I am a "cradle Christian" as they say. I toddled around church nurseries and have filled a pew most Sundays for almost thirty years. My mother tells the story of my three year old self stopping mid-activity, proclaiming matter-of-factly that I was going to be a missionary, and then continuing on with my day. I asserted my little evangelical self as young as third grade when I marched myself to the library in protest of the magic show my elementary school treated us to (but not before telling my brother's first grade teacher that he was coming with me because We Did Not Celebrate Magic). I don't recall her arguing with me.
I had badges on my Girls-in-Action sash that I earned for completing mission related activities each year. I wrote letters to someone named Mrs. Chocolate who was a missionary (though I can't recall where). I took sermon notes filled with colorful illustrative drawings and was Babbie Mason's biggest elementary school fan-girl. (To this day "Carry On" will pop into my head occassionally and I can sing every single word.)
When I got to the youth group, my friends and I petitioned them to allow 8th graders to go on the mission trip so we could go. I went. That year and every year after.
I rocked babies in the nursery and herded four year olds during Vacation Bible School. I joined the Student Leadership Team.
I wasn't faking anything or checking off boxes or going through the motions. I was sincere and honest about my faith. I truly did believe. I tried to live it out in my heart, in my private life, and in my public life.
Despite all that, sometimes, late at night while I was trying to fall asleep I wondered if I was really a Christian. I was fearful that I missed a step.
I remembered sitting on my bed in my childhood bedroom talking to my mom about becoming a Christian. I remember talking with the pastor before my baptism and answering all his questions correctly and getting dunked and coming out of the water with dripping hair. Yet, the fear that I was not a Christian plagued me. I sat through every single invitation, in which the pastor asked those who would like to become a Christian to come forward, with a rapid heartbeat and sweaty palms.
One summer on the first night of camp when I was 16 years old it became too much. I got up and talked with a friend from the youth group and she read me a few verses while my mind frantically tried to figure out what I was feeling and thinking. Eventually I said something like, "I need to surrender my life to Jesus," and she said, "You know what to do." I fumbled through a prayer that included the words to the praise song that was being played in the auditorium. The day was July 18, 1999. Thirteen years ago today.
Looking back, I no longer say that is the day I became a Christian. I believe I was one all those years before when I was "afraid I missed a step." God in his mercy allowed that night to be one that brought me peace. It was a moment that was supernatural with the literal relief I felt filling my body and easing my nerves. Maybe I just needed to say it aloud and to someone else. Maybe I needed to understand something about the anxiety. Whatever the reason, it's part of my story and remains a significant day in my life. As such, I like to take the time each year to honor it and remember it in some way.
I don't want to get into the theology of a salvation timeline here, but I use "cradle Christian" for a reason. I am one of the blessed people in this world who was introduced to Christ as a young child. My faith grew and was nurtured as I grew. I don't know if I have a "day of salvation" when I was suddenly safe when I wasn't before. If I did, it was well before that day in 99. Maybe it was the day when I sat talking to my mom as a child. Maybe it was some day now lost to memory when my young soul knew the truth in a way that children know it. Suffice to say, Christ dwells in my heart through faith. I am rooted and grounded in love and I pray for the strength to comprehend with all the saints the breadth and length and height and depth of that love. I know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge and I am filled with the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:17-19)
Over the next week I'll be posting some "stones of remembrance" pertaining to my spiritual life. Moments that are prominent in my memory for the way they shaped my life. The idea for these "stones" comes from the book of Joshua where the people of Israel are crossing the Jordan River. The waters of the Jordan River were stopped as men stood with the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord in the middle of the river bed and the Israelites passed through. Afterwards, God commands that twelve stones be taken from the midst of the river and set up as a memorial. When the children ask what the stones mean, they are to tell the story of the crossing of the Jordan "so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever." (Joshua 4:24)
So, I will tell the stories of stones of remembrance in hopes that "all peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty" and so that I can remember God's hand in my life.
The Stones of Remembrance:
Scripture in My Childhood
The Church That Built Me
Ode to the Internet
When You Return: Faith Refined