I’ve spent the vast majority of my life in church. My parents were very active in the local church, holding every position possible and serving in just about every capacity. Heck, they even helped with the construction of the building in some form or fashion. When I say, “I grew up in church”, what I mean is that I spent so much time there, not just on Sundays, that I physically grew up in that building.
I wouldn’t change it. It was a great foundation for me. At a very young age I knew Jesus loved me and every song and Bible story that told me so.
Even so, I married a heathen.
I made it clear before we were wed that church was a priority, that I would continue to go to church, and that our children would be raised in church. He already knew that and even agreed he would come with me because it was important to me. And he did. We went to church together every Sunday. Every Sunday that it was convenient for us to do so and actually felt like it.
Fast forward about five years after our vows. We had a one-year-old and had moved to a new town, but one in which we already had friends who invited us to come to church with them. Todd was keen to “try out” this new church because that would make him eligible to be on the men’s softball team as a prospective member.
Why, I never! One did not go to church so they could play softball! But go we did, and play he did, and we fell in love with this little church in the middle of Arkansas. We found ourselves there every Sunday morning, every Sunday evening and every Wednesday night. We built beautiful relationships and Todd began to examine what he thought he knew. He met with the preacher once a week and asked all his questions. Gab showed him where the answers were in the Bible, which created more questions, and on they went.
After a while, when we were in our late 20’s, Todd became a Christian. I was thrilled, but I was also pretty smug about the fact that I had all this Bible knowledge. Between the two of us I was the expert on Christianity. Except that I started seeing discipleship through his eyes, this newbie. He came into his faith with very little baggage and no preconceived notions.
His perspective was fresh and it made me realize how stale mine was.
Our children came to love God with such a beautiful innocence and His presence was nearly palpable. As their parent it was my responsibility to teach them about God, but often I was the student and they were the unwitting teacher. They had a pure, unadulterated understanding of God, bringing a freshness and clarity to their childlike view that oftentimes ends up murky as we become adults. No wonder Jesus said the kingdom of heaven belongs to those like little children (Matthew 19:14).
Funny enough, I recently had a conversation with my now-grown son. He grew up in the church, much as I did, and grasped onto faith at a very young age. But it wasn’t until, as an adult, he noticed the fire and fervor of new Christians that he had a reawakening, if you will.
As mature Christians we are supposed to mentor those who are coming behind. But we should never let ourselves be fooled into thinking there’s nothing we can learn from those new to the faith. I have a tendency to get caught up in the “academics” of Christianity. I love studying the Bible and the customs of the day and how the stories of the Old Testament are intertwined and how they relate to the New Testament, and so on and so on and so forth. But Christianity is a relationship, not a scholarly pursuit. And sometimes it takes someone with a pure devotion, who hasn’t been mired down by all the learning, to give me a fresh perspective and help me focus on what really matters. My relationship with Christ.