Sunday, August 31, 2008

My Testimony (Part Two)

Fast forward a few more years. Two of my cousins had become Christians. There was a split in the Finnish Lutheran church, with the Evangelicals leaving. They, along with the Pastor, began to meet in homes. This soon led to rumours among the Finnish community that it was a cult. Although I was only 13 at the time, I never saw any indications of that. I do think, though, that they started out well and went into a steady decline.
After a while, the adults would meet separately from the teens. The adults were continuing to be taught, but the teens were left to themselves. At the beginning, we would read the Bible, discuss things, and pray. After a while, we didn't even do that. We were good friends and had a lot of fun together. We didn't do anything worldly, but neither did we do anything Christian. Soon we were believers in name only, thinking we didn't need to be taught by anyone. We were arrogant in our ignorance. A dangerous combination.
As the years went on, some of the former teens married other Christians, but most married un-believers. They would no doubt tell you they are still Christians, but for most, it's an experience in the past, rather than a present lifestyle. If you try to talk about spiritual issues with all but a few, you get a wall. Not the typical response of someone who loves the Saviour.
Anyway, I must say that those teen years were both good and bad. They were good because I got serious about my commitment to Christ. I faced opposition about it, at home, but I knew I had found the pearl of great price. Jesus was the Lover of my Soul.
In spite of the lack of teaching I received, I read the Bible and learned through the powerful Word of God. By that time, I had a complete Bible, though it was only a paraphrase, called The Way. I had many questions about Baptism, which seemed to me to be commanded in Scripture, and about whether or not I could lose my salvation. I received conflicting answers. The focus on any teaching we did get was on the Rapture. The eschatalogical view they held was dispensational Pre-millenialism. I've since been convinced of Amillenialism, but I'm not sure how much of that is just a backlash against the unbalanced teaching I received.
Also, during that time, I knew that part of living as a Christian was not dating unbelievers. I was determined to wait for a Christian husband.
The bad side of those teen years was related to that lack of teaching. I didn't realize how much I didn't know. They were wasted years and I had a lot of catching up to do. But God was gracious.
When I moved to Toronto to get a job after my second year of nursing school, I met my husband. I was thrilled to learn he was a believer, since I was attracted to him, but disappointed, when I learned he attended church. I had been convinced only hypocrites attended church.
Eventually, I went with him. After the first sermon, I still didn't see what I was missing. To me, all I heard was the basic gospel message. I was totally oblivious to the depth of the sermon because my understanding was so rudimentary. I began to ask questions, and this time, I got answers. I was baptized at age twenty and became a member.
About that time, our Pastor began to compare Calvinism with Arminianism. The lights went on. I compared the Scripture verses, asked more questions and read several books. I began to see that I couldn't lose my salvation BECAUSE I had been chosen before the foundation of the world. The doctrine of election became precious to me. The Sovereignty of God was a truth that gave God all the glory for my salvation. I knew that I didn't deserve to be saved, yet He set His love on me. Amazing Grace!
As I was playing catch up, I had a hunger to learn. I began to read, mostly books from the church library since we couldn't afford much back then. I wanted to know the Christian view toward social issues, like abortion, war, captial punishment, and euthanasia. I wanted to learn church history, apologetics, systematic theology. I read biographies, missionary stories and Bible studies. I took notes during sermons, and I loved to talk about the Saviour. I actually preferred to sit with the men, because they would talk about things of substance. The women, unfortunately, only spoke about babies, and recipes, and household stuff. I wasn't trying to be snobbish, I just wanted to learn. I was a late bloomer, and didn't feel I had time for trivial pursuits.
I read books on my role as a Christian wife, and then, when we had children, on my role as a parent.
I had gone from being an anti-intellectual, to someone hungry to learn. I began to see that what I DIDN'T know could fill a library, or two, or three.
My favourite hyumn became, And Can It Be? by Charles Wesley, because it said,
"And can it be, that I should gain an interest in the Saviour's blood?"
That's how I felt. There was no one more surprised than me that God had taken this unteachable teen and turned her into a teachable woman...with miles to go.
Yet, it was not the deep theology that saved me all those years ago. It was the simple gospel message. Simple enough for a child to understand, yet with a depth that cannot be plumbed in a lifetime of study. The great inexhaustible subject is God Himself, the Lover of my soul.

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