This is a hard post for me to write, but the thoughts keep circling in my head, so I’m hoping I can think through it all if I write it down. Maybe you can even help me decide, or at least reconcile my decision.
The question came up in my Sunday School class whether it is better to discover Christ and obtain salvation later in life, or be raised in the church and decide early on to be a Christian.
One lady said she thought she missed a lot by coming to Him late in life. She was 21 when she decided to believe and stated that she wished she had been raised in church. She seems to think she would know a lot more and be a better Christian. Now, I happen to believe she is an exceptional Christian, and a wonderful woman. She is always kind to people, and rarely has a bad word to say about anyone — and I say “rarely” because I just don’t want to believe that she doesn’t at least THINK something bad sometimes because surely no one is that “good,” are they? She is always ready to help, lend an ear, or anything else that is needed from her. She works hard to care for her sister and her grandson, plus work, and (until very recently) go to school to become a nurse. Pretty incredible, huh? I certainly couldn’t do all of that. And I definitely could not do it with the perpetual smile on my face that she always has. She is quick to laugh, even at herself. She’s just amazing.
Now, I, on the other hand was raised in church. Well, mostly. I accepted Christ when I was 13. And I do believe it was real. I knew what I was doing. I remember being so excited, happy. It really felt like I had been re-born as the Bible states we are. I was filled with something bigger than I am.
But then it changed. Everything changed. I changed.
My parents divorced. I moved to another town, another school, another culture almost. From the country to the city (or as close to “city” as we get around here). Everybody was busy. I was going to high school, and then I got a job, and a boyfriend. No excuses, but church suddenly wasn’t on the schedule anymore. Or in my heart, I’m sorry to say.
Now whether you believe in God or not (and I really hope you do) there is still “right” and “wrong” and we are brought up to know the difference. Stealing, lying, cheating, swearing whether we believe those things are “wrong” or “sins,” we are still taught by our parents not to do them. We know we aren’t supposed to do certain things. We KNOW. And yet, we still do them anyway.
For about a decade, I lived a life that was wrong. I did things I knew were wrong. I did things I’m ashamed to admit. That I did things wrong is hard to admit. That I lived that life is hard to admit. The details aren’t really important, well, they are important to me, and to God. But, frankly, they are really none of anyone else’s business. They are private. Mine are mine, just as yours are yours. Scars are scars whether self-inflicted or obtained from others, and should never be shown just for showing.
I admit that to say, Yes, I found my way back to the right path. I’m not perfect — far from it — but I try now. I try harder to do what is right, what is moral, what is Christian. Judge me if you want, but judge me for who I am now. My past made me who I am, but it is also called “Past” for a reason. I don’t live there anymore. Except maybe at midnight when I can’t sleep and all of the insecurities, fears, and other skeletons come rattling their chains in my head.
So, if I could stray even being raised in church, believing in what was right and wrong, knowing my behavior and attitude were wrong, what does that say about me? It does NOT reflect badly on my upbringing. I chose to ignore it. I chose to behave inappropriately. They did a good job teaching. I learned. I just chose to go another way then.
She discovered him late in life. Is it easier for her to forgive herself for her sins and accept His forgiveness? Or is it easier for me to forgive myself and accept His forgiveness knowing that I CHOSE to do wrong? Each of us had to make our own decisions. Each of us had to reconcile our own behavior. Each of us has to choose to stop doing wrong and choose to start doing right. Each of us has to choose Him.
I’m still trying to come to terms with that period in my life. The Bible teaches that He forgives all who come to Him truly repentant of heart. But it’s pretty hard to ask forgiveness from The One Who Is Perfect, when I am so perfectly imperfect myself. And it’s almost impossible to ask forgiveness from Him, when I haven’t yet forgiven myself. But I’m trying. And I’m getting there.
I told you this was a hard post to write. But if my words can help just one other person, then it will be worth it. And try to remember not to judge a person by who they were. If you must judge someone at all, try to judge them by who they are and who they are trying to be. Support is much more motivating than condemnation.
Thank you for listening.