I grew up in the Methodist church. They are a wonderful, methodical people, the Methodists. Whoever named them such hit the nail on the head with that one. As a Methodist kid growing up in a Methodist family, I too, grew up with a certain method to my church-ness. It was all very predictable. And safe. There is a certain amount of safety and security in the predictable.
On occasion, as an adult I have gone back to visit the church of my youth and find that I can with great ease, slip right back into that comfort. The methods haven’t changed all that much in the last several decades. It’s like a warm blanket that wraps around your shoulders.
Part of Methodist tradition states that at a certain age or grade, children pass through what is called “Confirmation”. Children attend classes led by their pastor and are taught things such as church history, and a little Bible theology. Then on the appointed Sunday, the students are confirmed into the Church. The church folks stand and promise to help raise these newly confirmed church members in the ways of the church. And wha la. That’s it. You’re in.
My pastor gave us some little books to read as we went through the classes. I read every one, and placed them on a special bookshelf in my room. I gathered every copy of the free devotional books, “The Upper Room”, I could find and started amassing quite the church booklet library. All in order by date. Very methodical.
I was confirmed into the church at the end of the classes, but I didn’t really know Jesus. I mean, I knew who he was. I knew what he did for humanity. I appreciated it. I really did. But that was about it.
I set my mind on being a really good church member. I enjoyed all I did as a part of my church. My church was an extension of my family. Those good folks held to the promises they made on my confirmation day.
The problem was, I knew all about being a good Methodist, but I didn’t know Jesus. There was no real life change that had taken place in my life as a result of my confirmation. I’m not trying to place blame, it’s just the way it was.
It remained this way until I started middle school. There was a young enthusiastic couple that had come to our church, and had a heart for young people like me. Their names were George and Janet and they were newly weds. They had a small apartment not too far from our church, and offered to have a spend-the-night party for all the girls my age one Friday night.
About five of us took them up on it. It was the first time I had ever been in an apartment. We had a great time. These were fun people. George could walk on his hands. I was easily amused back then. We ate slice-and-bake cookies, and watched the local drive in movie from their apartment window.
Later that night, George talked to us about Jesus. He told us that God loved us so much that he sent his only son to die in our place. He told us that Jesus died for each one of us, and that he would have done it for only us. Jesus would have died just for me. He did die for me.
I had never heard this before. I’m not trying to say it had never been said in front of me before. I don’t know. Maybe it had, but I had never heard it before. That night, my eyes opened to Jesus for the first time. George led us in a prayer that I prayed in my heart to accept Jesus.
I never told anyone about this. Not a soul. How could I? I had already been confirmed into the church. This was supposed to have happened to me already. But I knew then, that it had not. I didn’t tell George, my friends, my parents or my pastor. No one knew but me.
I had spent several years being a cultural Christian. I was a good one, too. Dedicated, committed. I did a lot of good things. I served well. Yet I was serving a cause, not a person. I was not serving Jesus. All that changed the night he became real to me.
More than thirty years went by before I ever told George what happened to me that night. I came to appreciate so much what he did for me in that small apartment. He shared Jesus with me, and it changed my life for eternity. I found George about a year ago, and sent he and his wife an email telling them what happened that night so long ago. I’d like to share his response with you here.
You will never know how much your note has meant to me & Janet. I got it on my birthday, & we can tell you that it is the greatest single birthday gift I have ever received. When I think of you as a little girl praying to receive Christ, it brings tears to my eyes. My daughter read it aloud to some friends last night over supper, & she could not get through it – she was crying too hard.
Janet & I are so honored to know that we helped in some small way to lead you to the Great Master.
Your sweet note makes me think back to my dad, who led me to Christ with the plan of salvation when I was 21.
I want you to know that Janet & I are still trusting God, in our flawed way, to lead our lives.We so look forward to meeting you, your husband, and your children, maybe for a cup of coffee one night.
Even as I write this note I am tearing up to think of the sweet spirit
you must have in taking the time to bring us such a blessing.
Your brother & sister in Christ
George & Janet
Did someone step out and share Jesus with you? Have you told them thank you? It changed your life for eternity…maybe you should. Then turn around and share him with someone else…
That’s the great plan, you know.
….. And George, thanks again.