The Condensed Version
I went forward in a Baptist church and made a profession of faith when I was about 8, but later on I couldn’t really remember what had happened, what I knew, what I was thinking, whether or what I had prayed. I wasn’t in church regularly or reading my Bible regularly, so I wasn’t being taught. Years later as a teen-ager, I struggled with whether or not I had truly believed, and finally, after a message in church about the “lake of fire” which those not found in God’s “book of life” were going to face, I realized I needed to get this settled once and for all. I told the Lord that if I wasn’t saved, I wanted to be. I knew I was a sinner (Romans 3:23), that Jesus was God’s Son, holy and perfect, and had died for my sin, had taken my sin and punishment on Himself (John 3:16, Romans 5:8). I knew there was nothing in me and nothing I could do to trust in for my salvation and that I could only be saved by and trusting in Him as my Lord and Savior to save me (Ephesians 2:8-9). John 1:12 says, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name,” and I received Him that day.
The More Complete Story
My family was not a Christian family in the born-again, church-going, living all out for God kind of way, but they did believe that there was a God, and there a kind of a respect for God, pastors, general morality, etc. I was allowed to go with my mother’s sister and father to the Lutheran church, where I was taught basic Bible stories and truths. I was taught that Jesus died for the sins of the world, but not that I needed to believe on Him for myself as my own personal Lord and Savior.
When I was about 8, a friend at school invited me to revival meetings that her Southern Baptist church was having. On the second or third night of attendance, my friend and one of her friends, the pastor’s daughter, kept telling me during the invitation that I needed to go forward and get saved. I looked around during the invitation to see if anyone was looking, and went forward to talk with the pastor. I really don’t remember anything that was said. I think I did pray. I’m sure someone must’ve talked with me, but I don’t remember. I was baptized later on.
I attended church sporadically, I think partly because I didn’t have regular transportation, and partly because, since I was the only one who went to church most of the time, I wasn’t disciplined enough to get myself up and going on Sunday mornings.
Before I started the eighth grade, we moved to another town. I became close friends with a girl named Dawn and began going with her to her church, a Lutheran church. Because I had been away from the Lutheran church during the time when most children take confirmation classes, I had missed them, so they had me take confirmation classes with adults who wanted to join the church. It was a very small group; one of the other members was a former Baptist. He and the pastor had some interesting conversations. One time in class the pastor said, “I never had to invite Christ into my life; He has always been there.” I thought, “What about the verse that says, ‘Ye must be born again‘?” I wish I had had the courage to ask.
I was confirmed and attended church and the Luther League youth group with my friend. Some time in our early high school years, some Campus Crusade college kids came to our town and started regular meetings, and we attended those. From time to time I struggled with whether I was really a Christian, since I couldn’t remember exactly what had gone on when I went forward at the Baptist Church revival.
During this time, things began to fall apart in my family. Actually, they had been in the process of crumbling for a long time. The summer between my tenth and eleventh grades of school, my Mom left my dad and took me, my brother, and my three sisters to Houston, Texas.
Years before, after one of my parents’ fights when my father made us all leave, then the next day asked my mom to come back, I wondered why she did. My father was an alcoholic with a short temper (not a good combination). But when she really did leave him, I was devastated. My family had totally fallen apart; we had had to move from all that was familiar; we moved from a very small town (less than 200 people) to the metropolis of Houston, which was a culture shock; and I wasn’t allowed to contact any friends or cousins for a while because my mother and step-father were afraid of what my dad might do if he could find us. I knew that something had to happen, that things could not have continued on for long as they had, yet the combination of all of these factors sent me tumbling, I felt like my world had been turned upside down, like the rug had totally been pulled from underneath me, like all my props, anything I had leaned on in my life, and been pulled away. At one point I wanted to run away from it all, but I thought of my younger siblings and wanted to be there to help take care of them (besides, practically, I had nowhere to go and no money to get anywhere ).
I cried out to God as I never had for help in all of this. I knew Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” I knew that I loved God in the sense that I understood it at the time (though of course later I was to understand more fully what that meant), and He gave me the faith that He would work all of this out for good somehow.
When we went to register at the local high school, that was where I really experienced culture shock. Almost everyone looked scary to me. My mom was wearing a dress, and guys sitting in the hall tried to look up her dress as we walked by. I kept telling her, “Mom, I can’t go to school here, I just can’t go to school here!” She wasn’t happy with the school either, but said, “But you can’t quit school.” I said, “I know, but I can’t go here.”
We left, not really knowing what to do. A few days later we saw an ad in a store window for a nearby Christian school that was a part of an independent fundamental Baptist church. We went to interview, and I loved it and wanted to go there. But we didn’t have the money for tuition. So a few days later we went to the school to tell them I wouldn’t be able to come. My mom went into the office while I stayed in the car. The pastor and his wife pulled into the parking lot. When they saw me, they came over and told me that someone had offered to pay my way through school. Someone else ended up paying for both my junior and senior year: to this day I don’t know who, but I thank God for them, and know that they’ll have a reward in heaven!
A short while after I started attending the school, I also started attending that church, North Houston Baptist. The pastor strongly encouraged reading the Bible through, so I began to do so, and began to grow. Those old wrestlings about whether or not I was truly saved resurfaced. I knew I had seen the Lord’s hand at work in my life, but I didn’t know if that was because I was a child of His, or whether He was using these things to bring me to Himself. I struggled with this for many months, until one day my pastor preached a message from Revelation 20 about the lake of fire. The last verse of that chapter says, “And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.” I realized that that was what I had to face if I wasn’t saved, and that I needed to get it settled and not just keep wrestling with it. So there in my pew I told the Lord that if I wasn’t saved, I wanted to be. I knew I was a sinner, that Jesus was God’s Son, holy and perfect, and had died for my sin, had taken my sin and punishment on Himself. I knew there was nothing in me and nothing I could do to trust in for my salvation and that I could only be saved by Him as my Lord and Savior and trusting in Him to save me.
I think because I had been questioning where I was spiritually for so long, it had almost become a habit, and I continued to struggle for a time and asked the Lord to save me many times. It was years before I really came to full assurance by going back again and again to what the Bible had to say about salvation. But that’s a subject for another entry.
Updated to add: I did write another post about coming to assurance here.