It goes against all the Separatist, independent pioneer, Oregonian-born, non-joiner genes within me, but I’m currently considering becoming an official member of my church community, which involves a “Personal Testimony of Faith.” Talk about throw-back Thursday. The picture is me, at the age I decided to follow Jesus. The experiences that came back, remembering things I’d forgotten—it was surprising. I still haven’t managed to turn in the official paperwork, but this, I’m happy to share.
“I cannot remember any time when I doubted the existence of God or Jesus’ love for me. When I was eight years old, during my bedtime prayer, I asked Jesus to come into my heart. In typical introvert fashion, I didn’t talk with anyone about it ahead of time—I just did it. My mother was the person who had convinced me of Jesus’ love for little me, mostly through example. She sat there on the bed next to me while I prayed and I could tell she was surprised. I wasn’t much of a talker, and I think she may have wondered if I’d heard anything she’d told me about Jesus.
She asked me, when my prayer ended, if I understood what I’d just done. I remember praying the prayer, I remember her asking me the question. I don’t remember what my response was—I’m sure it was something about Jesus dying for my sins, coming back to life on the third day, that I wanted to be good and not bad, I wanted eternal life in heaven with Jesus and my family. I did believe all those things. I do remember, my response satisfied my mother. I also remember exactly what I was really thinking—that Jesus sounded like the best friend in the world, and I associated the idea of asking Him into my heart with God legally requiring Him to be my friend. Despite my childish motives for becoming a Christian, I also remember my desires beginning to change almost immediately.
I appreciated our pastor’s words when he baptized some younger girls a few months ago—something like, “It is just as significant for God to save someone from sin as it is for God to save someone out of sin.” Because I was raised in a Jesus-following family, and because He drew me to Him at such a young age, God certainly saved me from experiencing many painful things. But loving God isn’t about pain avoidance. Even at the tender age of eight, I was a horrible liar. I enjoyed that I could be convincing enough to get away with lying (small wonder I now write fiction!). I was proud of being able to fool other people. While on some level I understood lying was “wrong,” deceiving people didn’t bother me in the least—until I prayed that prayer. Very soon, it became painful for me to tell a lie. Not long after that, my previous desire to fool others seemed bizarre—what had I been thinking?
God had changed me. As young as I was, as little experience as I had with evil in the world, God brought me face-to-face with my evil, broken heart, and with His loving desire and total ability to fix me. And He’d done one other very important thing for a personality like mine: He made it clear to me from the get-go that He was real, and not just another figment of my wild imagination. These are the first significant life-lessons I remember learning—God is real and He knows me intimately.
There are many, many such lessons He has taught me over the years. Some I learned quickly: “It is better to give than to receive.” “By grace you are saved, through faith, not as a result of anything you do, so you have nothing to boast about.” “Obedience is better than sacrifice.” “You are loved.” Some lessons, he keeps bringing around again and again: “Love your neighbor.” “There is no darkness on earth that can separate you from My love.” “Do you trust Me with your children’s lives? Your husband’s? Am I enough for you?”
As I said, I have never doubted God’s existence, or His essential goodness, and He has made His love for me lavishly obvious over and over again. So I have absolutely no excuse for my lack of trust or those times in my life that I have told Him, “No! I don’t want to!” like a rebellious child, and gone my own way. I can only say, while the consequences were painful, the lessons and the discipline were useful, and as always, God worked it all together for good, even when I acted like I didn’t love Him.
Of course, God has taught me over the years that He’s not my buddy to be enjoyed and discarded with my moods. He is the All-powerful, Uncreated Creator of the Universe, He who loves every single person in the world just as much as He loves me, He who is worthy of all honor and glory, worship, praise and adoration…truly, He is easy to adore. The fact that such a God continues to patiently love and abide with me, is humbling whenever I think about it, and I think about it a lot.
I don’t want to sound as if my faith is based solely on feelings and personal experience. We’re emotional beings, and God uses our emotions and experiences to strengthen our faith. But feelings aren’t facts, and God gave us our minds to use them…
While I attended a Christian school K-12, I got my degree at a very liberal, liberal-arts university where I encountered professors who were beyond hostile and seemed to see it as their personal mission to destroy the faith of their Christian students. Professors who thought they knew what the Bible said, but didn’t. I’ve read the books for and against faith in Christ, I’ve done the inductive Bible studies, I understand the history of the Jews, the Church, the Bible, and how they fit, for better or worse, into the wider context of world history. No matter your doubts, I can help you with your misgivings about the problem of evil or the tension between faith and works. Given enough time, I can show you that the God of the Bible is the only one who can adequately answer, from a philosophical perspective, the questions: “Who am I? What is reality? Why am I here? What is the purpose of my life?” I can relate the overwhelming historical evidence of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. I will show you that, despite what you may have read on the internet, there really is no reasonable doubt that the Bible is true, and that Jesus lived, did what the Bible says He did, and said what the Bible says He said, most significantly—that Jesus said He was God and the ONLY way of salvation, and then proved it, by dying on the cross, defeating death, and returning to us with gift of life and salvation in his hands. I will say to you, the only two decisions you really have to make are: Do you believe Him? Do you want what He offers?
I can do all of the above, but honestly, my faith is the result of one thing:
I asked Jesus to be my friend when I was eight years old, and He said, yes.
Today, this is what I suggest to those I love but who have yet to consider Christ. Open your heart to Him. See how He loves you."