I was a 5-year-old little girl, sitting in my seat, trying to keep my eyes closed as the teacher asked if there were any children who wanted to get saved. We were at Vacation Bible School and I had just made a new friend. She had already earned the “best friends forever” status; the kind that only a 5-year-old can give after one evening with a new acquaintance. Peeking over at her, I saw she was raising her hand and someone was already leading her out of the room. I didn’t want to be left behind! Quickly, I also raised my hand and was ushered out with her. We both were led into a room where we prayed a prayer.
To all others that night, my eternal salvation looked secure. I, however, knew the dreadful truth: my prayer that night had nothing to do with Jesus and everything to do with my new best friend. I can distinctly remember the teacher trying to get me to tell my older sister about the decision I had just made but I acted too shy and didn’t want to say anything. However, as I got older this 5- year-old “conversion” story became my go-to story whenever someone would ask about my salvation. When I was 10, I was baptized and gave this experience as my salvation testimony. And this is the story I attested to in public settings on multiple different occasions.
Now, some people would use this as a soap box to discourage teachers from putting children in a place where they are encouraged to make decisions they clearly know nothing about (And I would say they would be on-point). However, this story is about God’s redemptive work in a life. Ultimately, He is the One drawing hearts to Himself, regardless of whether someone uses some good–or not-so-good–methods of introducing a child to Jesus. And for me, this false conversion was actually something that God used to bring me along in my understanding that I did indeed need to be saved.
Over the next 7 years, I really struggled with knowing if I was a believer. I can vividly remember several times where I prayed to God telling Him that if I hadn’t been serious before, I was being serious now. I wanted to be saved!
It wasn’t until I was 12 years old and attending a christian camp that God opened my eyes to see that it wasn’t how good of a girl I’d been, nor was it about how well I said a prayer. Ephesians 2:8-9 says “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” My salvation was dependent solely on the work that Jesus Christ did on my behalf. I just had to believe and accept His free gift for myself.
God says in Romans 8:16 that “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” And I can affirm that this is true. Since that day at camp, there have been multiple times where I have been tempted to listen to the lies of “What if God isn’t real?” or “If you were a christian you wouldn’t be struggling with this temptation”, etc. However, with each moment of doubt, there is an immediate retaliation from the Holy Spirit reminding me that I am indeed a child of God. He reminds me that I’ve experienced the peace that comes only from God. I’ve experienced the pure joy of fellowshipping with Him as I’ve spent time in His Word and in prayer. I’ve hungered to know Him more deeply and He’s continued to grow me in my understanding of Himself. These are good gifts that God gives to His children! It’s not about keeping a list of rules. It’s about a relationship with my Creator.
My flesh, however, constantly reminds me that I am not good enough. (Hello, this is the very reason that Jesus came!) And making choices that align with what God wants for me does not always come naturally. Between the ages of 12 and 16, I struggled to know how to walk with this God I now claimed as my own. I would go to camp each year, make decisions to grow in specific areas of my life, only to go home and find myself breaking my commitments a few weeks later. I’d repeatedly find myself disappointed and waiting until the next year of camp when I could try again.
Finally, when I was 16, God allowed the speaker at camp to share the verse in Proverbs 24:16 which says “A just man falleth seven times and riseth up again, but the wicked falleth into mischief.” He explained that when babies are learning to walk, they don’t fall twice and then say “Oh well! I guess I’ll just lay here and never try to walk again.” No! They get back up! And that’s what God wants us to do. He wants us to keep coming back to Him. It’s not how many times we fall that’s important. It’s how many times we get back up!
God used this specific truth to open my eyes to the daily walk that is available for me because I am His child. I’m not perfect. I never will be. But Jesus Christ is! And He is worth pursuing with everything that I have. He willingly laid down His life in my place, accepting the punishment that I deserve. He rose victorious over death so that I no longer have to fear today or the future. What a Savior!
Since those early days of learning to walk with God, I have found myself looking back periodically and finding that God has continued to bring me gently along, opening my eyes to even more wonderful truths about Himself. He is such a good, kind Shepherd and today I praise Him for His work in my life: past, present and future.