Growing up in the church, you would think I would be quite knowledgeable about the Scriptures and the Lord. However only since having children, have I seriously learned about the Bible. You see although I grew up going to church, I was clueless about the Bible.
I never remember not believing in the Bible or Jesus. That was always a part of my life. I was either taken to church or went to church on my own as long as I remember. Often in elementary school I walked several blocks to the church we attended by myself. Times were different then and it wasn’t unusual for a first or second grader to walk late in the evening. I also did the VBS rounds. I visited my grandparents, both sets, and went to their VBS and even to other local VBS’s near them, sometimes up to three per little town but always Baptist. VBS was much different then, we had a little worship service with hymns and children’s song and a Bible lesson. Then there would be crafts, playing and snacks, but never the big production churches have now.
We moved around a good bit and I don’t really remember much specific about each church we attended. When I was in around the seventh grade I remember the assistant pastor of the large church we attended coming to the house and sharing the gospel with my younger sister and me. He and another gentleman shared the typical gospel outline, such as the FAITH evangelism today. I remember nothing of what they said. I knew it all. Knew all the answers. I had been in church for years yet the info they shared was just your basic gospel tract info.
Nevertheless, I do very clearly remember sitting there with them, my mother and sister. When the time came in the presentation to ask if I wanted to say the prayer there were a lot of thoughts running through my head.
What would they do if I said no?
What would my mother do?
Would I be in big trouble?
Do you think a person who is thinking like this is under the immediate conviction of the gospel at that time? I don’t. Although I prayed the prayer as instructed, rebellion was in my heart. Not that I was rebellious in the sense of rejecting the gospel but in the pressure applied to me to accept. I had no objection to anything that was said and believed it all. I just disliked the feeling of being pressured in front of so many adults. I was congratulated on being saved and shortly thereafter followed through with baptism. (This is one reason you will never find me pressuring a child to profess faith in Christ.) Essentially this was just pressure to have me say a prayer and add my name to the role. Funny thing is that I don’t remember either men ever really talking to me about salvation, discipleship, or anything of that nature again. Pretty much I was left to the Sunday School classes just like before.
As a child of divorce, I found my “family” to be my church family more so than at home. I was involved in every activity, choir, acteens, missions and teaching camp. By the time, I was in high school I was the only member of my family attending church. I was the “good girl” of the family. No one else attended church very much. Attending church is what good Christians do, right?
What I mean by a “good girl” is that I rarely was in trouble. Straight A’s, church attending, not “wild” and by all appearances a good Christian. Spurts of studying the Bible, trying to live like a good Christian, and serving in the church encompassed my free time. Yet I knew my heart was black as night, even though I would try to keep painting it white regularly. As long as I was not obviously sinning I was fine, right? All I had been taught was that you make a profession, get baptized and then live life right by following the commands in the Bible.
Sometime near college graduation, I seriously was broken and in despair this Christian thing didn’t seem to be working right. My white paint was running out and I kept finding black spots. I cannot tell you how many times I had asked Jesus into my heart, before the official profession and baptism and even afterwards. See if I sinned I needed to make sure I was saved by asking again. The only problem is that I was still convinced I needed Jesus plus my “good works.” You cannot will yourself to do well. The harder I tried to do well and not to sin, the less successful I was. My faith was in Jesus, plus my deeds. I thought I could make Jesus love me by doing what is right. Every time I failed, I would tell myself “You just don’t believe enough, if only you would believe more, you would do better.” I felt as if Jesus loved me when I was “good” but hated me when I sinned. Sorta like the flower petals “He loves me, He loves me not.”
When I had my first child, I learned more about love. It was actually possible to love and be loved without doing anything lovable. I loved my baby even when all I got was demands for food and diaper changes. I walked all night at times to sooth a crying baby, at times so tired I could hardly stand. I would die for this child that never gave any love back; only demanded more. That is where I learned the truth of:
Romans 5:8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ESV
Then begin my quest to be the best mother I could be and to raise my child up in the “nurture and admonition of the Lord”. Focus on the Family’s James Dobson was a regular in my house by radio and book. Now I do understand some serious problems with that ministry’s theology and specifically the focus on self-esteem. However, the Bible teaching and encouragement for my marriage and family was more than I had ever gotten in all my years of attending church. Southern Baptist churches just were not seriously teaching the Bible back then.
As I have added years and children, I have also grown in my understanding of the Bible and in faith. During this time, my husband started teaching Sunday School and reading author’s such as Spurgeon. He soon found that the Southern Baptist literature was as he says “insipid.” He began writing his own Sunday School lessons and stocking the home with Bible study resources. After we got a computer, he soon got a Bible software program so we could quickly look up information and have easy access to multitudes of books. Those resources and listening to sermons on the radio, now the internet, have often been our best sources of Biblical instruction despite solid consistent church attendance.
I can’t tell you what day I knew I was saved, as if a magical switch was flipped. I seemed to have always believed, albeit often wrongly. At what point does our faith match up just right with the truth? I don’t know. I do know that my faith does not match up perfectly yet with the truth. It will only match perfectly with the truth when I am in Heaven.
I am now a wife, mom of five, home school mom, and homemaker who still strives to do what is right.
Not because I have to – because I want to.
I’m undeserving of love – but am loved anyway.
I deserve Hell – but have been given a hope in Heaven.
Saved not by works – but Grace.