I haven’t shared too much of my personal faith walk in my blog, mostly because I have the world’s most boring testimony. There are no road to Damascus moments, return from the brinks, Prodigal son type returns, near-death experiences, miraculous visions. I was baptized, confirmed, and married at the same church. My journey to Christ has been pretty much according to plan, at least from a Presbyterian perspective.
Unlike many Christians, I do not remember a defining moment when I accepted Jesus in my life. It seems Jesus has always been there; as a shepherd guarding, protecting, and leading onward; as a shining example reminding me of how to live and how to love; as a real help in times of trouble, prompting with words and leading me to do the right thing; as a savior granting forgiveness and redeeming wrong steps; as a friend in quiet and lonely moments; as a reminder that life hurts sometimes; as the silver lining in every cloud.
The following prompt from Writing in the Margins gave me a new understanding of my journey to Christ:
Read Romans 3:10-8:39. Consider this a series of “stepping stones.” Write in your margins—as steps—the key pieces of information that shape your journey to Christ.
I’m not sure if I picked the stepping stones that Lisa Nichols Hickman had in mind, but I was surprised and touched by how easy it is for me to tell my journey to Christ through this rather long passage, almost like I discovered the blue print for my faith journey. This is going to be a crazy long post…
Baptized and educated: I was baptized when I was four; it’s my earliest memory. What I remember most is that my mother told me if I were good during the service, she would give me gifts. After the service, she gave me a Children’s Bible and a cross on a necklace. I am sure I was a little disappointed, at the time, but through the years I’ve come to appreciate the significance of the gifts that she chose. We went to church most Sundays, and I loved Sunday school. Since I was an active participant in my baptism, I learned early in life: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Maybe my upbringing has affected my vision, but I find this easy to accept. Just the other day, my mother-in-law gave each of our children a Pez container. Our daughter was delighted and happy with hers for all of about one evening. By morning time she wanted her brother’s, too. I was thinking: “Don’t covet!” I know that this is normal for a three-year-old, but that is also kind of the point. In time, she will mature and I will keep encouraging her to have a grateful heart, but it’s just one simple example of human weakness. I also know that we are created in the image of God, and see I that image in our daughter, too: I feel her love and delight in her exuberant joy!
Called and Confirmed: A journey of faith always takes us to unknown territory; there’s a point in the journey where many of us feel a little like Abraham, called out of ourselves a bit. For me, that moment came when I was in middle school. I was very involved in my church’s youth group and also a contemporary youth choir called the New Spirit Singers. My spiritual life felt rich and full. My grandmother took me on a trip to Hawaii when I was about 14. I have a memory of asking my grandmother for a little time alone. I walked up to the top of a sand dune, stared at the waves, and the sky. My grandmother watched from a distance. The clouds opened up and the whole sky was lit up with twinkling stars. And I felt aware of a reality that was much bigger than anything I’d known previously. I guess it could be called a transcendent experience, but it also felt like an official invitation to know God and to be aware of God’s presence. (It can be hard to meet God amidst the daily grind of life, but sometimes being a new setting can open the possibility for connection. Vacations and retreats can be a great opportunity to draw closer to God!) Shortly after this vacation, I was part of the confirmation class at church and confirmed.
My favorite part from the Genesis story of God’s call to Abraham is that Abraham is blessed to be a blessing. And I believe that is why God calls Christians: to be a blessing to others.
Prepared: During my high school year, I started attending worship services more often. I remember clearly hearing a sermon preached on St. Paul’s writing about rejoicing even in suffering. It was always clear to me that a Christian journey would not be easy. There would be times when prayers would seem to go unanswered, but even in my sorrows and heartache I could be assured of God’s love.
Justified: Sometime during my senior year, I started to have a lot of questions. Things that I had learned formulaically, very basic Christian beliefs like Jesus died for our sins, started to trouble me. Jesus died a horrific death, and I didn’t think anyone deserved that. Justification was all of the sudden really hard for me to understand. Deeply distressed, I went to talk to my minister, who did not offer lengthy explanations or give me another book to read. Instead, he just asked a simple question: “Are you willing to find out what this means for you?” When I responded, “Yes,” he said, “That’s all that is needed.” He reminded me that everlasting life is the free gift of God. I just needed to be willing to accept the gift.
Assured and Adopted: I’ve experienced temptation and sin, but I take comfort knowing that St. Paul shared his own struggles to do what is right. Through every stage of life I have felt assured that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. And I feel blessed to call God “Father.” I feel God’s presence guiding me in life, like a Father, lovingly and patiently helping live according to God’s ways as Jesus taught.
Patiently Conformed and Always Loved: I know that nothing can separate me from the love of God. I’ve shared this page before, but it is a fitting conclusion to my faith walk!