My Story

A couple of weeks ago, our pastor challenged us to write our Jesus story and send it to someone. I’m a little late because reasons, but here we go.

To the best of my recollection, I started going to church when I was five.1 As I got older, attendance became more frequent; it was Sunday morning/Sunday night/Wednesday night through most of my growing up years.

When I was ten, I became intensely afraid of dying; petrified would be a more accurate term. I didn’t know why then, and I couldn’t tell you why now, but it was real and it lasted for a long time. When I was twelve I finally got up the nerve to ask my parents about being saved (because otherwise dying meant Hell), and conversations happened and I walked down the aisle at church and filled out a card and said a prayer and was baptized, the whole kit and caboodle.

But the terror of dying didn’t go away, nor did anything else really change. I went to church two or three times a week; when I got to college I was at the Baptist Student Union whenever the doors were open; but I lived my life the same as always and held in the fear of dying the same as always. And this continued for many years after college.

On a long drive home from the Panhandle when I was twenty-six, I finally came to the conclusion that being that afraid was not compatible with being a Christian (2 Tim 1:7 and all that). That meant that whatever might have transpired when I was twelve, I didn’t belong to God. When I got home, I knelt in my bedroom and confessed and repented of my sin, acknowledged my fear, and surrendered my life to Jesus.

It was a few years before I put together, or at least could articulate, that nothing had really happened when I was twelve because I hadn’t changed, and I hadn’t changed because there was no Holy Spirit to change me, and there was no Holy Spirit to change me because I didn’t have the Holy Spirit, and I didn’t have the Holy Spirit because filling out a card and saying a prayer and getting wet isn’t what saves us (Jesus said He came to “seek and save the lost,” emphasis mine). There is a difference between acknowledging something to be true and fully trusting in that thing. It is why James 2:19 tells us that “believing” is no big deal—the demons believe, but they still shudder, because they’re not saved, and they’re not saved because they haven’t trusted in what they know to be true.

But after that night in my bedroom, everything changed, starting with peace instead of fear. I was at rest in my head instead of in turmoil. Other things changed as well, although I didn’t notice all of them immediately. While I had been going to church at this point for over twenty years, I had gone because I had to (when at home) or because I was supposed to/was afraid not to (when on my own). Now I did it because I wanted to. I started reading my Bible on my own, which had rarely happened before. And the Holy Spirit started changing me, my attitudes, my perspectives, my thoughts, which also hadn’t happened before.

Since then, God has been at work in me in too many ways to count (although, to be sure, there are still infinitely more things He has to work on). I put off speech class in college until the very last minute because I was petrified2 of speaking in front of people, but I’ve been teaching Sunday School and small groups for twenty-seven years. It’s an amazing thing to know you’re doing something that you’re incapable of doing on your own. He has taught me what is important (what He wants), and what isn’t (what I want), and has guided my life to be more involved in the former and less in the latter. He has put innumerable people in my life to guide and mold and shape me into what He wants me to be, and given me the wisdom to listen to them (which I do… some of the time). He has given me a love for His word that was completely lacking, and through it and the Holy Spirit has taught me how to live for Him.

The longer I live, the more I’ve encountered others who have very similar stories. Years ago we got a call from some good friends of ours who had been in our Sunday School class when I first started co-teaching (with a much wiser and smarter and more spiritual woman; hi Cheryl!). We went over, and he was on the verge of a panic attack about whether he was really saved. We talked for a while, and I finally told him, “If you’ve been praying about it and aren’t sure, then you can be sure. Let’s do it right now,” and we did; he trusted in Jesus in his living room. A few months ago, one of the “kids” (they’re under thirty, it applies) in our current small group voiced the same concerns; several days later, she came to the same conclusion, with the same result.

What I did not fully understand at fifteen and twenty and twenty-five is what Paul so clearly explains to the church at Rome—“if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he [or she] does not belong to Him.” (Rom 8:9) There are a lot of people in church every week that think they are believers, that they are saved, but are missing the key indicator, the Holy Spirit (just like I was). Obviously there are even more people not in church who don’t believe, but that very fact often makes them the easier group to talk to about their standing with Jesus.

However you got here, in church or out, the question is simple: have you surrendered your life to Jesus, do you have the Holy Spirit? If yes, then hey, let’s hear your story! If not, then hey, let’s see about changing your story!

  1. “Going” as in “was taken.” I was already pretty independent, but not quite that independent. Although it was close.
  2. I know, I’ve used it already, but it’s still the right word.

One thought on “My Story

  1. Thanks for sharing your story—it was a real encouragement. As it happens, my own story resonates with it at significant points.

    David / Fife, UK

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