I never went to church as a child or adult other than occasional visits. When I was in my late 20’s I had been attending a church for a few months and one day I found myself walking down the aisle during a church service because I had just given my life to Jesus. I didn’t really understand the whole, ‘give your life to Jesus’ thing other than I knew that I had just been ‘saved’ and I was excited and happy about it!
Shortly after I was saved I was informed that because I was now saved, I could also become a member of the church. I hadn’t even realized until that moment that I wasn’t already a ‘member’ of the church. I also soon found out that but there was a catch to being a member of the church.
To be a member of the church I had to be baptized.
I was still pretty new to all of this, and getting dunked underwater in front of everyone seemed horrifying to me. I really wanted to be a member of the church but did NOT want to get baptized!
And to make matters worse someone told me that if I didn’t get baptized then I couldn’t get into heaven!
Being saved by Jesus had somehow now turned into me freaking out about church membership, baptisms, and getting into Heaven. None of this stuff had even been on my mind when I had asked Jesus to come into my life.
If this was what being saved felt like, I didn’t want to be saved anymore. I had felt a whole lot safer before the whole saving ordeal had happened!
Oh and also now added to the pot was this — my 7-year-old daughter had also been saved in Sunday school and she was scheduled to get baptized with me. The pressure was on and there was no way I could back out!
So the baptism happened and the joy I had felt at the beginning about being saved by Jesus was now lost under a huge weight.
Not only was the robe they made me wear to be baptized in heavy material that when wet made me feel as if I were coming out of the water with a couple of bags of rocks attached to my back. But it added to the fact that I now felt weighed down with the overwhelming task I had in front of me to keep it together. I felt like a fake and knew I had to be good so as not disappoint God or anyone in the church.
After I was baptized I barely went church anymore. I felt like a huge failure and I eventually walked completely away from church.
The worst thing of all is that I also walked away from God. I felt like somehow I had been part of some crazy bate and switch scam and I decided that God wasn’t real.
I stayed that way many years but then I saw my father-in-law die and that was the day I met the real Jesus once again.
As my father-in-law took his last breath his face suddenly became peaceful, I can never begin to explain what happened, except that God let me see my father-in-law as he was entering his new home in heaven and the peace surrounding him felt as if it were surrounding me. There was this overwhelming feeling of peace and love and it felt like it was all put there just for me to grab hold of. I remember going home that night with the loss of a loved one, yet I felt like I had gained something huge – I knew at that moment that God was real and that He truly loved ME! Unconditionally.
I had been told by well-meaning Christians my whole life that I should go to church and somehow I had grasped on to the idea that if I didn’t go to church I wasn’t good enough for God. I also thought I had to be good when just being who I was was good enough.
A hospital room at one of the darkest times of my life is where Jesus came and got me. For no other reason than because, He loved me… just as I was. There wasn’t a church building or baptism required to be a member of his family and the only strings attached were for me to believe in him and come into his arms.
John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Being saved by Jesus means that Jesus loves me so much that he gave up his life for me so I don’t have to be perfect.
The gift of Salvation is a God’s gift to ALL of us.
His gift is for any of us to take no matter who we are or where we are in life. It doesn’t have to be opened in a church building and we don’t have to be a member of anything to receive it. Once we accept it we are part of the family and will live in Heaven with him one day
I did eventually find a church that I now call my church home and I did even get re-baptized when I felt led by Jesus to do it not because I was forced to do it.
I love Jesus and the family of believers he has placed in my life and it’s good to have those people in my life because they help make that connection to Him even stronger. We worship together and learn about him together. We even help lift each other up in our times of struggle. So a church family is a good thing to have.
I did not share this story to condemn any church or denomination, I shared it because I have met up with several people now who have had this same experience as me. I want others who read this to know that no matter who you are or where you are at you can come to Jesus just because He loves you and wants YOU right where you are.
If you already have accepted Jesus’ gift of salvation that is awesome! If you want to share it with others and you are attaching strings to it, please stop doing that!
‘For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.’ John 3:17