When I Handed Over the Pen

Stories for the Journey

Note: This week, I will be sharing stories of my spiritual journey. Feel free to share yours in the comments or in an email. I would love to read them!

I talk about my faith frequently on this blog. Well, it would seem that I do. But most of the time I just write posts from a faith perspective. I assume a lot. I assume that you know I am a Christian. I assume that you are a Christian or have a knowledge of the basics of Christianity. I assume that you know my faith is not just an accessory but an integral part of who I am.

Sometimes assumptions can be dangerous. You may have some ideas about me that are wrong. And I may have a few ideas about you that are wrong.

When I set out to tell you my stories, there is really no avoiding this part. The part of my story when I handed the pen to Someone Else. The part of my story when I scratched out my name in the author spot and He inked His there in Blood.

Even if you are not a person of faith or a person that possesses the same faith I do, may I ask you to just stay with me? This is the portion of my story that makes everything else make sense. If you miss it, you might as well not read anything else I write. 

Enough introduction. Let me begin:

In some ways, I have the idyllic faith story. I was born to Christian parents in full-time pastoral ministry. They taught me the Bible from the time I was born, prayed over me from the womb and enrolled me in Christian schools. We were in church every time the doors were open: every service; every work day; every music practice; every church meeting; every revival; every prayer service.

My parents held me accountable in my behavior and attitudes, prayed beside me when I came to Christ, when I strayed from Christ, when I sought His will and when I wanted anything but His will. Daddy officiated my wedding and the dedication of all four of my children, and answered a million questions about faith and living it out in real life. My mom counseled me on everything from cooking to fashion to boys and the woes and joys of puberty.

In other ways, I have the most dangerous faith story. I was immersed in the Christian message my entire life and knew it intellectually since before I can remember. This makes it easy to assume. Assume that I’m a Christian because I go to church, or my parents are Christians or I win Bible challenges or because I don’t commit really bad sins.

You see, faith isn’t really faith until it is challenged. It’s not true faith until you jump off the cliff without seeing the bottom.

Despite all the years of hearing the salvation message and memorizing Bible verses, I didn’t see my own sin until I was about 9 years old. I began seeking God then, but I didn’t really allow Him to find me until three years later.

I was twelve years old when I was lying in bed one night reading a book. I don’t remember what the book was about, but I remember this horrible feeling of guilt and being lost come over me. My parents were right across the hall, but I didn’t go talk to them. Perhaps I should have, but I knew somehow that this was a battle I had to fight myself. Or, more accurately, a battle to surrender by myself. This feeling persisted for several days.

We were in the middle of a series of revival services at our church. To be perfectly honest, revival didn’t mean a time of soul-searching to me. It meant a time to help Mom scrub the house spic and span, sit at the table three times a day with semi-strangers swapping ministry stories with my parents until I could politely excuse myself, and going to church every night. Church services that were longer than normal because they included special music and a preacher that stopped at 9:00 no matter what time he started.

The only thing I remember about the evangelistic team that week was that the piano player smiled a lot and the preacher looked very stern and reserved. (He was reserved but not too stern. That was kind of hard to maintain in our house.)

And I remember that guilty feeling. The feeling that I was on my way to a place of eternal punishment, and I deserved it. No, it didn’t come from my parents. They and everyone else thought I was a good kid. But my heart didn’t lie, and I knew it was as black as the darkest deed ever done in the eyes of God.

When the preacher offered an invitation for people to come to the front and pray, I went. I had gone as a little girl because my friend did or because it seemed like the right thing to do. This time I went because I was desperately lost, and I wanted desperately to be found. 

I remember my mother kneeling beside me, and my daddy kneeling in front of me. Some people might not agree, but my parents always made their children their first ministry. They knew the created order puts the institution of the home before the church or the government. They were always 100% available to their church, but they felt even more keenly Noah’s call to build an Ark for their family first. So, even though I was not the only one kneeling for prayer, both of them were there to witness my greatest moment.

A girl blessed with an abundance of Biblical teaching takes 12 years to kneel at the Cross. Not headline material. No one paid much attention to it outside our little church. But I was forever changed. Jesus took away my sins and instead of ghost writing my story in what theology calls prevenient grace, He began writing beside my name in the Book of Life.

Ever since that day, I have at times tried to take back the pen, but He always is there to nudge me and remind me that He is the Author now. He’s been such a dear Friend that I have never wanted to take back my author spot. Even though the pages ahead are shadowy and I can’t see what the story will be, I have full confidence in the ending with Jesus as Author: happily ever after with Him.

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