Tuesday, November 4, 2008

My faith: Part 1

"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.)


Katie said...

Girl, we constantly deal with students who struggle with the whole "I said it before but I'm not sure I meant it". We've discovered that one of the main problems is that students are taught behavior modification. They think it's all about good and bad or right and wrong. One of our main goals in ministry is to help students understand what it's really all about...a relational, real God who loves them and wants to be their everything. Anyways, thanks for sharing! Hope you're great! I would love to do lunch with you and Amanda next time I'm home.

Ally said...

Thanks for posting this. I'm about to read part 2.

Ah, the invitation hymns! I used to attend revival with my great aunt and uncle, and I was always tempted to walk down the aisle just so they'd stop playing the darn song.

As for your blog, it hadn't really occurred to me that you keep it superficial or that your faith would be something intimate or private. I tend to forget that some people don't share everything (as I'm apt to do:)

jennifer said...

Katie - Isn't it funny how many people came out of that upbringing with similar issues? I know it sounds wacky to anyone who didn't grow up in that setting, but I know a lot of people who did and many of them can identify.

I'd love to have lunch next time you're in town!

Ally - Yeah, invitations are always worst at revivals.

I'm glad you asked the question - I am probably more private about my faith than I should be. Thanks for the excuse to delve into it here.