Even children are known by the way they act,
whether their conduct is pure, and whether it is right.
It all started when I was a child of nine. I grew up in a Christian family, we went to Wednesday evening prayer meetings, revival meetings, and to church twice on Sunday. I was told Bible stories from the time I was a small child on my mother’s lap. But when I was about nine, I heard a preacher talk about salvation. Now, I knew what salvation meant: Jesus died on the cross to save us from sin, and if we confess our sin, He would forgive us. Then we go to Heaven when we die. That was the Gospel I knew. So after hearing this preacher tell us how the ‘grass looks greener, and the sky looks bluer” after you get saved, well! I was up for that! Besides, I was old enough to start feeling a twinge of guilt and worry about the eternal destination of my soul.
So when I got home, I prayed a simple prayer. I asked God to forgive my sin and save me. I was a bit fuzzy on the details, but that was the best I knew how. Sadly, I didn’t have a good enough relationship with my parents to go talk to them about it. In hindsight, they would have loved it if I had. But I was pretty intimidated by them, and so I handled it the only way I knew.
I wrote them a note.
A note! And stuck it on the mirror where mom would be sure to see it. If I remember correctly, It said “I am trying to be a Christian.”
Mom came to me, note in hand, and asked what I meant by that? I thought it was pretty clear, but I said, somewhat defensively; “Just what it says! I am trying to be a Christian!”
“OK,” Mom said. “But you can’t just ‘try’ to be a Christian, either you are or you aren’t.”
” I am.” I said flatly. I was embarrassed, unsure of myself, and desperately wanting to save face. (Oh, how quickly that religious front presents itself!)
Mom didn’t make much about it. She just started making plans with the local church seamstress to have me fitted with a prayer head-covering. (We were part of a Mennonite church, and when a girl was saved, she started wearing a head-covering immediately. It was a special cap that was hard to sew, and usually there was a seamstress or two in each church, who made them for all the ladies for a small fee.)
I was so happy. As soon as I put on a head-covering, I was accepted with gladness into the circle of saved girls. But, I was only happy because I was accepted as part of the ‘good‘ group of girls. My inner life was no different. I was no kinder, no more obedient to my parents. But because I had publicly committed, I tried very hard to control my actions. I failed – miserably. Again and again. And to my great dissapointment, the grass and sky looked exactly the same as before. I felt betrayed. Maybe I didn’t do it right?
So, I tried again. Several months later, I prayed:
“God, please save me! That last time wasn’t really right – but I really mean it this time!”
And a few weeks later, when it was obvious that my self-control was no better, I would pray again: “THIS time I am serious, forget the other times, God, THIS time I really mean it! I want to serve you!”
Oh the agony of always feeling guilty, but not knowing how to get relief! You may chuckle, and it is kind of funny now, but at the time, I was completely serious. Even at age 9 and 10, a child can feel so burdened by the knowledge of their sinfulness, that they cannot rest.
After about a year of this, I was at another revival meeting. This time it was at a small country church in the snowy mountains of northern Idaho. This preacher explained salvation in such a clear way, that I finally was able to understand it completely. I went home and poured out my heart to my Father, and for the first time, felt like I was heard. I had peace. I knew I was a child of God.
I was almost 11.
My struggle with sin was not over though.
Click here to read PART TWO.