Sunday, January 29, 2006

Faith like a child

MzEllen & Co discusses paedo faith in an intelligent way. It reminds me of a conversation I had with my father, one of those rare moments of clarity between father and son.

Shortly after my 12th birthday, he decided to sit me down for a chat. I thought he was sitting me down for a discussion about the birds and the bees. That was to come, but for now he had something heavier to lay on me.

Before I relate that story, let me digress.

My Sunday School teacher had led me in the sinner’s prayer when I was 7, a moment that was celebrated throughout the church. Myself and another little boy were hauled up to the front during Sunday night service to offer our testimony. My father, the pastor, pushed me into singing a song, <i>This Little Light of Mine.</i>

Thinking about a 7-year-old boy offering a testimony in a church that had taken the oratorical art of giving testimonies to new heights is ripe for parody. I don’t think I had much to say in terms of God changing my life. What could I say that could compare to the dramatic nuances of the alcoholics and womanizers that lined our pews?

<i>My life had hit rock bottom. I was strung out on Pepsi and Pop Rocks and was willing to do anything for just one more corn syrup high. Last week I took the quarter my mother gave me for the offering and used it to get another fix. I knew my life had to change ...</i>

It was nothing like that, of course. In my own words, I think I confessed it seemed like the right choice at the moment. Then I sang a song and all the women gushed about how cute I was.

In no way do I look down on that experience, but neither am I convinced that was my moment of conversion. I wish I had listened to my father more closely at age 12.

He sat me down and explained to me that, by Jewish tradition, I no longer had a free ride to heaven. I had to make my own decisions about the path I followed, and as much as my father would attempt to discipline to keep my on the straight and narrow, he could not force me to believe what he believed.

I was now flying solo spiritually.

I took for granted my salvation for the next 7 years. Better said, I didn’t really seem to care about my spiritual state. I cursed God, my family, and the Church for some understandable and some not so understandable reasons. A little push the wrong way and I could have walked away from the church.

A dramatic experience at age 19 forever changed my course towards a conscious adult decision. I can mark a consistent -- if not constant -- state of regeneration from that day. God has done good work in me. I can testify to that.

I don’t really know what that moment as a child meant in heaven. Maybe I was truly saved, though my understanding of my sin was limited by lack of experience and knowledge. Maybe God marked another day for me at age 19 because of my family’s attempt to honor Him with their children. Or maybe it meant nothing. I don’t know, because the Bible is relatively silent on when we are capable

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