I almost kicked the pastor in the face. My memory of the whole thing is a bit fuzzy, but there’s video footage to document it all on a dusty VHS somewhere. At four years old, my ever petite frame was extremely petite. My pastor was baptizing me and someone had rigged a block for me to stand on since I was too short not to be lost under the water otherwise.
Not many weeks before, I had asked my parents all the questions indicating I understood my sin and Christ’s death for me and I was ready to publicly commit my life to him. I wish I could remember all the details or the pivotal moment when I recognized my sin for what it was. I don’t. Not a bit. I can’t tell you the date, time, or place. I know my parents were instrumental in building my faith foundation and guiding my journey.
Four Years Old
My boys are 3 & 5. Sometimes I think they aren’t listening, but they always are. The phrase I don’t want them to pick up on invariably comes out of their mouths. They hear a song once and then sing it on repeat. Things sear onto a child’s memory in ways I don’t fully understand.
And sometimes they understand much more than we think. I was not some special spiritual prodigy. At four, I did not discuss substitutionary atonement or reconciliation and propitiation, but I did know that I was a sinner and needed Christ to save me. If my child can watch a nature tv show and memorize all the animals that have horns, tusks, scales etc. made of keratin (as he did this week), he can memorize scripture. If he can listen to my husband read chapters of fiction books, he can listen to chapters of the Bible. Don’t waste your child’s time wit things that don’t matter when there are so many things that do.
Remember the Moment
I do not remember the moment of my “salvation,” but I do clearly remember a fiery evangelist proclaiming that anyone who didn’t remember their exact “moment: was not saved. Fair warning: if present-day me ever hears someone say such a horrible lie, I will shout back, as one of the adults in the room with me should have done. While I didn’t run to the alter that night, his words fed into developing comparisons.
To a teenager, I have a very vanilla testimony. You know what you don’t hear from speakers at youth events? Vanilla testimonies. They all seemed to be saved from lives of crime, addiction, and otherwise super taboo things in the mind of this middleclass small town girl. Their stories told of a marked change in their lives: turning from the bad things of this world to the glory and purity of God. Having made my profession of faith at 4, it may surprise you that I found little opportunity to get caught up in a life of crime before salvation. I joke about their stories, which are beautiful and give God glory, but they made me feel so insignificant.
So at 14, I called my parents from summer church camp and parroted what I’d heard other say. I had just been “playing” church” for ten years because it was what I was supposed to do. My youth pastor actually had the sense to pull me aside when we got home and away from the motions and say, “Are you sure? I think when you have time to process this, you’ll realize you’ve been saved all along.”
What He Has Done
Teenagers are short-sighted. A teenager with the perspective of a 30-year-old would probably be dangerous. I know I will gain even more perspective as the years go, but I didn’t have that as a teen. I felt inadequate compared to the testimony of others who probably would have traded my path for theirs without hesitation.
As I read through Psalms this week, I came to this refrain:
Come and hear, all you who fear God,Psalm 66:16-19 (emphasis added)
and I will tell what he has done for my soul.
I cried to him with my mouth,
and high praise was on my tongue.
If I had cherished iniquity in my heart,
the Lord would not have listened.
But truly God has listened;
he has attended to the voice of my prayer.
What has God done for my soul? Let me tell you. He has granted me repentance and drawn me to him. He has given me a love for his word and a passion to share it.
God held me firm through a season of heartbreak where in one year I lost my grandmother, uncle, and childhood friend, my first serious boyfriend dumped me (over Valentines week of course), I had minor surgery, and I was unjustly attacked and let go from an internship I loved. He walked through two years of heart-wrecking infertility and then two pregnancies with terrifying preterm labor. God was there when I learned the hardest lesson of church ministry: friendly fire hurts the worst. He has carried me through personal and professional losses, spiritual attacks, private and public betrayals.
When I am angry without cause, he forgives.
When I am silent though I should speak, he comforts.
In my anxiety, he gives me peace.
In my chaos, he is calm.
When a friend betrays me, he whispers that he understands.
When loss is overwhelming, he reminds me he knows loss, too.
How can I ever doubt a love that has been given to me so freely? I fall. I fail. I forget. He pulls me to him, binds my wounds, and reminds me of this story- HIS story – that he has been writing in my life since before my first breath.
If you don’t know Him, you should.
I’d be happy to introduce you.