this is the second part of a series. The image above: Noah’s Ark by Edward Hicks
Believing was so simple, so pure when I was a child. God said through the Psalmist he who had clean hands and a pure heart would ascend the hill of the Lord. And I wanted that.
“…Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”Matthew 18:3
I think the first scattering doubts crept in when I read a child’s version of the Epic of Gilgamesh. It had to be around fifth grade, maybe fourth. This volume was published by Disney! It had to be okay. Disney was practically patriotic in our house. Some of the only television we kids were allowed was Sunday night’s Wonderful World of Walt Disney.
There was a character in the epic named Ut-napishtim. In these stories from Mesopotamian mythology, he survived a great flood by building a ship to transport his family and some animals. Hmm….
That led me to all sorts of questions my immature mind couldn’t answer. Who was this guy? Why was there another flood story? Which one was right? Somehow, I knew my fourth-grade Sunday School teacher wasn’t going to be able to answer any of this, so I just stored it all away and went on.
(Nowadays – I think the Ut-napishtim story was just a mythological embellishment of the real event.)
Skipping over several years of faithful Sunday school and choir attendance, with no bumps in the road, we arrive at my seventh-grade year. That year I was eligible to start MYF – Methodist Youth Fellowship. One thing I remember (and hated) was that so few of the kids my age would go. It was lonely for me. And second, that was the year of the Youthciple weekend.
Youthciple was a group of young, 20-something adults who came to our church and did a kind of in-town retreat for all of us youth. Bible study, games, a trip to the lake and picnic, culminating in a program in our church sanctuary where the team shared their testimonies and encouraged us to share ours, or make decisions for Christ. Some of the kids did share testimonies of what the weekend meant to them; I stayed quiet, shy and unwilling to commit to anything. At the end of the event, my small group leader gave us all little notes to keep. I still haven’t forgotten what the note said: “We are all human and have faults. In God’s name I’ll be praying for you. Teresa.” I remember her especially being broken up in the last group event, saying, “I can just feel that some of you are holding back.”
That experience stayed with me … I pondered it for quite a few weeks. I kept my little note in my special porcelain box my grandmother gave me. The more I thought about “committing my life to Christ” – I didn’t realize that that was a particularly Baptist/Evangelical way of looking at theology; I just knew we didn’t talk that way very much in my Methodist church. And yet I kept pondering … still the little girl who wanted “clean hands and a pure heart.” One day I thought – I better do something about this. So, I knelt by the side of my bed and asked God to forgive me and come into my heart.