There is not a time in my life that I ever remember not having knowledge of God’s presence. From my first memories my mother taught us reverence for the Lord. Every night she said two prayers with us at bedtime, “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep” and “The Lord’s Prayer”. I had them memorized as soon as I could form full sentences. Of course I had no idea of the meaning of those hallowed words. As a matter of fact for the first 10 years of my life I thought the one verse of the prayer said “How it would be your name” instead “Hallowed would be your name”, but what I did know was that God was the most important thing in the world and we need to always be respectful of Him.
If anyone were to have ever witnessed my mother drop the ash off her Viceroy, it was most likely in relation to someone setting something on top of our family Bible. That was a complete NO NO! I remember my sweet mama telling me that no other book is more important than the words of the Bible so nothing is above it and nothing should ever be in the way of getting to it. I took that to heart, to this day if you come into my house and see our Bibles sitting around, they are always on top of the stack. I have passed this bit of legalism on to my children not that they would feel condemned in that act but just that those words need to be at a quick hands reach, like a weapon when something goes wrong.
The funny part is I don’t remember ever reading that Bible with my mom. We pressed flowers in it and stored obituaries after funerals in those embossed pages, but never actually read it. I remember the family genealogy was written in the front and it was all in my daddy’s hand writing because, well, he hand the best handwriting.
Mom imparted principles in our hearts that were very biblical but I didn’t know to apply the word until I started attending Sunday School at Gardenside Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. We were not regular attenders. Mostly Easter and sometimes a Christmas program but I do remember a time when mom and I started attending Sunday School classes for a while consecutively. I was probably seven or eight years old and the Teacher’s name was Mrs. Taylor. She tasked us with an assignment and at that moment I knew I would have to tell Mom we were going to have to drop out of Sunday School. Ms Taylor wanted us to Memorize Scripture. Who does that? This woman was about to wrinkle pages with all that turning and dog earring she was doing. How in the world would I be expected to remember all those Thous and Thees and What fors?
I told Mom when we got back into the car what that crazy lady said and my dear mom laughed. She explained that what she taught me was not enough, I needed to learn the scripture and that was why she was making sure we would be going to the classes. In that moment I realized that I was really missing something. BIG. And what was this love that was so big that God would send His Son. I studied and memorized in preparation for the next Sunday. Let’s be clear, my main motivation was Mrs. Taylor giving out chocolate to “whomsoever” was able to recite their verse.
The verse was John 3:16. “FOR God so loved the World that He sent His only begotten Son, the whomsoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have ever lasting life.”
It was the very first verse I ever memorized in my entire life. It has stuck with me. It was huge, it was personal, it was meant to be shared with others. Do you know what I got after those few classes? A brand new understanding of who God was and how I was suppose to know about him. That not only are we to respect God and his precious words, but we also have to know His love for us through those written words. Also my mother and daddy got me my very own Bible. It was the perfect size, pearl white cover, gold letters that said Holy Bible, and even had red letters where Jesus spoke. It was fancy and it was mine. Dad even wrote in the front of the Bible, MY name, and his and mommy’s names as the presenters.
I was in my twenties before I realized that I too could write in my Bible, not just my father. And that my Father in Heaven was the author and finisher of my salvation and only He could write the names in the book of Life. Not my earthly father. The Bible was presented to me on June 7th, 1982.
Years of precious VBS programs and Sunday schools passed in the blink of an eye. I made many clay picture frames that showed my little red head in front of a class door where we were taught how much Jesus Loved US! I will always love two Oreo’s wrapped in a white paper napkin with a side of Kool Aid. The good Kool Aid, not Jim Jones’s Kool aid, although I did find myself in a church somewhat like that later in life but that is a whole other testimony.
I spent years in this Baptist Church learning of God’s Love. It was constant, it was real, but it was when I was turning 13 years old that my sister told me something that ruined my illusion. If I was 12 years old then my sister Sharon was 22. She had been to college and fell in love with a preacher’s son. They were getting married and she had learned some things.
Deep meaningful things that even she did not fully understand but one thing she latched onto was the age of accountability and she wanted to make sure I knew. Sharon asked me if I were to die would I go to heaven? My answer, of course I would because Jesus Loved Me. She then proceeded to tell when you reach 13 years old you are no longer covered under the grace of a child but are considered an adult and now you have to work out your salvation with fear and trembling. Something about a personal relationship where I loved God back and accepted Him as my Lord and Savior. I was blown away. How could that be?
I knew she had been to some campus crusades and she had come home and busted all her KISS and Alice Cooper records, she had even torn down her posters because the devil was allegedly in them but this accountability thing paralyzed me. I was about to turn 13. She had not scared hell out of me, she scared hell straight into me. I became tormented with it. She left out a major part that took me a while to find. How to accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior AND how to have a personal relationship with Him.
Now unlike those people who have the date they were saved neatly written on a page in their Bible, I can not for the life of me remember when I ran to the alter. I know I did and I know it was life changing in my heart. I was 14 years old and attending a non denominational church my sister’s father in law was head over. It was that age that I started seeking and understanding a real living relationship with a real living God.
Dont misunderstand, my walk started when I was 14 but I was not under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. I messed up so utterly and horrifically over the next 15 years before God got a firm grip on my behavior. My soul was saved but wretched, still is but slowly by the grace of God over the course of my 44 years on this Earth I have never doubted Him, never blamed Him for the awful things I experienced, and continue to climb toward Him. Ever seeking His face, His presence, and His will in my life. The things I did in those 15 years of my walk were ugly, and I was on a slippy slope but not in my faith, I believed in God and that Jesus was his Son who died for my sins. I was just caught up in the world and rarely obedient to His Commands.
If I were to have died at that time would I have gone to heaven? At times I would have said FOR SURE and other times I was not so confident. I was broken, but what I can say was that God did not intend for those times to define me in heaven or hell but those times define me in who I am in Christ. I am chosen, forgiven, redeemed, and by the grace of God able to share those experiences to help someone else who might feel stuck on the slope. I have life lines God has given me. I know how to use them. What good works He started in me before I was born, through those precious Bible school days and on into adulthood are His story as much as mine.