July 12, 2008

Some backstory- testimonies

Kat was asking me to post a little more about where I've come from, so I'm going to try and remember to post a little more of my own personal backstory as I go along. There are too many questions to cover in one post, so I'm just going to take a couple and run with them. I suppose you can call this piece of the story my testimony. I'll try to keep it brief.

I have pretty much the typical good Christian kid testimony -never knew a time when I didn't know the name of Jesus. I started out (so far as I remember) going to a little church called Chestnut Grove Baptist Church outside of Atlanta, Ga. I also remember having a little girl crush on the associate pastor there -Preacher Tommy by name. I used to make up songs about him. I don't know that I could have been more than 5-6 at the time. Even though I grew up in church it wasn't until we moved to Alabama that I "prayed the prayer" and eventually got baptized. Throughout that time I went to mainly Baptist and Bible churches. We tended to move around a lot. Something would happen in the church, and we'd pack up and move on. After a while my parents sort of got burned on church, and we ended up taking a year or so sabbatical from church. Us kids didn't much like that, but after we'd about been to every church in town we were getting a little tired of moving. I learned a lot about that though - like just how easy it is to be anonymous in the Church nowadays. Even when you've volunteered for VBS, drama, and been to the church youth retreats you just slip away like you'd never been there. No one calls to ask where you've been or how you're doing. You just roll off the face of their world. Pretty sad I think.

I also learned a thing or two about youth groups. Let me tell you they kind of give me the heebee jeebee's now. There's too much emotional manipulation going around under the name of firing kids up for the Lord. I've been on those camps. You come back after spending your days and night overstimulated by too much noise and sugar, and you just end up depressed for a week or so afterwards. They tell you about this like you're living in a spiritual high at camp that just can't be maintained in real life when really you've been at one huge rockfest all week. That's not a spiritual high -that's overstimulation followed by exhaustion. Somehow I don't think Jesus becomes more real just because you've paid $50 to get away for the weekend with two thousand other teenagers, and the Jesus band has an awesome drummer. That's getting away with your friends so you can clap and stomp your feet to musicians you really like. Don't get me wrong. There are some great musicians out there and some speakers with really great messages. I'm just skeptical about the results of growing up in a pyrotechnic church culture.

Putting that aside-eventually my family ended up going to the church my in-laws used to attend. We'd actually met them previously through highschool debate team, but this was my chance to get to know them better. During the course of this I started getting to know Allen better through their college/career age ministry even though he primarily went to another church. Well finally Allen invited me to visit his church one night. It's the Presbyterian church we attend today. The first time I went Steve was preaching on presbyterian church order. Wow. What a sermon for the new kid. After giving Allen several broad hints that I actually would enjoying visiting his church again with him sometime we ended up going together most Sundays. For me Calvinism just clicked. It explained some things I'd always had questions about. One the most important steps in this journey was reading Putting the Amazing Back into Grace. I was so convicted after reading that book. It answered questions I hadn't even been able to put into words before. I started reading more books by Reformed authors like J. I. Packer, C. S. Lewis, and Peter Leithart. And that's pretty much where I am today. I love going to church that follows the Church calendar, celebrates weekly communion, and is diligently seeking to build a community of grace. I have people around me whom I refer to as "heavenly sandpaper." They are the people who are shaking up my understanding of what it means to be a conservative Christian in the 21st century. I may disagree with them, but through them and with them I'm learning to how to be an authentic Christian -authentic because I'm secure in who I am in Christ and therefore don't need to either boast or whine. I'm still working on believing that God really loves me and responding to Him in love rather than from a sense of duty or obligation, but that will come.

Oh yeah, and last week Pastor Tom told us (the congregation) flat out that we need to aim at reading our Bibles more. Since I know I don't even read mine one tenth as much as I should, I'm really going to try and get on it. Tom is the sort of pastor who makes you feel that he really is looking out for you and that you'd be seven kinds of fool if you didn't listen to his advice.


Carla Jean said...

"Heavenly sandpaper"--what a great description. I love that, Natalie. Thanks for sharing...

Elisa M said...

Writing our story makes it feel more redemptive, doesn't it?

Natalie_S said...

I suppose it does. I usually write to think things out, but I think I can agree with you on that.