Friday, June 22, 2012

The Time Before?

I just heard a preacher scream "There was a time once when you were lost!  NOW, you are found!  There was a time when you weren't saved!  NOW you are saved!"
I was listening to Live365 radio and had dialed in on a Christian radio station.  The pastor had a booming southern voice that commanded my ears to listen as he worked his way through Romans.  He lost me though when he shouted these words. 
"There once was a time when you weren't saved..."
"Really?  I can't remember a time when I wasn't saved."
OK, before you click out of this blog thinking I am about to launch into some argument for or against predetermism/Calvinism/ assured.  I am not, nor do I want to.
What I mean is LITERALLY....I CANNOT remember a time when I wasn't "saved"!

At the age of five my parents helped me say the prayer "to ask Jesus to come into my heart."  I barely remember it to be honest.  I think, as the story goes, I announced at the supper table that I wanted to ask Jesus to come into my heart.  My parents were thrilled and they helped me pray.
I am sure my prayer included words about how I am a sinner, how I need Jesus, how thankful I am that he died on the cross for me, rose again, and now would he please come into my heart?  I am speculating here, because literally, for the LIFE OF ME (vague spiritual pun intended) I cannot remember this moment.
I do remember my baptism.  I was ten, had gone through about two months of classes in preparation for my baptism (Baptists don't call it catechism, heaven forbid we do anything remotely Catholic, but that was essentially what it was.)  I remember waiting in my white hospital-like robe in the back of the stage area of this big Baptist church in Reseda.  The baptismal "tank" was at the very back of the stage, behind the pulpit and had see-through glass so the whole congregation could watch.  Over it, was a giant wooden cross.  The church was packed and I was one of three people being baptised.  I walked down the steps into the warm water where the pastor was waiting for me.  He said my name, a few words about this special day in my life, and in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit under I went.  I remember that moment under the water vividly.  But even more vividly I remember walking back to my seat next to my parents, still damp after towling off back stage.  As I walked, the whole church was singing "Heaven Came Down and Glory Filled My Soul" and a few stopped singing to smile at me as I passed by.  To this day, I love that hymn.  Both my baptismal moment and that glorious hymn are etched in my mind.  I can see it clear as day.  But the day I was "saved"? The day Jesus "came into my heart" over Mom's home-made meal?
Clear as chocolate milk.
And since I can't remember the day I was saved (even though I have flickers of the moment and know it happened) I also cannot remember the days BEFORE I was saved.  Of course, I remember things like soccer practice, Sunday school, my parent's old decrepit Schnauzer named Melody --these were all things that existed before I was saved and I remember them, but as far as knowing what it really felt like to be "one of the lost" and then "one of the found"?  No clue. A significant sense of the BEFORE and AFTER?  Nope.

I guess this is both a good and a bad thing.
I could say I envy those who find God at a point when their life has gone to hell in a hand basket.  They turn to Jesus and in that powerful moment their life is changed.  They give up drinking.  They stop living for themselves.  The exchange their hopelessness for the Eternal Hope.  They pull the gun away from their head and pick up their Bibles.  They stop feeding their addiction and start feeding the poor.  They leave their life of riches and enter the mission field.  In other words, they remember how bad it was, how lonely they were, how desperate their lives had become and now, since they found Jesus, their lives are not rose gardens by any stretch, but they can clearly SEE and FEEL the difference of the "before" and "after."  As a result, they are joyful - triumphant even - in their faith and filled with passionate stories about how Jesus REALLY does save.  They are inspired and their stories inspire.  They can look back and see the near misses and be deeply, profoundly grateful that God sent his Son to save them.  They KNOW they were lost, their lives were living proof of just how much they need to be found. When they get found, they don't take the Finder for granted. 
How can I share in this passionate life-changing experience?  I can't even remember the moment OF, let alone the moments BEFORE.  And the moments AFTER?  At five years old, could my life really be THAT DIFFERENT after "finding" Christ? 
OK, now that I have Jesus in my heart I am going to stop ripping the heads off my sister's Barbies. 
Since I am "saved" now, I am going to be real careful to color inside the lines of my Hello Kitty coloring book and put all my crayons away.
Yes, Jesus, I know yesterday I didn't, but TODAY I will eat all my peas!
Did my new found salvation give my Mom and Dad a new tool in their parenting arsenal? 
"Hope honey, you're a Christian now so we shouldn't have to tell you more than once to put away your toys!"
"Jesus would want you to stop whining, darling."
"Oh sweetie, the OLD Hope would have told her brother to shut up.  The new Hope in Christ would just ask him nicely to be quiet."
I am pretty sure my parents didn't go this route, but it does make a point:
I am missing two key moments in my life - the BEFORE Christ and the AFTER Christ. 

My conversion is a little bit like my being a Dallas Cowboys fan.  I grew up in a family that loves the Cowboys, so I love the Cowboys.  I don the dark blue gear with the silver star, I've gone to a game, and followed on TV.  As a child, I watched them train a few miles from my house and met Tom Landry, Tony Dorsett and others.  Over the years, family members who live in Dallas have lifted prayers of Super Bowl blessings for Staubach, White, Aikman, and Garrett and most recently, that the team would get rid of Romo. I can't remember when I became a fan and I don't really know why I am other than the fact that everyone around me has always cheered for the Cowboys.
In the same way I can't imagine life without the Cowboys, I can't imagine life without Jesus.  I have no before and after conversion experience.  So when a pastor says, "Before you were lost!"  I ask, "I was? When?!" I know I was lost, but I didn't realize it.  And when I was saved, I didn't realize what that meant either.  I was five for goodness sake.  It was hard enough to keep track of how many days until my birthday.
I am glad that when I "came to Christ" I didn't find myself lost at the bottom of a bottle, or at the edge of a cliff, or with a gun to my head, my life in shambles or with a raging drug addiction.  I am glad that the most lost I got was when I got separated from my Mom in Sears. 
I do regret though, that because of my early conversion, I do not have a real sense of what it means to be "saved."  I mean to be "saved" you have to be on the verge of something terrible like death or destruction otherwise you don't need saving, right?  At five how could I possibly understand that I was separated from God and in need of his saving grace?  What I needed was more Captain Crunch!  I needed more Electric Company!  I needed to be saved from the monsters under the bed!  From the spider crawling on my ceiling!  From my sister's rage after she found her headless Barbies!

Don't get me wrong.  I am glad I was saved at a very young age, despite the foggy memory of it --despite the lack of the crystal clear "before" and "after".  How can I not be grateful that I had parents who loved me so much they wanted to make sure I knew about Christ as soon as possible?  Does Jesus call only the mature?  The despondent?  The destitute? What a blessing salvation is at any age, at any stage in life!
My prayer today is that God would help me to truly understand His incredible love -- the love that reached down to earth with Jesus for me, for all.  The same God that reached down to me at the dinner table and convicted my heart at five years old, as I ate my macaroni and cheese. (We might have had liver and onions that night, but I'm going to go with macaroni and cheese for obvious reasons.) I also pray that Christ will "create in me a new heart" -- that he would break my old, stoney, jaded heart for what breaks his.  I want to be profoundly reminded of the precious gift that was given to me so long ago, even if the memory of receiving it is gone.   I want Him to remind me that BEFORE, THEN, AFTER, RIGHT NOW and AHEAD, I am HIS.

Copyright 2012 Hope Horner
Follow on Twitter at HopeNote

2 Corinthians 5:17
Ephesians 1:4

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