When I became a Christian I didn’t fall in love with Jesus. Something in me did however, change. Despite being five years old at the time, I remember so clearly the mid-day sun warming the inside of the car where I sat passenger to my dad driving. I remember asking him about a story I had heard in my Sunday school class and what it meant for Jesus to live in my heart. I don’t remember what was said or what words were spoken, I just remember that was the day that changed it all.
That day I made a friend that would change my life forever.
Since that day thirty years ago (shudder, gasp-man do the years sneak up on you!) life has been anything but a Sunday school class. For those of you unfamiliar, the Sunday school era that I grew up in meant wearing very uncomfortable leotards under your pretty mid-calf to ankle length dress, singing three reasonably fun songs sung with actions, apple juice paired with an arrowroot cookie and a heartwarming story of a hero of the faith as told by flannograph figures. Have I dated myself yet?! Flannograph. . .is storyboarding with lovely and colourful felt cut outs that are stuck to a large felt board. We would then listen (while stifling laughter) to our teacher pray and be dismissed to our parents.
I mainly went for the cookies and the giggles.
I struggle with the chronology of my life’s story. Our minds were designed with this beautiful capacity to protect us from our memories and guard us from our histories. But I remember the evening I rose from my seat, some eight years after my passenger seat confession of sin in exchange for grace everlasting. I stood, hands trembling with heart racing. I remember a wave of assurance passing over me as I walked in front of hundreds of people to publically proclaim that I knew Jesus. I knew he was there as I passed through the waters of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. Deep down in my heart, like the Sunday School song had described to me.
And then the crash of life happened. The turbulence of which I would not have survived had it not been for the forever friend I had in Jesus.
Life got messy, complicated, dark and devastatingly lonely. There was a time I forgot my friend. The holes in my heart too deep and wide. Terrified to put light on the pains of my experiences, I spent years avoiding that still small voice of assurance by running further and farther into the dark. And there I sat one night, quite literally in a complete space of darkness feeling a suffocating disconnect from where I was and what I wanted to be. Consumed by fear and desperation, I called on the one verse in scripture I had retained from my years in Sunday school and began to recite it repeatedly: John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoso ever believeth in him shall not perish but have everlasting life. I didn’t really even know what I was saying as I repeated it time and again. I just knew it was a promise out of the Bible, and although the significance of those words were lost on me, the reality of their truth calmed my spirit like balm to a wound.
In my haze of hurt and anger I would plead for peace yet refuse pursuing a relationship with Jesus. How do you fall in love with someone you never bother to get to know? I continuously allowed the waves of life to push me deeper and deeper into the storm. One reckless and irresponsible decision to the next.
My heart began to soften. I was introduced to grace. I began to understand that it was ok, that I was ok, that perfection is not a requirement to have a relationship with Jesus. It was ok that I came broken and angry, hurting and confused. Because Jesus loves me, this I know. Here now, some thirty years after Sunday school and I am still just a sapling in my faith. Sunday school provided the soil for the seed of my heart to take root and give me the foundation needed to grow deeper into my faith.
Whether you know of Him, have heard of Him, experienced His love or are angry and cursing His name. Understand this; closing your eyes doesn’t create the darkness, it simply robs you of the light.
Today, may you experience the softening of your heart, the warmth of His light on your face and always, may you be encouraged!