I grew up attending mostly non-denominational churches. We attended a Southern Baptist church when I we lived in Charlotte, NC, but I was only four and I don’t remember any it. When I was in high school, we attended a General Association of Regular Baptists church for a couple of years. Other than that, it was always a non-denominational Bible church.
Mom played piano and dad was a deacon in most of the churches, and so we attended early and often. Reviewing a lot of my childhood memories brings the realization that many of them are centered around church or church related activities.
I remember going forward in one service when I was in the 3rd or 4th grade. I remember going to the pastor’s study and talking with the preacher, but I don’t remember much of what was said. We did pray together and when we left his study, everyone said I’d been saved, but I don’t think I really understood what that was. I knew the mechanics of how to be saved before I ever went forward. It’s hard to grow up like I did and not know how it’s done. But I don’t think I really understood much more at that point than I was a sinner and wanted to go to heaven. Fire insurance, if you will. I was baptized soon after and that was really the end of anything being different. After that, everything went back to the way it was before. I still went to church twice on Sunday - three times if you count Sunday School separately – and once on Wednesday night for prayer meeting.
For the next couple of years, my approach to Christianity involved more superstitious hoping than anything else. I knew a lot about the Bible, could name all the books in order – forwards and backwards, knew all the flannel-board stories, had memorized quite a few verses, but that was all stuff in my head. My life certainly didn’t reflect Christ. I acted no differently than any of the other kids in my school. I though in my heart that if I God was kind of like a good luck charm or a rabbits foot. If I said the right words in the right order then God would be with me and I would be saved and go to heaven, but if I didn’t do things just right, then I’d wind up going to hell. I literally had a spot on the wall that I looked at when I was in bed at night and I always had to say the same prayer while looking at that spot or I thought I wouldn’t be saved any more. When we moved and I got a new room, I just picked a new spot. I never expressed my superstitions verbally to anyone, but just kept them bottled up on the inside. Naturally, this constant struggle to do the right thing and say the right thing “or else” meant that I spent a lot of time in doubt and being miserable. And what was worse is I couldn’t show it because my family and all my friends at church “knew” I was a Christian.
Things finally came to a head the summer after the 7th grade. I realized that all I was doing was fooling myself. My “profession of faith” those years before was nothing of the kind. I knew that I had never really accepted Jesus on the inside, but just wore him on the outside like an overcoat – taking Him on and off at will. I knew that I had not offered my life to Him to do with as He saw fit. All I had done was go through the motions because I was scared of going to hell. And so in my room, in the middle of the night, silently and alone, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. I don’t remember the exact date of my salvation, but I remember that night clearly.
One of the hardest things I’ve ever done was tell my mom and dad the next day. I told my mom first. I don’t remember what she said, but I do remember her crying. My dad was supportive when he came home from work and then I don’t remember talking too much about it. I never did tell anybody at church. I think because I was too embarrassed.
Later, when I was in high school, I realized that since I wasn’t really a Christian the first time I was baptized, I needed to do that again. And so I got baptized again when I was seventeen.
I currently am a member of a Southern Baptist church.
I have been considering starting this for some time. I needed another space to explore and document what I believe. I think this will be challenging. At least, I know I will be challenged, if nothing else.