When I first “found Jesus” at the age of 12, I was not in familiar territory at all. I was not raised in a Christ-filled home. My parents, disgruntled with hypocrisy, turned away from the church when I was a young child. I have only vague memories of Sunday School crafts. While I was in second grade, we (Dad, Mom, my older brother and sister, and I) moved from Missouri to California.
Life shifted. Think San Francisco in the 1970s. True, my dad was a computer professional and we lived in the suburbs, but we were still what I call semi-hippies. Our lives were filled with Renaissance fairs, camping in the national parks, vegetable and flower gardening, voracious reading, funky art and music, and tie dye projects. I am so thankful that my parents nurtured in us a love for creativity, beauty and learning.
Yet spiritually, there was very little “God Story” evident in our lives. My life was chaotic, partly because of patterns of conflict and disorder in the home, and partly because I had undiagnosed ADHD. I was an oddly dressed outcast nerd who played chess in the library at lunchtime, and always the last kid picked for gym teams. I was depressed, experiencing regular thoughts of suicide by seventh grade. Middle school can be brutal.
I had no desire for God. Pushy Christians at a county fair had tried to “shove the gospel down my throat” (as they say) and I was having none of it! But God! In spring 1976, Aunt Fay in Pennsylvania wrote to us with her enthusiastic testimony of becoming a born again Christian. We thought she was off her rocker.
Then my grandparents, also in Pennsylvania, decided to host a big family reunion. Our family embarked on a month-long bicentennial adventure, touring through the USA and Canada along the way. We finally arrived at the family homestead, Squirrel Hill, with acres of forest spread out beyond Grandpa’s huge vegetable garden.
Aunt Fay’s teenage daughter and I explored the woods, picking fragrant sassafras, finally ending up on a large flat rock overlooking a country road. When we plopped down to rest, my cousin unexpectedly pulled out a bunch of weird-looking Gospel tracts with glaring red and black print...and told me about Jesus. Oddly enough, I listened.
Drawn to the message of grace and peace, I repeated the Sinner’s Prayer, confessing my sins and professing my new faith in Jesus as my Savior. That sentence sounds so simple, and it really was. I had little idea of what the Christian life entailed, but I was already eager to share the news. One of my relatives at the reunion assured me this phase would be over in six weeks. Of course, Aunt Fay was delighted with my news! She drove me straight to the small town’s Christian bookstore and bought me a little white King James Bible.
Back home in California, I read my Bible and I talked to a Christian friend named Donna, but I struggled as a new believer without a church to nurture my fragile faith. No clue how to do this thing!
Mercifully, that would soon change.
(Stay tuned for Preppy Teen!)