I grew up in a Southern Baptist Church, which means the choir wore robes with reversible collars, and I annually wore new Easter shoes. It also means I went to “big church” with my parents, and had a tight grip on the terms sin, repentance, and eternity well before I completed kindergarten.
It was around that age–over a Sunday lunch at Maw Maw’s–I was showing off my church bulletin artwork to my family. One drawing that lives in Smith Family infamy is that of a big Jesus with two little girls, all joined together by their pigtails.
My favorite part of “big church” was the end, mainly because it was over, and partially because that’s when the whole congregation linked hands and sang a closing hymn together. One of my favorites was “Family of God,” but until I unveiled my drawing that day, I didn’t realize I’d belted out this hymn incorrectly my whole existence. As it turns out, that hymn wasn’t the only part of my religion I’d misunderstood, regardless of my proper Christian raising.
There is no set age for baptism in the Baptist denomination, because quite frankly we are keen enough to figure out when we need Jesus. For me, that was the tender age of 11, and after the pastor announced for everyone to close their eyes and bow their heads the Spirit moved in me. I knew people were rebelling against the closed-eye rule, but I gathered up my courage and made my way down the aisle anyway.
During a home visit that week, my pastor realized I was more interested in hell-dodging than Christ-following. I think it had something to do with his closing inquiry, “Now, Macie, do you have any questions?” To which I responded, “Yes, if we are finished, can mama paint my fingernails now?”
Fast forward a whopping two years. I definitely saw a fork in the road, and wanted whole-heartedly to choose God’s way over the world’s. Understanding the 3 key terms–SIN, REPENTANCE, and ETERNITY–I earnestly wanted to quit sinning, repent for good, and spend eternity in Heaven. I was baptized in November of 1992 in a frigid baptismal, due to a broken heater. If I wasn’t a native Baptist, I’d say it was a sign.
For many years thereafter I stumbled through life, much like that child that thought she knew the lyrics. I went through seasons of rebellion and renewal, but mostly rebellion; confusion and confidence, but mostly confusion; faithfulness and faithlessness, but mostly faithlessness. I watched other teenagers and young adults love God with all their heart, and had just about decided I wasn’t cut out for it, that it was for folks who were good at being good.
That was a long time ago. And although I still battle this rebellious heart–and suspect I always will in this mortal body–I now know what made “being” a Christian so unreachable for me. I’m convinced my schizophrenic spirituality stemmed from a most basic problem–the lack of understanding. And without understanding, there was no lasting pleasure for me in pursuing the things of God. Proverbs 2:1-5, 9-10 tells it like this,
My child, if you receive my words
and treasure up my commandments with you,
making your ear attentive to wisdom
and inclining your heart to understanding;
yes, if you call out for insight
and raise your voice for understanding,
if you seek it like silver
and search for it as for hidden treasures,
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
Then you will understand righteousness and justice
and equity, every good path;
for wisdom will come into your heart,
and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.
Yes, I had attended church, sang in the children’s choir, been baptized and had even gone on youth retreats and mission trips. But my journey was never about seeking understanding, quite frankly I just wanted Jesus to fix me. But the Proverbs-promise says if you seek understanding you’ll find knowledge and then–and only then–will you find pleasure in your soul. Once I found pleasure in Christ, well let’s just say wild horses couldn’t drag me away, fixed or not.
Doctrinal questions I’ve sought–and continue to seek–answers to are the foundation for many posts in my blog. Some of you may read and think, “Well I thought everyone knew that.” But the more Christians I meet and know, the more I hear people singing the wrong lyrics. There are lots of great Christians wondering why they aren’t “fixed”, when it’s not even about that at all. Christians are weary and worn from dragging Jesus around by their pigtails.
There’s always talk about Christians not “living-out” their faith, but I believe there’s not so much a problem of Christians living-out their faith. I believe there’s a problem of Christians–like me–understanding their faith. In other words, I think our faith is suffering not from a problem of want- to, but a problem of know-how.
Sometimes I’ll tackle serious faith topics via my blog, and when I do, I pray you’ll see my heart and know it’s in humility I share. I’m not trying to “enlighten” you, if you are a Christian, or convert you if you’re not. I’m simply writing down the ways God’s drawn me to Himself, and pretty-much blown my mind. There truly is pleasure at His right hand, when you sit and beg for wisdom and understanding to come into your heart.
This post is dedicated to my childhood pastor, Brother Mike Carr, who patiently pastored me–knowing all along I had spiritual schizophrenia. Who stood by me as I continued to run from understanding. And who can now wipe his forehead and sigh in relief that I’m finally starting to get it. Thank you.