When I was a teenager, I always wished there was some kind of concise resource out there cataloging the journey of faith. What was this thing supposed to look like?
I went to church, I "prayed", I sang worship songs, & even led worship for a time. I once had an actual "prayer closet"! I was mentored, went on mission trips & lived on a missionary base for a while. All my friends went to the same church. And all my friends seemed to have an insatiable joy & passion for Christ that I didn't. Me, I did all the same things, but I was still dead inside. When I sought help, people prayed for me & rambled off scriptures to "help" me combat my unbelief. Unbelief & lack of faith always seemed to be my problem. But as I've begun to come to life now in my 30's, I realize these things weren't the problem at all. I had faith, I believed, I just didn't know why.
I first heard the "gospel" when I was 6. It was a warm July day & my mom & I were vacationing with family in California. A friend of the family was having a bar-b-q & she came over to chat with me... This is the "good news" I heard: God loves me & wants to save me from hell. I do bad things called sin & deserve to go to hell when I die. But God sent His Son to die for me so I don't have to go to hell. I don't want to go to hell do I? No! All I have to do is accept Jesus into my heart as my personal Lord & Savior! Yay! I can be saved forever! While that's a simple way of presenting the good news, I've come to think its irresponsible. I was six for crying out loud. That's not to say kids can't make decisions for Christ, but there needs to be more to it than that. So many times I've wished I never heard that "good news" until I was able to understand what it really meant. I prayed the prayer & sealed my fate (I do however, think it's fitting that I was saved in the great outdoors!).
From that lady's backyard, back to New York where I grew up- I started going to church & learned Bible stories via flannelgraph & songs like Father Abraham... We did arts & crafts & put on Christmas plays. I had my own Bible, complete with illustrations, but I never cracked it except in church. When I was 13, I dropped out of church altogether. That was the year they split the boys & girls into their own rooms. We went around the room to do introductions. The girls in my class were all prettier & more talented than me. I was still wearing last year's purple pants & they all had swanky designer jeans & perms. They had an air about them I didn't want to be a part of, so I left. And I ended up leaving my faith behind as well... momentarily.