altered

Altar calls always make me cringe.
Which then makes me feel guilty.
Which makes me wonder if I should be mouthing along. Just in case.
It is a vicious cycle.

This week our Sunday School class finished up a video study we are doing.
The study was good. The story powerful and the speaker polished.
Even if her bright orange overcoat matched the exact shade of her hair and she was occasionally a little too kitschy for me. She made a lot of good points. Had an amazing story and had made me think and occasionally cry over the last few weeks. But her altar call made my eyes glaze over. I tried to tune her out and not get irritated.

She said the usual verses, leading in of course with John 3:16.
She even threw out the classic, “If you died tonight, do you know where you would spend eternity” card.

And very eloquently laid it all out and asked the audience and viewers to follow along.
And I couldn’t help but think, isn’t there more than that.
More than escaping hell.
More than some perfectly crafted prayer or plan of salvation.

I wanted her to talk about love. Or peace. Or justice. Or that the kingdom is now.
Right in front of us.
Or extravagant grace.
You know, the things Jesus talked about.
I don’t exactly remember him asking his disciples to repeat after him.
Or walking them down the Roman Road.

And I probably should tell you that I became a Christian at one of those alter calls.
It was Junior High church camp one of the last nights.
I think it was the lure of some bad Christian band.
But I went forward.
I copied their formula prayer and it felt good. Holy even.
I also said that same prayer at least a half dozen more times at retreats or youth events throughout highschool.
Just to be sure it took of course.
But I don’t think it was that one single moment that changed where I would spend eternity. It was that one plus a thousand others.
And more importantly it changes how I live, not just where I will go after I die.

I don’t ever remember not going to church or not believing in Jesus.
Yes, there have been moments where I have chosen more. Made promises and commitments and taken leaps and jumps.
And there have also been moments where I moved backwards and sideways.
And times where I got really comfortable and refused to go anywhere at all.

No matter where I was.
On the right track, the wrong one or kneeling at an altar,
I was always His.
Even before junior high church camp.
Even if I had never wandered down an aisle.
What matters most is that I have been slowly stumbling closer to Him ever since.

This post is part of bigger picture blogs..........and attempt to find the bigger picture in our crazy week and look for faith along the way. Check out some of the other posts here.

Bigger Picture Moment

6 comments:

da mainiac mama said...

Growing up I was raised to believe that through acts we will be saved. That Jesus loves us, but we need to work for his love.

I've been attending a Lutheran church now for the past 8 years and they speak of grace. Which is still a little vague to me.

I'm hoping that with my love for God, and His love for me that I'll make it there just fine. Acts & Grace included.

And I'm sure you will, too.

Corinne said...

This was such a beautiful post.... thank you for sharing it with us...

Stephanie Flaa said...

Preach it sister

Beth (and Eric) said...

This was great. I definitely agree. After years of learning the way to "share my faith" I finally realized that all I learned was a recited speech that was not my heart or my relationship with God at all. And most of those points and phrases (such as, "accepting Jesus into your heart") are not even in scripture. Anyway, you are a strong woman, and I think this makes Jesus happy.

This Heavenly Life said...

I'm not generally a teary blog-reader...but this one hit me hard. I feel it SO very much, and you are so right...the altar call isn't the most important thing. Not even close. It's the day to day motion -- the forward and backwards and stuck in the mud -- that builds our lives and the path we'll travel towards Jesus.

You know? I think Jesus is even closer to us when we're stuck in the mud or moving backwards than when we're storming the altar, pledging our allegiance forevermore. It's when we're hiding from him that he's there the most.

I loved this bigger picture moment. Thank you so, so much!

Carolyn Phillips said...

Thank you, you sound like a woman after my own heart who doesn't do one size fits all christianity.

I think alter calls, repeat after me, Roman road etc all their way for some people, that they are a way of explaining deeper truths, but they are not the be all and end all, and neither are they a measure of who is and isn't saved.

I don't think it is through acts, but neither is it through repeating a prayer line by line. I think it is in the daily drawing close to God, relying on grace, consecrating and living faith where we are, wether that is in the pit or the mountain top.