I became a Christian at age 6. Impossible, you say? Not at all. Children understand better than adults the dynamics of punishment and the need to be rescued from it. And like Jesus said, kids are more likely to latch onto faith. This is rare for grown-ups, whose minds and hearts have been subjected to the gradual erosion of calloused education.
At that tender age, I only knew a few things. I had done wrong. I had acted against my parents' will. I had lied, cheated, stolen, hated, physically harmed others, discriminated, made fun of people, overindulged, complained, neglected God and acted in a generally selfish manner since the womb. Conviction, the nagging sense that I was imperfect, did not need to be proven from scripture. Experience was enough.
This guilt provided the foundation for faith. My step-dad was a pastor, and every week I heard about the option to leave guilt behind by trusting in Jesus and the work that he did through his cross and resurrection. This grace, this unmerited acceptance, was life's get-out-of-jail-free card, and I knew - however childishly- that I needed to break free from the prison of my young heart's crimes.
That's what led me to ask God to save me and to guide my life, allowing the punishment Jesus' received to become my own. Email me if you're curious...
We need the faith of a child to enter the kingdom of God. Jesus said as much. But he didn't intend that we keep drinking spiritual formula and never move on to solid food. At 6, I was saved, but there was no way I was a finished work. Just ask my elementary school teachers.
As I grew, I began to put flesh on my scrawny skeleton of faith. I memorized the order of the books of the Bible backwards, a useless skill to be sure, but impressive to fellow church members. I started highlighting things in my teen study Bible and really listening to sermons. As my spiritual digestive tract began to churn, I devoured books and conversations and teaching throughout high school.
In college, I weathered the intellectual assaults of Buddhism class and the evolutionary mindset of anthropology. I led Bible studies and played worship music. I raised money and traveled across the world to build God's kingdom. I built a network of like-minded believers.
I'm now 24, a year and a half out of college, with both feet in the real world. My intellect and my intentions are full of the words of God and a desire to do his will. I've now been a Christian for 18 years.
Still, I mostly fail.
I'm packed with ideas, knowledge and ability, but I see little fruit. I'm spurred on by compassion for the needy, but I don't act on their behalf. I burn for those who don't know the freedom of Christ, but I rarely tell them.
In many ways, I'm still adrift, floating backwards from the place I began at 6 years old. Then, I was enamored with God. I loved him and felt his comfort. I really knew something not just with my head, but with my heart.
I've moved onto solid food, but I've forgotten to devour each day the meat of the Gospel, that Christ has saved us from our misdeeds and brought us into freedom - not just from this detached notion of sin - but from ourselves. We no longer are slaves to the patterns of the world. We don't have to live the lie of self-indulgence. Like our savior, sacrifice is our fulfillment. Obedience is our mission and joy.
I pray God will reinvigorate my faith with the love of a child. Only then will my spiritual muscle spring into action.