When I was 5 or 6 years old my family and I watched a show on TV that dismantled my security and instilled within me a deep fear. The scene that is imprinted in my memory was about a little boy my age standing in the blowing snow at his mother’s graveside following her funeral. He laid a rose on her casket before she was lowered into the ground to be buried and returned home where he sat on his bed in his cold, grey, drafty room…alone, lonely. Tears streamed, my heart ached and fear planted itself deep within my heart. Fear that I’d lose my mom. I felt his pain as if it was my own.
Over time this fear grew extending its tenticales around my sense of security suffocating it until security was snuffed out. At night I had trouble falling asleep for fear that my parents would die leaving me alone and lonely. Every night at bedtime my heart raced, my stomach felt sick and the scene of the little boy standing at his mother’s graveside flashed through my mind. I was not afraid that I would die but that I would live and my parents would die leaving me in this world alone. To aleviate this fear, my mind created a belief that some people never experienced death and my family was one of the lucky ones that would live forever. My young mind was at work trying to cope with this fear by building resilance through a skewed belief system.
Several years later…
Even though I attended church with my family, I had very little, if any, experience reading the Bible. In our church having a personal relationship with Jesus was not discussed. Every prayer said in church was read from a book together as a congregation. Being “saved” was not in the vocabulary that was used in our church.
The summer of my 14th birthday my aunt invited me to go to Falls Creek, a summer church camp, with my cousin and her youth group. I had conflicting emotions about going. I was excited about spending time with my family and meeting new friends but was really nervous about being at a church camp because of my inexperience with the Bible. I thought, “what if they ask me to look something up in the Bible, how in the world would I know how to do that and worse yet, what if they ask me to do that in front of a bunch of people?” This anxiety propelled me into thinking that that if I was going to church camp I better know something about the Bible. So I got out our family Bible (which was huge), opened it and began to read. The verse I randomly turned to was “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one come to the father but through me.” Panic struck me as I stopped reading and thought “I have NO idea what that means!” Feeling defeated I quickly shut the Bible and put it away. And off to camp I went feeling nervous and unequipped.
Each day at Falls Creek there is a morning, afternoon, and evening tabernacle service. At one of the evening services a pastor named Baily Smith was speaking about the difference between wheat and tares discussed in the gospels. People who had a personal relationship with Jesus were wheat and would one day be harvested by Jesus to live eternally with him in heaven. People without a personal relationship with Jesus were tares who lived among the wheat but would not be harvested with the wheat because they did not know Jesus as their Lord and Savior. I knew that I was a tare. I had not ever asked Jesus to be my Lord and Savior. It was so clear to me that at that moment that I did not have eternal life with Jesus. I desperately wanted to be counted as wheat, I wanted eternal life with Jesus more than anything.
During the invitation I stood at the edge of the row paralized with fear wanting to go forward but afraid of drawing attention to myself. As the invitation continued with prayer and song, people kept going forward to profess their faith in Jesus. I stood there silently telling myself, I’ll go forward after the next person passes me. Then without realizing it, I stepped out into the isle and began to walk forward to the front of the tabernacle to profess my faith in Jesus. As I was walking it felt surreal as if it wasn’t me that stepped out into the isle but that I was being led. Thankfully my aunt met me at the front and prayed with me as I asked Jesus to come into my heart and be my Lord and Savior. Tears spilled from my eyes as my heart was filled with joy. I was elated, free, and euphoric…the feeling of a reedemed life that just stepped out of the clutches of death and into eternal life.
When we returned from camp we had a share night at church. During our rehersal for share night the youth pastor assigned each youth person a passage from the Bible that they would to read aloud to the congregation. The youth pastor assigned to me the verse John 4:16. When I looked it up in the Bible I read “I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the father but through me.” Amazement filled my heart when I realized that was very same verse that I had read in my quest to” know something” about the Bible before going to church camp. The very verse whose meaning was once so foreign to me was now full of meaning. I felt the personal touch of God. Awe filled my heart as I realized how God had His hand on me all along drawing me to Him, creating an experience for me that undeniably illustrated His power and desire to have an intimate relationship with me. He was now in charge as I bowed my life before Him as King, my King.
Like a pebble making ripples in water, my committment to Jesus rippled through our family. I started attending a youth group regularly at another church. Eventually my parents came to watch one of our youth group programs and they were drawn to start attending church regularly. Later, as a teenager my sister gave her life to Christ. In the summers I began going on mission trips and continued to attend Falls Creek with my cousin’s youth group. My faith grew and shaped my life. As a college student and single young adulthood years I worked at Kanakuk Kamp in the K-2 office during the summers with a group of people who all loved Jesus and wanted to walk with Him just as I did (the best job ever!).
As I reflected on this experience as an adult, I remembered my childhood fear of my parents dying and of my created belief that my family would be one of the lucky ones that would get to live forever, I discovered that my belief wasn’t so crazy at all. Most of my family will live forever with Jesus in heaven because they too have accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior. I am praying that God will draw my dad just as He did myself to accept Jesus as his Lord and Savior. If you feel compelled, please pray for my father’s salvation too.