A Gift Like No Other

If you have been around Christianity for any length of time, you have undoubtedly had the encounter with the question, “Are you saved?” Now, I love this questions for so many reasons, but may usual response is, “Saved from what?”

To tell today’s story, you must understand a bit more about the years from 1989-1991. During this season, the church of my childhood underwent massive changes. We were part of a denominational system where pastors (or clergy) are appointed by the bishop. While the needs of the local church are heard and considered, ultimately, the bishop makes the decision who will pastor a local congregation. During this two year season, our church received a new pastor. The appointment was not perceived as a “fit” by many in the congregation and a church division took place. Many of the faces that I had come to know and love were no longer there.

During the same season, I became a youth delegate to the Church Council. This is designed to give students the opportunity to develop leadership and ownership in the church. Unfortunately, the timing coincided with a season of division and heartache in church leadership. I saw what I politely refer to as the underbelly of the beast. At 14 and 15, I saw some of the hardest moments of church life.

After increasing unrest and a clear sign that it was time to move on, my family set off to find a new community of faith. Up to this point, I knew only one. When we made our home in a new community, I began to seek out relationships with the teenagers of that church. It took some adjustment, but when we settled, I was surrounded by adults that loved and encouraged me. While it was a significant and constant influence, the other factors of growing up life were spinning like china plates. With one wiggle or wobble, my delicately designed outsides may show the desperation of the wildly confused insides. The feelings of inadequacies, my desire to please people and my fear of disappointing God lead me to the constant worry that I was not saved. Otherwise, why would these trials continue to come my way, right?

This is where non-church people are so confused. Let me try and shed a little bit of southern Bible belt light. By this time, I was a pro at all things church. I knew the pattern of mess up, confess, recommit like the back of my hand. I had spent many Saturday nights at youth weekends with the altar call to commit your life to Jesus…again. And If you know how these moments play out, you are familiar with the sobbing teenager that needs 14 friends to walk with her to the front, therefore all of them are now on their knees and receiving counsel. This is a grand generalization, but sadly very accurate. By the time I reached my junior year in high school, I was long over this emotional manipulation and far more concerned that somehow these moments did not “work” on me.

I can remember telling my youth pastor that I didn’t know if my many attempts to change and be enough and let Jesus work in me were sufficient. I also expressed that somehow these camp like drama-fests were lacking in sincerity and hope for me. So, she stopped right there in the copy room of the church. There was no call to the altar. There was no highly dramatic moment. Instead, there was a sincere effort on my part to begin something new.

My best efforts were not getting me though with any great success. My attempts to succeed felt empty at best. I was longing for a next step and she promised me that in spite of the bumps and heartache that would surely be ahead, I could rest in the knowledge that I was not alone. This was good news. And while I didn’t fully understand it in July of 1992, that is the Gospel of Jesus. With a pause in the copy cycle and a prayer of trust, Christmas Day came in an empty church office for a struggling teenager with the longing for peace. I was saved that day, and I would be saved time and time and time again.

Merry Christmas.

In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:4-5

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