Thursday, November 10, 2005

Getting to Know Me II

Maureen suggested I post my testimony way back when my blog was still in its infancy. I don't know why I never did, but I don't think it is something that most of my readers know about me. So, I have decided to post it. It's one of a few things I think people should know about me.

The first memory I have about anything "religious" was from when I was very young. I'm thinking that I was maybe 4 or 5 at the time. Our house was only the second on French Street. If you walked to the corner of French and Davis Streets, you walked up a hill. My sister and I had a friend who lived on that corner, so it wasn't unusual to find us up at the top of the hill.

That's where I was, alone, when someone approached me. She wasn't threatening in any way, but she started talking to me. She was asking me questions and she showing me things in a little book. It was all about God. I don't recall and specifics of the conversation, except for this: she said, do you believe everything we have talked about? I honestly answered "yes." Then she asked if I wanted to pray with her. I said "yes." So we prayed.

That was the last I saw of her. I went home and I told my mom what happened. I kept thinking, "the woman said I could go to heaven if I prayed the prayer. And I don't think she told me anything wrong, but I don't think you can get to heaven just by praying one prayer." I thought there had to be more I was supposed to "do" to get to heaven, like be a good person, etc.

Now, the theology of this might be debated in some circles. Faith without works is dead, says James. And some might want to argue "Lordship salvation." But, part of me wonders if the Holy Spirit didn't just enter my heart that very day. I don't know. All I know is I understood everything the lady said, and I believed it, and we prayed.

Some day I will know for sure. But until then, I rely on more recent and specific events to explain how I came to know Christ.

It began when I was a senior in high school. (Though, I only know that in hindsight.) At the time, there was nothing to speak of in my life that could have been construed as spiritual commitment. I believed in God and I tried to be good. But I didn't attend church or pray all that often. I was just a typical high school kid.

But I was making plans to go to Wittenberg, and one of the conscious decisions I made was to start attending church when I went away to college. I don't know why I felt that I needed to wait until then. I just knew it was something I wanted as part of my life. So, when I arrived at Wittenberg, I didn't waste time finding a place to go to church. They provided a list of different churches in the area. But I settled on a Catholic service that was held right on campus. I went to Catholic school for 8 years, so it was an easy pick for me.

I enjoyed the services. Casual. Just students. The priest who came to say the mass was involved with the students through the Neuman (sp?) club, and he was very down-to-earth. I liked his homilies. He seemed to care about us.

Concurrently, I was, as all freshmen do, meeting new friends and checking out different campus groups. One of my roommate's friends from home, Shelby, became a good friend of mine. (And still is - hi Shelby!) She was interested in spiritual things too. She was looking into different Christian groups on campus and I was "into" that, so I joined her. There were three prominent ones at the time. We checked them out, but we both really liked one in particular, and we made it a point to go each week together.

It was called "College Life." It was an interesting meeting. We would sing some praise songs. We heard a talk based on the Bible. Then we would hang out and chat with people. Seniors mingled with freshmen. Everyone was friendly. Almost too friendly. They'd talk about Jesus like they knew him. I was fine with that, although I didn't "get it." We had fun though, so I was committed.

Then I would go to church on Sunday. And there was this guy, I don't remember his name, but he was the president of the Neuman Club. Football player. Frat guy. Senior. BMOC. He became the tangible representation of the disconnect that was going on in my mind. He seemed to carry his BMOC status with him wherever he went. At mass that meant that he couldn't really associate with a little freshman like me.

So, I would sit in mass on Sunday with a whole bunch of other students. But when it was over, we all left. We never greeted each other. We never got to know each other. And when we saw each other on campus during the week, we just walked right by as if we'd never seen each other before. It seemed strange and awkward.

And I grant you that I could have been more outgoing. But the point is that there was a huge difference between the concern that people had for me at church and the concern that people had for me at College Life. I wondered why there was such a difference.

I kept going to mass and to College Life, but I grew increasingly uncomfortable at the CL meetings too - for an altogether different reason. I just didn't get it! Finally I started asking Shelby about it. Why was everyone so hyped up on Jesus? I don't get why people are so excited about what they are learning in the Bible. What do they get that I don't?

Shelby and I talked about it, along with Traci, another friend from CL. (Also still a friend of mine!) I think I was either confused about all they were telling me or just didn't want to believe it. Finally, Traci asked me "Lori, if you died tonight, would you go to heaven?"

My answer at that time was the more mature version of what I was thinking that day when I was 5. I just didn't think anyone could know if they were going to heaven. You had to live a good life and do your best - but there was no way you could know you'd get in until you met St. Peter at the pearly gates.

That confusing conversation left me wondering what I had gotten myself into, but I still wanted to understand. So, Shelby suggested I talk to one of the older girls from CL, and that's what I did. Her name was Jenn.

She picked me up one Wednesday in her little red car and we drove out to the resevoir. She told me I could ask her whatever I wanted. I remember crying a lot. I was confused because I WENT TO CATHOLIC SCHOOL FOR EIGHT YEARS, but everything they were telling me was something I had never heard of before! (And I am not trying to say that Catholics don't know Christ. I am merely explaining my experience.)

So, Jenn shared with me about Jesus. Though I had always believed that Jesus died on the cross, it had never EVER occurred to me to ask "WHY?" Jenn explained why. I agreed that I was sinful - that was a no brainer (Romans 3:23.) And I came to understand that there was nothing that I could ever do that would be good enough to "cover" for my sins in the presence of a holy God. Jenn used actual Scripture to explain: that the result of sin is separation from God (Romans 6:23;) that Jesus's death paid the penalty for my sin so that I would not have to be separated from God (Romans 5:8, John 14:6;) and that we establish a relationship with Christ (no longer separated from him) when we believe in him (John 1:12.)

This was revolutionary to me. It made complete sense. So much, in fact, that I was wondering why I had never heard this before. Wondering why people had kept this information from me. I just couldn't believe I'd missed it.

So, Jenn asked me if I wanted to pray to receive Christ.

No. Something was holding me back.

It was this grace thing. Jenn shared Ephesians 2:8,9 with me, which explains that we can't do anything to earn a good standing with God. He simply offers it, by his grace, through his sacrificial death. This concept just did not sit right with me. Everything else made sense to me. But not EARNING it? This flew in the face of everything I had ever understood about how God operated.

So, we returned to campus. Without praying. But this was not the end of the story for me. I spent the rest of the night thinking and rehashing all of this stuff in my mind. It all made so much sense except for this one little part.

And then I thought about the kind of person I was. Always trying to earn the best grade. Trying to please everyone. "Striving" was my MO. Good standing with God seemed to be far too big a thing not to have to strive for... it was completely counter to how I had ever known to obtain something.

So I just sat there with my thoughts. And I thought about all that the striving had obtained for me... a lot of anxiety, but not much else. And then it just hit me:

Wow, God. You must love me a lot to take on all the striving for me. You did it because you wanted me near you, and I never would have been able to do it myself.

You did it all? I really don't have to try to impress you?

That sounds exactly like love. Thank you.

Then I prayed some more.

And that's how I know that I know God.


Anonymous mom a said...

I have absolutely no memory of that event. I do know that you were always "deep." One day you used your best second-grade printing to write me a note and you left it in my bible; it said, "Please slow down so I can love you." When I came across it some time later, I realized that I was so immeresed in the busy-ness of life and work that I wasn't leaving any time for God. I also tried to make a little more time for you and Krista, too.
The note is still in my Bible.

Fri Nov 11, 01:53:00 AM  
Blogger PEZmama said...

Okay, well I have no recollection of writing that note!

But you are right about me being deep. Heh heh.

:) Lori

Fri Nov 11, 09:50:00 AM  
Blogger Patti said...

It makes perfect sense to me that you had trouble "getting it" When I did Musicon, I thought that the religion would just come naturally to me because I had gone to St Joes. I KNEW how to be a Christian. Mrs. Abbotts told me that if I went to SJS I was a Catholic aand ALL Catholics are Christians so...
But I had the same experience, that everyone else had this really cool brother named Jesus Christ and I was some weird foster child striving to make everyone like me so God would like me too. I just didn't get how all I had to do was ask God to tell me he loved me and let me hear it. I thought there was some ridiculous process. But I still hold to the idea that regardless of whether or not Jesus is in your heartm you STILL have to be a generally good person, prone to making mistakes in life to get to heaven - whatevere or wherever it is!

Love ya!

Fri Nov 11, 10:21:00 PM  
Blogger Luisa Perkins said...

Your conversion story is beautiful. Thanks for posting it! I have been nervous about saying much about my own spirituality on my blog because it feels so personal and sacred. But I am always glad when I read testimonies like yours. I will have to ponder sharing my own in like manner. Thanks again!

Tue Mar 13, 07:34:00 PM  

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