My mother told me I accepted Jesus into my heart when I was 3. I can’t remember this incipient moment of faith – so I’ll just imagine that it was marked by the sound of trumpets in heaven. Since those first wobbling days of faith I’ve been able to participate in so much of what is part of the evangelical subculture of the last 25 years in America. VBS (Vacation Bible School), Missionettes (the Pentecostal’s version of Girl Scouts), Youth Groups, Missions Trips, listening to DC Talk and other Christian bands, Purity Vows, Christian Summer camp, Church hopping, the Emergent movement, Christian college, having a faith crisis… and the list goes on.
My own relationship (with Jesus, with Christianity) has gone through at least 3 distinct eras – each had unique traits, and although there was no cut and dried transition.
Music and Memorization:
My first days of faith were spent in memorizing scripture, at home, at private school, and at church. Sunday School mornings I did crafts such as glue rocks together to mimic the cairns placed by the Israelites on the floor of the Red Sea. I sang praise choruses and serenaded the stars above my front porch with my own renditions of “Jesus loves me” and the hymn “There is power in the blood.”
Christian Identity, Group Participation
By the time I was a sophomore in high school I had attended five different churches, half a dozen youth group retreats, committed and recommitted to reading the Bible daily and been part of several awkward “See you at the Pole” attempts. My historical understanding of Christianity was excellent (if I do say so myself). As a teenager, I was constantly wrestling with questions of identity like What am I good at? How can I fit in? What makes me unique? Because of this, my Christian life at this point involved a lot of clinging to verses about being loved and accepted. I also needed the security of other Christians, such as youth groups and Bible study to bolster me. I read the Bible on my own, and attended church, and had also begun to make the first few steps toward interpreting my own faith, rather than accepting others interpretations.
Knowledge and Interpretation.
Attending a Christian college was my first introduction to different modes of thinking about and wrestling with Christianity – my first introduction to ways of attempting to intersect the Bible and Jesus with literally everything there is in the world. My first introduction to the quote “All truth is God’s truth” and the myriad of arguments for and against that statement, and al the qualifiers that go along with it. My first introductions to Christian feminists, Social Justice Advocates, Theistic Evolutionists and more. There were years of questioning What is Truth?, and listening to others answer the same question.
Post college I began reading Christian books other than the Bible because I chose to, not because they had been assigned. A huge turning point for me, and Richard Foster’s “Celebration of Discipline” and “Simplicity,” the late Dallas Willard’s “Renovation of the Heart” and NT Wrights “Surprised by Hope” have all been fairly groundbreaking for me, increasing both my knowledge and love of God. I also began thinking of my faith as belonging to a larger community – and also the necessity of participation.
My faith has informed my values and worldview – but at the same time my experiences and interests have needed to be interpreted in light of this faith as well. These two things have worked together to make me the Christian that I am currently.
The next 25 years?
I am constantly reminded by other bloggers and books that life is a narrative and people re-frame our stories in light of our current self-conception and the zeitgeist of our era. However, Christians are unique in that they have been grafted onto a centuries old story that starts with Creation. Christian stories and narratives are part of something larger, much larger.
On a more practical level, sometimes we tell our stories in terms of our emotions, our friendships, our actions. We’re the center of the story. Sometimes we look to tell our story to see how certain themes run through them – I think in telling my story today, I was attempting to make sense of the unfolding cognitive realizations of Christianity. The movement from simple songs to complex theological concepts. In truth, if we call ourselves Christians, then we aren’t really the center of our story – Christ is. As a friend of mine once said in regard to Christians: “Everyone should be able to write an autobiography where Jesus is the main character.”
How do you tell your life story? Your Christian journey? What do you choose to emphasize each time?