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."