounted. "I thought, 'If I can do that, I can do anything.'"

Some older women in the church began to befriend Justice as well, taking time to answer her questions about Christianity.

"I went to one woman's house to eat with her, and she just talked to me about God. She really thought the Bible was true and that Jesus really said all those things. I went over to her house, and I'd listen to her for hours. As people were clearing the dishes from the lunch table, I would just sit and listen to her."

Justice was amazed to discover that not only did the church members believe the Bible was true, but the pastor did too.

"In one sermon, the pastor was talking about Moses writing the Pentateuch. He actually believed that, and he seemed sane!" Justice exclaimed. "He didn't know that was my background. He couldn't have said anything more calculated to make me think. I was shocked that adult, intelligent, reasonable people believe the Bible is true."

The church gave Justice a track and the Gospel of John. Although Justice had read the book as a part of her college studies, she began to notice it made sense. "I kept reading it, and it was amazing. It is a different book when you're reading it believing it rather than [thinking] it's not true. I was hungry to read more and to talk about it and hear sermons on it."

Justice's garbled understanding of the Gospel message finally translated into "I was a sinner, and He loved me and died for me," she said. In an appointment with the pastor, Justice admitted she needed help.

"I had a panic attack while he was sharing the Gospel with me and went in the bathroom and got sick," Justice recalled, noting she was fearful of the life changes that coincide with Christianity. "He made it sound like my whole focus [was] going to change. He made it sound hard," she said. "But, that appealed to me. I wanted my life to change. I was sick of myself."

After she finished saying the sinner's prayer with the pastor, Justice said she couldn't stop smiling.

"I felt so happy and light, like things that were wrong were going to be better."

Although the Cool Springs pastor led her to the Lord, it is the prayers of her two Southern Baptist friends for which Justice will be forever grateful.

Post-conversion, Justice's life radically changed.

"I told everybody [about my salvation]," Justice said. "The pastor told me I had to. That's one of the things that you're supposed to do, and I did. One of the things that surprised me was so many people said, 'I'm a Christian too,' and I said, 'Then why didn't you tell me?'"

A few months after Justice made a profession of faith, she attended a dog show. Word had spread among her friends about her conversion.

"I saw a friend, and he said, 'I heard you got saved.' He broke down and said, 'I never thought you'd be interested.' He was crying, and now he witnesses a lot more."

Soon after her conversion, Justice moved to Franklinton, N.C., to care for her mother who was diagnosed with cancer. A friend invited Justice to take a class at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest. Discovering the seminary was only 20 minutes away from her home, Justice agreed to sit in one class to learn more about her newfound faith. The class she attended was Introduction to the Old Testament.

"I went in the class and immediately people were saying amen and praising the Lord, and I was blown away. I thought it was so great," Justice said. "Dr. Gary Galleoti made [the Old Testament] make sense.

"I also took Prayer and Evangelism with Dr. Alvin Reid because I thought, 'Well, I need to know how to do that as a Christian.' If he said, 'Read this book,' I read it. I drank it all in."

Justice has continued to take classes while working fulltime grooming dogs. When people ask her how she plans to use her degree work, Justice responds: "What I'm finding out seems to be the minimum that someone should know to be an effective witness. So many things I hear in class I use the next day when I'm talking to someone. People ask me what my plans are, but I'm still trying to be a good Christian and learn about the Bible and how to witness to people."

From alcohol to Buddhism, Justice found the value of faith in Jesus Christ to be "everything."

"Every aspect of my life has changed from getting up in the morning to going to bed at night," she said.

Watching God unfold his plan for Justice's life through the loss of a fiance and studying the Bible and biblical languages as an unbeliever continues to amaze her.

"I know I chose the Lord. But looking back, He so much more chose me. I was so pitiful and had so many problems and was just a useless person that it seems He chose me and saved me to show how powerful He is," said Justice, who currently attends Faith Baptist Church in Youngsville, N.C.

"No matter how low a person is, He can change you completely. It is for His glory, because no one else would have done that. I can see how He'd save an attractive person, or a smart person, or someone who can sing, or someone who has something to offer, but I had nothing."


(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: LONG-AWAITED ANSWERS.

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