"I'm curious about your faith," Ally wrote when I asked for blogging ideas. "Have you pretty much always been a believer?"
I don't delve deeply into my faith on this blog because if you haven't noticed, I keep this blog pretty superficial. Unlike some blogs (which admittedly are more interesting to read), I rarely if ever write in depth about the layers of my marriage, my struggles and hopes and regrets or even my thoughts about life in general. My best friends know the details of these but I have no desire to put it all out there for an anonymous Internet world.
Still, it's a fair question, so thanks, Ally, for asking. I can never remember a time that I didn't believe in God and accept that the basic tenets of Christianity were true. I am really thankful to my parents, who along with my grandparents demonstrate changed hearts and lives through Christ better than anyone else I know, for raising me in such a way that I can say that.
The fact that I never had a dramatic conversion "experience," though, bothered me for years. In the Southern Baptist culture where I grew up, the conversions that were deemed most credible followed this pattern: 1. hard-core rebellion against God 2. a dramatic, instantaneous turnabout 3. a changed life of Christian T-shirts and church at least three times a week. People celebrated "spiritual birthdays" marking the day and time when they shifted from unsaved to saved. Things were black and white.
In this world, almost every Sunday, in almost every sermon, preachers asked, "Do you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you're saved?" And every sermon concluded with an invitational hymn, until someone walked the aisle (to profess salvation or rededication or to join the church or just for prayer) or at least five verses of the song had been sung, whichever came first.
At youth-group days at Carowinds, at Carman concerts, at Ridgecrest retreats, the message was always the same -- "Do you know that you know that you know that you're saved?" Multiple professions of salvation were common ("I've prayed 'the sinner's prayer' before but this time I really mean it") as were subsequent multiple baptisms.
This screwed me up. I wasn't one for walking the aisle, and I was baptized only once, but I lay awake plenty of nights wondering if I'd worded my prayers for salvation exactly right so they'd count, asking God for signs, and trying to will inanimate objects in my bedroom to move, thus proving I did have the faith, at least, of a mustard seed.
(This is getting long, so I'm going to break it into two parts. Read Part 2 by clicking here.)