In my last post I talked about some distractions I had in my childhood that kept me from experiencing God. Now I’d like to talk about how I eventually came to experience him personally.
My obsession with being a “cool” kid continued into early adolescence. What I mean is that I went around trying to find out what the kids I liked thought was cool, and I did my best to try to do it.
As far as I knew, going to church was not cool. I never heard other kids in school talk about it, and there were no “Christian clubs” at that age. It was just something I did on the weekends, at least when I was allowed to go.
Eventually I was allowed to go to church again, despite the fact that my family members who took me were accused of being in a cult. This led to my first experience with church youth retreats.
There were always two groups at these youth retreats: the teenagers and those who still attended “children’s church.” I hated being a part of “children’s church.” I was smarter than some of the teenagers I knew anyway. And as far as I was concerned, I was cooler too. I couldn’t stand being considered a “child.”
Something changed in me during one of the kiddie lessons though. The minister who was teaching was funny, and started to talk about all the various reasons that people refuse to let Jesus into their hearts. This was something new for me too: I didn’t think that Jesus could actually be in my heart. If this was taught to me before this time, it didn’t stick with me like it did that day.
One of the reasons he discussed was that people thought that they were too cool for Jesus. I don’t know what happened exactly, but I felt some of the emotional barriers I had built up around me begin to fall away. As smart as I thought I was, it simply didn’t make sense to be too cool for Jesus and his love any more than it made sense to say I’m too cool for my parents’ love. That day my childish facade was exposed.
That night during a time of prayer after service, a minister prayed with me for what felt like hours. After feeling genuine sorrow for all of the wrongdoing I had done until that point, I eventually began to speak in a language I had never learned or been taught prior to that. I was taught that this was what “speaking in tongues” was, and that when this happens it meant that God (i.e., Jesus) came to live in my heart.
Later that summer I was baptized “in the name of Jesus.” Let me be clear: the Pentecostal church I had attended through my childhood until this time was a Oneness Pentecostal church. As far as I knew, and as far as I had been taught, this meant that I was now “saved” and a part of God’s family.
I had done the things that needed to be done to be saved. But there was a lot more to learn and to do. It took years before I really decided that I was going to live the Christian life. I’ll begin to talk about that next time.