I have a vivid childhood memory of sitting in Sunday School beside my best friend when we were 5-years-old. In my mind’s eye someone is wearing a polka dot dress…can’t tell if it’s me or her. One thing is for sure, we both had worn tightly wound pink sponge rollers the previous night.
I keenly remember Mrs. Karen explaining that all people have been born into sin and continue choosing sin until God intervenes. I can remember her sharing with us the Good News of Jesus dying on the cross for our sin. And you can bet-your-bottom-dollar that I can recall NOT wanting to spend eternity in Hell. So, when Mrs. Karen asked everyone to close their eyes, bow their heads and raise their hands if they wanted to ask Jesus into their hearts, I peeked out of the corner of my eye, saw that my best friend had her hand raised, and slipped my little hand in the air indicating my desire to pray and receive Christ.
About a week later I was sitting out front of the Christian bookstore with my Dad on his supper break and he began to talk to me about becoming a Christian (Dad, did Mrs. Karen tip you off? Never thought to ask you!) to which I not-so-humbly rolled my eyes and replied, “Umm, Dad I totally already did that at church.”
My sweet Daddy kindly and sensitively asked several follow-up questions of his know-it-all firstborn and then he along with my Mom, carefully discipled and led our family spiritually for the next 25 years and counting. What a gift to have an amazingly godly, ministry-minded family from which to gain a spiritual heritage and footing. (I can never thank my parents enough for the Adventures in Odyssey, Bible Bingo, countless church camps, Brio Magazines, missions trips and everything else Focus on the Family recommended.)
Just last week, I was unpacking one of the many boxes laying around this joint and I flipped through a few of the dozens of old journals I’ve saved since Middle School. I was encouraged to see that it really did seem like my childhood profession of faith was genuine. It was that whole total-life surrender thing that God needed to work-out along the way.
“Following Him and loving them”… I wouldn’t say that’s always been the resounding theme of my life. Unless the “Him” would be any one of the way-too-serious boyfriends I bounced from (insert SERIAL and somehow MARATHON DATER) or the “them” would be the approval of any person under the sun.
It was more like “Following whoever made me feel affirmed and loving whomever made me feel like the IT GIRL!” Yes, that was my mantra. All the while, I loved my church youth group and loved frantically attempting to be the “Good Girl” on the outside. It got a lot more difficult to keep up the double-life when college came. The boys were a little older, the competitive city and college cheerleading, a little more image-demanding and the phantom “IT GIRL” status a little more elusive.
I can remember helping with Campus Crusade activities one day, and then staying out till 4 a.m, getting my car impounded, having to call my mom and get her to bail me and my car out. All so I could hang with the cool kids and still make a Sociology test in the morning…(SORRY about that one, MOM! Why did I not call a friend and cover that one up a little better???)
And let’s not even get started on me and that SAME Sunday School friend and our crew being chased by the police through Ritter Park…and ending up on the nightly news…Okay, that one was actually funny…but I digress.
Needless to say, by Christmas I was exhausted.
I was weary and the One who paid my debt was about to get after my heart. He wanted me all to Himself.
I had jumped in on some senior girls’ plans to go to a Winter Conference put on by Campus Crusade and it was there, amidst a sea of 1,000 college students that a staff girl shared the story of her sincere desire to love and follow God, but her sincere commitment to the people and destructive things of the world. It was as if God put spiritual glasses on my eyes and I could see the muck and mire of impurity, guilt, gossip, condemnation, envy, indulgence, pride, competition, selfishness, deceit, materialism, etc. that I had been wallowing in. There in the ballroom of that hotel, I began to understand a lifetime of surrender.
The sin I used to love became the sin I started to fight against. The God whom I was fighting against became the God I started to love with all my heart, soul, mind and strength. HE was irresistibly drawing me near. And He continued to wreck me and restore me all through my college years. Those were some of the craziest and sweetest years of naively cruising, crawling and walking with Jesus.The foundation was there. In fact the whole house was built and there was furniture in all the rooms…the lights just needed to go on!! And BOY, did the Light of Life ever shine His beacon of GRACE into my heart.
It was those 4 years that would prime me for a career in full-time vocational ministry…but that will have to be a story for tomorrow because I’ve got lunches to pack, sleep to be had and full-time vocational ministry awaiting.
This post is part of a monthly-long blog re-launch and series I’m writing entitled “31 Days of Following Him & Loving Them.” See all other posts in this series by clicking here.