I grew up in a Christian home. My parents were good to me, loved each other and took us to church every Sunday. My first church was a Presbyterian church close to home. A little later we attended a Methodist church a little further away. In his earlier years before I was born my Dad was a Methodist minister and rode through the mountains on horseback. It took him several weeks to get around to all the churches in his charge.
One night he dreamed that a mountain lion jumped off a rock and attacked him and his horse. After that he always carried a pistol in his pocket. He became known as the preacher who carried a gun. He preached many sermons with that pistol in his pocket.
Things Changed For My Dad
His wife did not want to be a preacher’s wife. She was mean to him. My half brother told me that he could remember our Dad down on one knee praying and his Mom standing over him with a stick of stove wood ready to hit him in the head as soon as he got up.
My Dad never mentioned that to me but he did tell me about a time when he thought that she poisoned him. They were on a fishing trip and she had packed a picnic lunch. She did not eat the same foods that she gave him. He got violently sick and begged her to take him back to town to the doctor. She just sat there and fished. After a while he got well enough to drive himself.
His wife started leaving the house everyday. When she came back it was from a different direction. My half brother followed her and learned that she was visiting with a certain man everyday. Their marriage broke up. Can you imagine what it was like for a preacher to get a divorce in the 1930’s? He resigned as a preacher before filing for divorce so as not to hurt the church he was in and found work elsewhere.
My Christian Home
My Mom and Dad were married on Christmas morning at dawn on the hill above where I live now. As I sit at my desk I can look out the kitchen window and see the spot where they said their vows to one another. If my Dad would have lived just a little bit longer they would have been married 50 years the year that he died. They lived a life of peace, joy and love. They did not always agree with each other but they never fought. Instead they would discuss things and sometimes agree to disagree. My Dad was the man of the house and my Mom respected him as such.
Growing up in a Christian home I believed the things that I was taught and considered myself a Christian too. I did not know that you are not automatically a Christian just because you are in a Christian family. I watched on television as Billy Graham preached some pretty plain sermons. When he prayed the sinner’s prayer I would repeat the words along with him but they were just words.
Not My Will
Arthur Smith had a television program where they did country music. Every show would have at least one hymn. One song stood out to me and that was one that he had written himself. “Not My Will But Thine Be Done” prayed Jesus. The song went on… Let that same prayer be mine, every day. When this robe of flesh that I wear, makes me falter, hold my hand, guide my feet, all the way.
That song impressed itself onto my heart. I learned to pray as a small child. Every night before going to sleep I would say my prayers. That phrase,”Not my will, but Thine be done,” was added to the end of my prayers. My Mom always told me that if I would reach up to God, He would reach down for me. I remember one night lying in bed thinking about that. I reached my hand up towards the ceiling, closed my eyes and my hand and just imagined that God was holding on to my hand. I trusted my Mom and I trusted God. But I did not know Him yet.
All Churches Were Not Alike
As a teenager I visited some other churches with friends and learned that all churches were not alike. Some of them were very much alive with something that I did not understand and some were just places where you tried to keep from falling asleep during a lecture. At one church when I was little, I could not wait for the “lettuce prayer”. That was at the end of the sermon where the pastor always said, “let us pray.”
I spent a week with my neighbors while my parents went on a trip to the beach. Their church was very different. The pastor came around asking people if they were saved and if they were a Christian. I said that yes I was a Christian. I really thought that I was. I believed the things that the Bible said about Jesus and God. I tried to be good. Didn’t that make me a Christian? The Bible also says that the demons believed and trembled but that did not make them Christians. They still followed Satan.
Later, I attended the church where my future husband and I were married. The Sunday School teacher really got to me. She said that if you were saved then you knew it. But if you did not know then you probably were not saved. How could someone really know whether they were saved or not? I asked my Mom and she said that yes, if you were saved then you knew it. That really threw me for a loop.
Listening to the teaching and preaching I heard things that either I had not heard before or else had not paid attention to. I know now that the difference was simply that the Holy Spirit was dealing with me. All my growing up years I was sort of a miss goody two shoes. I did not mean to be. It was just that my parents were really good at making me want to be as good as I knew how. So until I started looking inside my heart, I thought that I was a pretty good person. Leastways, I was not any worse than anyone else that I knew.
But does trying to be good make you a Christian? It did not make me one and neither does it make anyone else a Christian. In fact, if we could be good enough on our own then Jesus did not need to die to pay for our sins. Because Adam and Eve decided to disobey God in the garden of Eden all their descendants inherited a sin nature. We all want to do things our own way. We more or less become our own gods.
Remember the song that Frank Sinatra made popular…”My Way”? Elvis Presley did a beautiful rendition of it too. A lot of people really liked that song because it spoke to their individual hearts. We all want to do things “My Way”. There is just a teeny tiny problem with that. It involves the pride of self. What does God hate? Well, there are several things but one major one is pride.
Did I have pride? Absolutely I did. I did not have houses, fame or fortune. But I was proud of being the best person I knew how to be. As the Holy Spirit dealt with me I became aware that I was not the person that I presented to the world. I had attitudes and hateful thoughts. When faced with difficult choices instead of choosing what was right, I made the easy one. I was not the person I thought I was.
That realization was something that was necessary for me to know that my way was not good enough. The Bible clearly states that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. I was no exception. It also says that the wages of sin is death. So I started doing some wrestling in prayer.
At one point I realized that I could not do it. If you have broken one commandment then you are guilty of all. God was not looking for excuses. He simply wanted my heart. Finally, I gave in and gave up. That childhood prayer came out a little differently. Not my will Lord, but thine be done. The words were the same but the attitude of my heart was different. It was surrender, complete utter surrender. Whatever the Lord’s will was…let that be done.
What a difference that made! My whole being was flooded with the most marvelous cleansing feeling. It was like I was taking a shower…only it was on the inside. A huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Suddenly, I knew the answer to every problem in the world. It is too bad that I did not write them down because by the next day they were gone.
What happened to me? Different people would call it different things. Some would say that I was saved. Some would say that I had been born again. Someone else would say that I had been baptized in the Holy Spirit. Some would call it something else. Some would say that I just had an emotional experience. Christendom is full of words that the outside world doesn’t really understand. There are many who truly give their hearts to the Lord who never have any kind of emotional feeling at all. Yet they know, they all know that their lives are changed. Mine definitely was changed.
It would be really nice to be able to say that I have always done the right thing since then, but I haven’t. It would also be nice to say that all my problems went away, but they didn’t. I even picked up a few new ones. When I was little miss goody two shoes I thought I was an alright person. Now that I had surrendered my heart and life to the Lord, I could see all my own faults and failings. I guess that the Lord really does like to keep us humble.
I can say that it is a decision that I have never regretted. The Lord has been with me ever since. He has answered so many of my prayers with a yes that it is almost unreal. The no’s I got were really for my own good. There have been a lot of “wait a while, the time is not right.” I have seen miracles. There is no other word for them. There have been a few times when I have been lonely for human companionship, especially since the passing of my husband. But God has always provided whatever I have needed and that includes simply giving me faithful friends.
I don’t know what is ahead but as the song says, “I know who holds tomorrow. I know who holds my hand.” I know that no matter what, it will be okay.
That is my story. For those who may want to know more, here is a page that explains it further using the New Living Translation: http://christianity.about.com/od/conversion/qt/romansroad.htm Who knows, maybe you will have an awesome story of your own.