I became a Born Again Christian when I was about 12 years old. My story is not typical- there’s no tale of becoming a drug addict or alcoholic, no tales of a prison time conversion. Just a tale of a week in vacation Bible school one summer. I had been going to church with my grandma for several years, and had been going to vacation Bible school for a few years, so I thought I knew the basics of being a Christian- you know, the Golden Rule. But I hadn’t really heard the message of Christ (or at the very least, I wasn’t paying attention).
Everyday that week, Brother Ray, the pastor of the church, gave an invitation at the end of the day, and everyday, I had felt the urge to go down to the front and talk to him, but everyday, I held back and didn’t go. I felt like a kid being offered a piece of candy that I wasn’t supposed to take. Thursday came, and the younger kids were sent out to play, so it was just the older classes in the closing services. Brother Ray proceeded to lay out the plan for salvation for us, step by step. He told us we could give our burdens to Jesus, and he would take care of them for us. That’s all it took to decide me. Now you may wonder, what kind of burdens could a 12 year old possibly have? I had a lot of secrets, and secrets are hard on kids.
Up to this point in my life, I had been subject to, and witness to things I hope no one’s child has to live with. My mother and step father had both grown up as Christians, but were not, by any means, living anywhere near a Christian lifestyle. My father hadn’t been involved in my life for several years. My mom and step-father were involved in drugs and alcohol. My step-dad was a heavy drinker, a full on alcoholic- we’re talking at least a 24 pack of beer every single day. He was mean and abusive at times. There were dog fights at our house, people coming over all of the time, loud music, and even louder people at times. At eleven, I sometimes drove my step-dad down the back roads to town so he could buy more beer, because my mom was at work, and he was drunk. At that age, I had seen my mother beaten, and I had been physically and sexually abused by people involved in our lives. I had secrets. The Brady Bunch, we were not.
What It Was Like
That Thursday, when I heard the call to lay my burdens down before the Lord, I felt pulled to do so. We prayed a simple prayer, while I don’t remember the exact words it was something like this: “Dear God, I know that I am a sinner, but I’m asking you to forgive me of my sins. I believe that Jesus is your son, and my savior. I believe that He died for my sins. I’m asking you to come into my heart and save me, Amen.”
It’s hard to put into words what I felt immediately after praying that prayer- I felt lighter. I had the weight of the world on my shoulders dragging me down, and all of the sudden, it was just gone. It felt easier to breath. My body was so tense at all times, I didn’t even realize how hard it was to breath, until it wasn’t anymore. It was like struggling to carry a heavy package on your own, with your muscles burning and having someone stronger come along and plucking it out of your hands. Your arms just feel lighter and you have a “floaty” feeling.
Why did I become a Christian?
I decided to become a Christian because my burdens were just too heavy to try to carry alone anymore. Did my burdens disappear in a poof of smoke? No, they didn’t.I’ll be honest- I thought they would, and was really confused and upset with God about it when it didn’t happen. I thought “God, I got saved, why aren’t you doing what I asked you to do?”. I prayed over and over for my life to change. I cried. A lot. I learned patience and empathy, and I learned a lot about loving people who hurt you. Within a year, my mother was clean and sober. She was going to church with me, and began teaching a Sunday school class. Within two years, my step-dad was sober and started getting involved in church, too. He eventually became a deacon at the church for awhile. The person who had abused me stopped.
I didn’t have to make any personal sacrifices to become a Christian. Not one. The sacrifice was made FOR me when Jesus Christ was crucified. Salvation is free, it doesn’t come with a price tag. No, I didn’t magically become a super Christian. It’s a daily struggle sometimes for me. Christians have the same temptations and struggles as those who aren’t Christians. I catch myself cussing at times, there are days I get mad, there are times when I have a bad attitude. I have to stop myself at times and just think- is this how you should be acting? I take ten and pray. I pray 20 times a day sometimes. There are some days I only pray once. I read the Bible, but not as often as I should. I’ve read the whole thing through once, there are even books of the Bible that I don’t particularly like and struggle to get through. I make mistakes. The point is, Christians are all works in progress, and always will be. We don’t get saved and turn into Joel Osteen or something.
Effects on My Life and the Power of Prayer
I have learned that there are things in this world that science can’t explain away. I know my God is real. God does speak to his children. He takes care of them, and gives them exactly what they need at that moment. Prayer is a very real thing and it works…maybe not on my time line, but it works. There are a lot of things you can learn from being a Christian- humility, wonder, and discipline. You also learn patience, kindness and charity, and hope and love.
Through my particular life experiences as a child, I’ve learned empathy and understanding that I don’t believe I would have, had I not lived through what I have. I’ve been able to gain some perspective and see the bigger picture. It sounds like a cliche`, I’ve learned that there is a reason to everything that happens in this world. We may not understand it, it may not make sense, but there you have it.
Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.