“When did you accept Jesus in your heart?”
I was raised in the South, which was predominately Southern Baptist and Methodist; Catholicism was a minority. I remember being told in my early childhood that a friend couldn’t come over and play “because my mom says your Catholic.” I was 6. Nobody knows what they believe when they’re 6. Well, at least I certainly didn’t.
It used to be a big thing with youth groups and all night “lock-ins”, where they cage a hundred or so pre-teens in a church gym for 24 hours, with junk food, crappy music and carnival-like games. My perception of these events did not, in the least, reveal “my acceptance of Jesus in my heart.” I thought, “Why do I need some formal ceremony of accepting Jesus?” These “lock-ins” deprived me of sleep (and I’m not one for depriving sleep), created unnecessary competition, and did not bring me any closer to calling myself Christian. I gave up. I wanted to want to be a Christian, but it simply didn’t come.
I battled with this feeling for quite some time. About 8 years. I kept feeling pressure from people to become Christian – and I reacted with an opposite force. Something along the lines of “Back off – I don’t want to hear your Christian non-sense.” Then one day, at age 21, I realized I should be putting the power in God’s hands, not my peers. “If God really does exist, he’ll show me his Truth. He’s going to do it on his terms. Not mine and certainly not anyone else’s.” That was a powerful thought.
I lay in bed one night thinking, “Ok God – or Jesus – whoever you are, if you want to come into my heart, you know where to reach me.” No ceremony. No formal words. Just a quick thought, with an honest disposition. What I take away from all this is that God can take it. He can take dares and challenges – I wasn’t a cradle Catholic for a good reason. I needed a period of cynicism and doubt toreally be shown the Truth. I wasn’t meant to blindly accept things, I always questioned things. And Jesus didn’t want me to be that way with Christianity either. In hind-sight, I was meant to question Christianity and later be shown my Truth. It was as if God was saying “Challenge me. Do it, I dare you.” My coming to Christianity was substantially more meaningful this way.
Phew. Kind of a long post. May peace and love be with you, whatever they may mean to you.