Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Growing Up Christian

This is something I think about, of course, because I am raising children in a Christian home.

I have always been concerned that the exposure to church and Christianity in childhood can sometimes act as a vaccination - that a small dose of religion and Jesus would seem to be enough and actually innoculate someone from contracting the real, full-blown experience of knowing God.

I know that there are as many different experiences of this as there are people.

I was raised in a Christian family, attending church and Sunday school since before I was born. My parents were good, sincere people doing their best to teach us about God. I remember asking Jesus into my heart when I was about 5. I have the letter from my grandma expressing her excitement about my decision.

I wonder about why my relationship with Jesus didn't develop. I knew about Him, and I wanted to be good. But, it seemed I wasn't very good. I fought with my older sister, and I knew I was bad when my mom scolded me for not keeping my room clean.

When I was old enough to attend church camp, I started a cycle of getting saved or recommitted every summer. It usually wasn't very long until I was bad again. Obviously I had no understanding of grace and forgiveness. Maybe that is why my relationship with Jesus didn't grow.

At this point, my story took a sad but somewhat predictable turn. There are probably several reasons I was susceptible to peer pressure. The dynamics of my relationship with my mom left me feeling hopeless to be good. I think that was at the root of a lot of my rebellion. Also, my relationship with the Lord wasn't important enough to me to want to choose differently.

During this time, I don't believe it would have been possible for my parents or even the most well-intended youth leader to reach me. I was bent on having my own way.

Sparing you the gory details, my choices took me down a path that, over several years, eventually led to despair and shame. At that point, I wanted to turn to God, to get things right again. However, now I knew the depths of my willfulness and ability to execute evil. Surely, I was beyond His goodness and forgiveness.

In the midst of my hopelessness, knowing I deserved nothing from Him, and believing He would not forgive, Jesus reach down with tenderness, love, and mercy. He was willing to touch the brokenness and ugliness in my life and to accept me with open arms.

I'm not sure if you can know the extent of His grace without understanding the extent of your own unworthiness.

At that moment, I knew Him. He became the one who rescued me, saved me, redeemed me. He was no longer an idea or philosophy. His love was water to my spirit, and His mercy was salve to my wounded soul.

I am so thankful to know Him now, for real.

I don't think that everyone has to go that route to find Him. I certainly don't want my kids to have to "get a testimony" in order to grow in their relationship with Jesus.

Fr'nklin posted about one of his kids making a decision to follow the Lord. It was one of those posts that stuck with me. His son asked him an important question:

He then looked right at me and said, "Dad, have you ever seen God do anything?" The world stopped spinning...THAT is the question, as a parent, you must be able to answer. How would you answer it? Think about it...and answer the question.

Yes, I've seen God do something.

Just like in the song, "when life and death stood face to face, and darkness tried to steal my heart away, Mercy said NO! I will never let you go."

7 comments:

eija said...

I think we all need our own path to walk through - wether or not we are from a Christian home.

My friend grew up in a thoroughly Christian home - a very good one, I might add, with 4 siblings. She was "always" going with Jesus, as well as her two sisters. But the fourth sister still, at the age of almost 60, is on her stray ways, as well as the only brother, who is 40 years old.

I grew up in a family where christianity was only a name. My grandpa was a cantor-organist, as well as his two brothers. Mum never cared about the religious stuff, and dad is that "sing in the church choir and go to church twice a year and that makes me holy" type. But as a kid I remember wondering, why was it that nobody took me to a sunday school. Finding the real mercy and love of God was a long path - and I think I'm still not even close.

Thank you for your beautiful testimony.

Grey Owl said...

Thanks for your story, grace. It's nice to learn more about the people we encounter in this virtual environment.

I haven't been by here in way too long - I'll have to drop by more often!

grace said...

eija,
So nice to see you. Thanks for your comments.

grey owl,
good to see you too.

Pam Hogeweide said...

Hey EG, (happy post Thanksgiving, btw)

Yes, I don't want my kids to have my testimony either. It is my constant prayer that my kids will have their own revelation about who God is and their need for him. I can teach them verses, bible songs, take them to Sunday School, send them to camp and pray with them every night at bedtime, but without the Spirit of God making Jesus real to them it is empty, religious motion. I don't want to give them heritage of religon, but instead a passionate, dynamic vibrant friendship with God. And I cannot do that, not on my own. I cannot bring to life the word of God in their hearts. I can give them words, concepts, principles and morals. I hope they don't have my testimony. I hope and pray that they will have their own encounters with God, now in their childhood, and throughout their lives, that will hook their hearts for Jesus, that he loves them and knows them. I cannot bear the thought of my wonderful children deciding someday that Jesus is boring and irrelevant so f*%k it. (forgive my crude language) This is why I often ask the Holy Spirit to get a hold of their hearts and minds. I'll do the possible, but I need God to do the impossible: reveal Himself to this boy and this girl who are the world to me.

fr'nklin said...

Grace,
I've read this post several times...as I think about the youth I minister to weekly. Our youth group is FULL of youth who are growing up "Christian". I've pretty much concluded that out of my youth group of 150+, there are less than a handful who are actually DESPERATE for Jesus. When I talk about "tasting and seeing that the Lord is good" or "delighting yourself in the Lord" they have no clue what it means.

They KNOW they need Jesus but they FEEL no need for him. They are upper middle class to upper class youth who have everything they want. My patience is wearing thin. I love them, but I'm angry and frustrated as well.

I grew up Christian...but my path was different. I was a very popular kid...but I also clearly knew what it meant to delight in the Lord when I was in MS and HS.

I just don't think the vast majority of our youth Know Jesus. That is what breaks me...and the biggest kicker is that I think everything is kool w/ the parents as long as they get good grades or play sports.

Sorry for the emote...peace...and I've been praying for you...hoping you recover soon.

grace said...

fr'nklin,
I'm not sure if you'll read this, but I would be very interested in hearing why Jesus was so real to you as a young person.

Perhaps that understanding is something you could share with your youth. Why did you delight in the Lord? What caused you to love Him? How did He reveal Himself to you?

Anonymous said...

Grace,

It is amazing how God brings good out of what seems bad. Thanks for sharing your story of developing a real and personal relationship with God.

I too have a burden for young people growing up in the church today. I recently published a book on the topic. You can find out a little more about it at www.growingupchristian.com.

May God continue to make grace real to you and give you the wisdom to communicate this to your children.

Karl