A woman seeks God in all the wrong places before finding him in the Word.
Alicia Heintz, 58, wanted to find God. She looked everywhere, turning over every stone on a rocky path that eventually led her to Living Word in Waukesha, Wis. Now she hears the true message of God’s love and grace every week. She learned to find God in his Word—right where he was all along.
A rocky start
Alicia was baptized as a child. Growing up, her mom took her to a Lutheran church, Sunday school, and Lutheran elementary school. She was confirmed in a Lutheran church.
Alicia and her younger sister were raised by a single mom, who desired to bring her daughters up in the faith but also struggled with a number of her own demons. “She always worked; we always had a house; we weren’t moving around because she wasn’t paying the rent; we never had the electricity turned off—she was very responsible that way. She gave us that stability and strength to persevere,” explains Alicia. “But she would come home and rail and cry and have breakdowns, because it was hard.”
At just nine years old, Alicia felt responsible for the care of her younger sister and for maintaining some level of stability in an unstable home. Her mom got mixed up with the wrong people and would leave the girls to go out partying. “She was going on her destructive path, further and further down—it got dark for her,” says Alicia.
She continues, “My relationship with my mom was not good. It was not supportive or loving. She did make sure that we had that base, the rock of faith, the knowledge of God’s love, probably because that’s the way she was brought up. Even though she wasn’t on that path at the time, it was still important for her kids.”
In Alicia’s early teenage years, her mom suffered a severe breakdown and eventually was hospitalized. It was a scary time for Alicia, and she shouldered more responsibility.
Her mom eventually came out of it—and for the better in the end. She started attending church again and was ready to reassume her role as the parent.
“I guess I didn’t respect her after all those years of not being there…I wasn’t sure I could trust her. So, I didn’t listen to her and I rebelled. . . . I got pregnant at 16, and she was trying to tell me what to do, but I was lying and going to see my boyfriend,” says Alicia. “I self-destructed, thinking that I knew better.”
A twisting path
Alicia married that boyfriend and had their first son. They had another son together, but her husband treated her badly. After a few years, he walked out.
Having been raised going to church, Alicia had her sons baptized, brought them to church, and enrolled them in a Lutheran school. After her marriage dissolved, she entered into another relationship and had her third son.
Her experiences at church during this time were not positive for her. She explains, “I needed support, I needed love, I needed a safe place. I needed to talk to somebody. I needed someone to explain things to me, and I got nothing. . . . I did not feel supported. I didn’t feel loved.” Her church attendance started to decline, and her kids were asked to leave the school.
A wrong direction
In those early years with her young sons, Alicia scraped by, and she got married again. However, her path took another devastating turn. Her youngest son was diagnosed with terminal cancer at two years old; he died when he was seven. This, says Alicia, was the impetus for what would pull her away from God’s Word.
The stress of the medical appointments and watching her son battle cancer took a toll on Alicia’s own health, physically and emotionally. Her masseuse recommended that Alicia meet with a spiritual healer, both for her son and herself.
Alicia, a bit skeptical but also very fragile, went with it. The healer was kind to Alicia and her son; she never asked for money, and she even used images of Jesus in her practice. To Alicia, this healer was defying the negative, swindler stereotypes of people who practice New Age healing. And it appeared that whatever the healer was doing was working. Alicia’s son was showing signs of improvement.
Alicia says, “I felt like it was the power of God; I did not feel like it was anything else. That was my introduction to that type of thing—meditation, color healing, whatever it all was. I experienced it for myself, and I saw my son go through things when he experienced it.”
It didn’t last, however, and her son fell unconscious. But a few days before he died—and after a session with the healer—her son regained consciousness. Alicia was able to have a few days with him at the end.
“That was my path into that realm of spirituality, where I had seen these things and experienced these things,” reflects Alicia. “After he died, I didn’t go back to church. I was still seeking God but getting more and more into these different spiritual modalities.”
A darkening path
Alicia wanted to seek God, to know God and his love. But after her experiences with this spiritual healer, Alicia continued to look in all the wrong places. “Now I’m hearing about Buddhist stuff; I’m hearing about Hindu stuff. Now I’m going to chanting, and I’m doing yoga, and now I had friends who were pagan,” she explains.
During this time, Alicia says she wasn’t totally separating the healing, meditation, and false spiritual practices from the one true God. But she just was not looking for her Savior in the one place she’d find him—the Word.
In her pursuit of all things spiritual, Alicia found herself at a Buddhist temple. “They have gigantic golden statues of Buddha in the temple. So I looked at that and thought those are false gods—idols,” she recalls. Between the statues and scary murals of false entities on the wall, she realized that she was not going to find God there. “All this time, I’m getting introduced to all these different things, but I always had in my head ‘Thou shall have no other gods before me,’” says Alicia.
Though she was starting to realize that she might be looking for God in the wrong places, change wasn’t instant. Her involvement with New Age spiritual practices continued. She got involved with people who she believes were practicing the dark arts. But after one of them performed a ritual on her son that made him extremely sick, that was it for Alicia.
The living Word
She started to separate herself from that group, and then finally, one day, she prayed to God. She always knew he existed and was real, but for the first time in a long time, she went straight to him in sincere prayer.
She had married Tim nine years earlier, and he suggested they try to find a church. Now, turning her focus to God, Alicia started searching theological topics online and kept coming across the phrase “the living Word of God.”
Just after Tim and Alicia had moved into a new house in Waukesha, Living Word Lutheran Church started building its new church down the road. She passed it every day. So when Living Word started worshiping in its new building, Alicia wanted to check it out. “I went and listened so hard to the sermon, thinking if there’s any New Age mumbo jumbo—any wrong word—I’m out of there,” she says. “But it was good. It was Scripture. I went back the next week, and it was still good.” She heard of God’s love and the forgiveness of Jesus and found God again in the Word.
The third week, her husband went with her, and they’ve been attending ever since, for about a year and a half. She says, “Everyone was friendly; I was welcomed. They showed me around. I never went into a church like that where people were talking and fellowshiping. It wasn’t silence. I thought, This is good.” Both she and Tim became members.
Now able to reflect on her religious and spiritual journey—raised Christian then straying to New Age spiritual practices then back to a Lutheran church—Alicia advises, “Trust the Word. When someone tells you that the Word is not complete and that there are other places to look for more information about what God’s plan is, that’s something to be cautious about. If people want to make it all about them—not about God, not about the Word—that’s something to stay away from.”
She concludes, “You’re not supposed to worship creation, you’re supposed to worship the Creator. Anytime anyone wants to pull you out of worshiping the Creator, that is a warning sign. The answers are in the Word.”
Author: Amanda Klemp
Volume 109, Number 10
Issue: October 2022
- Confessions of faith: Alicia Heintz - 2022/09/30
- My Christian life: Born deaf to a hearing family - 2022/01/30
- Confessions of faith: Dale Anne Mondy - 2021/09/23