Photo by Aaron Burden vis Upsplash
Three times I sat in the dimmed sanctuary with my head bowed, eyes closed, willing myself to raise my hand. Three times my hands stayed tightly clasped in my lap, an unseen weight holding them down. Shame, fear of judgment, and uncertainty gripped me. My stomach somersaulting uncomfortably in the dark, hidden beneath my calm exterior. Three times I sat, a boulder in my own path, not yet ready to be vulnerable.
Life had taught me to rely only on myself, to look inwardly to my own understanding, to never ask for help, or to take something I hadn’t work for. I wanted to believe; I wanted to know God, I wanted to share my burden without guilt, but I just wasn’t ready yet.
The fourth opportunity didn’t come right after the third as I expected. And for a good reason, as the Lord prepared my heart, mind, and soul. The next Sunday passed, and I silently exhaled once I reached the safety of my car after church. Another Sunday passed, but this time I didn’t sprint to my car to escape the pressure. A third Sunday came, and I wondered if I had missed the opportunity. I found myself waiting, hopefully, for guidance. It would be another week before I heard the Pastor begin to walk the congregation through the now-familiar framework of the prayer. My heart rate quickened as we quietly bent our heads and listened to the Pastors words. I knew what was coming, and I willed the Pastors words to seep into every cell of my being. Yet, I was still scared, and I still felt shame.
Who was I to accept this gift of salvation?
I, who had lived 31 years as a non-believer thinking that I was a believer.
I, who had become a mother to four children by now and had failed to guide their hearts spiritually.
I, who had inwardly always been very uncomfortable anytime faith, God, or going to church was brought up (because I didn’t truly know what to believe).
I, who sometimes spoke badly of others.
I, who often lost my patience.
I, who was at my wit’s end in so many ways.
Who was I to deserve this gift?
I was still scared, I still felt shame, but for the first time in my life, I knew what I believed.
So I prayed in earnest, and that day in the dimly lit sanctuary, I opened my heart and accepted Christ. I felt an instant shift in that first moment as a believer. The weight lifted off my hands and shoulders at the same moment. My body was swiftly filled with new breath and a new lightness like I had never experienced before.
As the pastor asked anyone who had prayed that prayer to raise their hand in acknowledgment, my hand went up as if drawn by a string.
My fear- gone, my shame- erased, my soul light-filled with the strength of a new believer. I was no longer ashamed.
I finally knew who I was and whom’s I was. I was finally home.