I grew up in the church… kind of. When people say that they usually mean in a Christian home and part of what that Christian home did was go to church. But my definition is a little different. I grew up going to church. My home was, for all intense and purposes, however, free of religion. See, my mom became a Christian after my oldest brother (9 years my senior) was born. My father, however, didn’t accept the faith my mom did until sometime after I went to college. He was nothing. He would attend church with us on Christmas and Easter and that. was. it. We didn’t even pray at the dinner table, let alone do family devotionals or anything like that. (I do not blame my mom for this.) Now, my mom was a different story. I know my mom got up early every morning with a prayer journal and a Bible study. Among my favorite memories are the Sunday mornings that mom was singing with her cassette player practicing for her church solos.
So, my mom, my brothers and I attended Covenant Presbyterian Church (CPC) from the time I was about 2 until I was in the 8th grade. We attended Sunday morning services and Wednesday night adventure clubs, or whatever it was called at the time. We switched to First Baptist Church for 8th and 9th (I believe.) Attended Faith Bible Church for 10th and 11th, and then went back to CPC for my senior year in high school.
I remember attending youth group at First Baptist and looking up to a lot of the older high schoolers. I remember going on a mission trip to Jamaica (although I don’t remember much about the trip.) And to a youth conference the summer before the ninth grade. (Where Jars of Clay was the big finale concert, but it was a let down because no one knew who they were at the time!) I remember, through the conference being convicted about needing to be baptized. I had accepted Jesus into my heart when I was five, but CPC is an infant baptism church, and so I was never exposed to believer (older kids and adult) baptism before now, even though it was something I had wondered about. (“Mom was I baptized?” “No.” Do I need to be? I don’t need baptism for salvation. Can I be? Since I’m not a baby?) Anyhow, back to the summer before 9th grade. At the conference baptism was talked about. And the message was clear: If you’re a believer, you need to be baptized. So, I signed up to be baptized as soon as we were back and with a few weeks I was baptized. And I remember my two best friends (they didn’t attend FBC) were in the front row supporting me. I also remember walking away from the conference dead set that I would not date a guy in high school who wasn’t a Christian. That would be my first question to him, and if the answer was no, than my answer would be no.
How quick the fervor of that conference wore off, I don’t know. I do know that once I started high school I was no longer a regular at any youth group. I was involved in the danceline (an auxiliary to our marching band.) And after band practice I would do homework and zoom off to dance classes. I had dance classes at least 4 days a week and they would regularly interfere with any youth activities going on. I made some pretty good friends. Seemingly, the group was solidified my sophomore year: Miranda and LeeAnn (from middle school) Leslie, Lillian, Lauren, and Brooke.
As I progressed through high school, the boys that I thought would eventually ask me out never realized. In fact I was never asked out. And the one dance that a guy asked me to was highly encouraged from an acquaintance to ask me. His friends were going with my friends, they all had dates, we didn’t, we both wanted to go. (So go ask her! NOW!) Not only, did I believe, that guys weren’t interested in me, but my friends were thin, gorgeous, and popular. I remember one time telling them that I had a crush on this one guy. Less than a week later one of my friends was dating him. I don’t know if she had already liked him too, or even if she realized that she had done that to me. We never talked about it, and it was a short lived relationship anyway. But my feeling and my understanding was, they could get whoever they wanted, but I was fat (a size 8, remember I was a dancer) and also must be ugly. I say all this to say, that by the time I graduated high school, I was so desperate to have a guy “like” me that asking if he was a Christian was the last thing going through my mind. My group of friends really weren’t Christians either, and the ones of us who would have said we were, weren’t living a Christ-centered lives.
So, was I really a Christian in high school? I think so and this is why. First, I know I had Christian fruit in my life previous to high school. Second, I didn’t have a flushed out theology of Lordship salvation and I probably stood somewhere between Lordship and Easy Believism (if that’s possible). I had an idea that a Christian should be living a Christian life, but at the same time, once you’ve said the sinner’s prayer, you’re saved and you always will be saved. I didn’t understand things like what it meant to be a disciple, and hey, I wasn’t as big of a sinner as other people were. For me, I definitely see that time as a rebellious stage, in a sense, more in where my heart was and less of my actual actions.
Looking back, I think that as I stood on the precipice between high school and college I really could have gone either way. I really do wonder that if I had attended Wake Forest University (my #1 choice) would I have been strong in my faith, gotten involved with a campus ministry and grown. Or, if I would have attached to the first guy who finally paid any attention to me and lead down another path completely. But here’s the thing, I didn’t get accepted to Wake Forest, even though, by all accounts, I should have been. I ended up attending Covenant College, where I learned a TON about the Christian faith and really became grounded and made my faith my own. It was a time, yes even at a Christian school, when I questioned certain things, “Why do I believe Jesus is the Messiah, since the Jews of his day didn’t.” (I never really verbalized these thoughts, but they were there.) So, I really didn’t become grounded in my faith until college. But does one really need to be completely grounded before they are considered a brother/sister in Christ? I don’t think so. Paul still considers the Corinthians believers and yet they were pretty messed up/confused people!
And I think that’s really what it’s all about. Because of my age, family, dance experience, etc. I grew in my faith very slowly. In high school, I might have represented the one out of a hundred sheep that the shepherd went looking for. But He knew where I was. He knew what I needed in my life, and He directed my steps to Covenant College instead of Wake Forest. He knew what was best for me and He never forsook me.
Some might ask why I’m even reflecting on this. The answer is that my “testimony” has recently been challenged and since I can’t point to a time in my life where I rejected Christ and then came to accept him and his sacrifice it can be hard to pinpoint a time/day of salvation. So when was it exactly? I don’t know, but I believe it was definitely before high school.