Chapter Three: INTO THE BOX I GO
As an adult I still loved God with all my heart. I felt an endless pull towards Him. I had felt that pull from the time I was four years old sitting in my Grandpa’s church. But, as I stated before, I didn’t really know how to pursue a relationship with Him other than crying at the altar, as I had seen the members of Grandpa’s church do. I went to one church after I was married, and determined to go down to the altar and get “saved” finally. I had to get my crying on to do it, so I had to wait until I thought I could whip up enough emotion. One Sunday I mustered up the courage to get up from my seat and trudge down the aisle to the looming altar.
This particular church was different than any I have ever experienced, in that they believed a person had to speak in tongues to be saved. That just added to my confusion. I thought that all believers were the same and had the same purpose–to make it to Heaven. The women of this particular church didn’t cut their hair, ever. So they would pile it on top of their heads until they actually looked like “Marge Simpson” in the cartoon, with their beehive hairdos that appeared as if they would topple them over at any time. They also didn’t wear make up or pants. They seemed to really depend on those behaviors to make them holy. This reminded me of my grandmother’s view of the “Jezebels” who adorned themselves with floozy red lipstick and trousers. I wondered why the men were allowed to look normal, and the women had to look old and haggard to get into heaven. Even the animal world seemed to pick this up–Peacocks, for example. The males are beautifully plumed with elaborate colors that proudly display their expansive tail feathers. The females, on the other hand, are plain and in their drab brownish hues they have no beauty to speak of. So I figured there must be a lot of plain women in heaven. That particular church seemed to believe that this was the correct order of things according to God. I, being a rebel by nature, and possibly fearful these people would influence me into a drab ugliness, promptly went out and had my long hair cut very short and died it black. This caused great dismay in the church. I know they thought I was a lost cause. I refused to believe that God would ask me to wear my hair like a cartoon character and that something so superficial was supposed to get me into heaven. Even I knew how ludicrous that was. God had to be deeper than that.
So, when I went down to the altar to get saved that day all the church people gathered around me and put their hands on me. Some were yelling, “hang on”, and others were yelling “let go”. People have a difficult time believing this story when I tell it, but it’s true. Many were praying in another language, so I had no clue what they were saying except that I should hang on or, possibly, let go. It was more than a little confusing. But I was crying to beat the band and flailing my arms just like they were.
There I was, hunched under the altar, begging God for more tears. I had to think of really sad things, like my puppy getting run over when I was four, so that I could keep crying. The church people were crying all over me and my hair was getting wet, so, I knew I had to keep crying. I thought, “Boy, they have really got this crying thing down pat.” They were really good at it. I was hot and sweaty and they were crowding into my personal space (many of them had bad breath) and that was making me feel claustrophobic to the point I just wanted to jump up and run out of the church. But I figured if I was going to do this thing, then I may as well give it all I had and let the tears flow and overcome my need for air. As I continued, I worked up an even better cry by thinking about how rotten I was, and tried to focus on breathing, which was next to impossible. That must have been what Jesus felt as he hung on the cross, I thought to myself. When I could cry no more, I figured that had to be enough to get the job done, and I stood up. They all just looked sadly at me, with a deer-in-the-headlights look, and said for me not to give up, that God would save me one day and that I should keep trying.
What? You have got to be kidding me! What made matters worse is that I didn’t feel any different, just exhausted, ugly, and sweaty from crying a lot. I don’t look dainty and misty when I cry. I look more like I was pulled out of a river after being saved from drowning. I went home thinking that there was something definitely wrong with me–that God couldn’t save me. What was wrong with me that I couldn’t obtain what so many others seemed to have? There had always been something wrong with me, I just knew it. Otherwise, why would my Dad do what he did to me? Why would my arm be crippled at birth leaving me handicapped for the rest of my life? Why am I fat and unattractive, but not really? Why did I have to cover all these things up just to look normal? I guessed everyone could be saved except me. There was just something about me that ticked God off.
But I was determined to conquer this getting saved thing or die trying. At some point God would have to hear me, right? I was sure that even He had to get tired of me asking and finally open up Heaven and accept me into the fold, as marred as I was. Surely he would have compassion on a little black sheep such as I. Even back then the signs of the perseverance, even in misunderstood circumstances, that my harsh upbringing produced in me was there.
After another year of begging God to save me, finally, one night, while all alone, and searching the scriptures, I came upon Romans 10: 9&10 in the bible.
“That if you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved”.
Holy cow! The revelation hit me at the very moment I read it. I had believed what Romans said since my childhood, and I knew, at that moment in time, I was born again of the Spirit of the living God. That simple! Why on earth did no one tell me this? It was the simplest thing I had ever done and I was so ready for it and I couldn’t believe it was that easy. All I needed to do was accept what God said was mine. I was worthy because of what Jesus had done for me, not because of anything I had or had not done. He loved me! This was huge!
All along my loving God was holding out the gift of His Son Jesus for me to take and receive Him unto myself, by faith. I kept crying like a paid “sackcloth and ashes” mourner for the gift of salvation. But I wouldn’t just reach out and take it. That was my first great lesson of what faith really is. My first thought afterwards was why, oh why, didn’t anybody just show me this scripture and explain to me what faith was. It was a simple act of believing.
I ran next door to tell my neighbor friend who had been praying for me for months to get “saved”. The moment it came out of my mouth, (remember, with your mouth you confess your salvation), I literally felt my spirit jump within me and I just knew that I knew my salvation was complete. No more begging. I was heading to Heaven! Joy to the world! I thought my life would be perfect for sure now. I would skate right into those pearly gates!
Next post coming: Chapter 4 – Organized Church Here I Come