It seems God is doing a deep work in me during this season and as with many deep works, He takes us back to childhood. So I find myself reflecting and going back to my earliest memories of church. I have always loved church. I don’t recall my first visit but I imagine I was very young. My mother attended church from time to time when I was little and my father was an atheist. If it weren’t for my mother I would not have the wonderful memories I have to treasure now. I recall how much I loved Sunday school, learning about the Bible stories, colouring in the pictures, felt board stories and just the way church made me feel. Church was always good and I don’t recall ever being dragged to along, I was keen and willing. As I grew older I took myself to church when my mom didn’t go, even though it was far away, as I really did love it!
My earliest memory of loving Jesus was when I was school age and the wonderful Christian teachers at school did a brilliant job of encouraging our faith. We prayed before the school day began, enjoyed Bible stories during school and grew up well educated in the knowledge of Jesus and the Bible. It breaks my heart that even though we are a Christian nation we don’t encourage prayer and Christianity in our schools. My children are fortunate to go to a Christian School but even so it is very diluted with other Gods.
From as early as I can remember I prayed to my God in heaven and read my Bible as often as possible, even though I didn’t understand it. I particularly loved what my mom and I did on Monday night’s at church! We helped teach the black ladies in our community sewing, reading, writing, maths, etc. My job was just to listen to the lovely ladies read and help them when needed. I loved helping and making a difference, even such a small one, in another person’s life. I grew up during the apartheid era in South Africa and hated that people treated each other so poorly. Even at a very young age I remember making every effort to treat everyone the same no matter what their skin colour. I wasn’t taught this but just knew deep down inside that it was the right way to live. I knew Jesus loved everyone the same. Monday nights was one of the privileges that I had to practice what I believed and to love whomever walked through our church doors and needed help. I miss church being that simple. Perhaps it was because I saw through the eyes of a child that it seemed that simple.
As I grew older and entered my teens church became a thing of the past. Deep down inside I always loved Jesus and occasionally talked to Him and read my Bible. Sadly rebellion became a lifestyle – I was a terrible teenager! I saw the Christians at school as weak and boring. They didn’t inspire me at all. The only time the Christian Union event ever had a great turnout was when they invited an ex-witch as a guest speaker. I don’t recall any of what she said but do remember that the school hall was packed that particular lunch time.
After a few dark years of teenage rebellion I manage to find my way back to church. Marriage was the reason! I was pregnant and the father of my baby and I had to meet the minister to plan our wedding. Our baby wasn’t an accident, even though I was only 17 and he 19, we knew we wanted to be married and getting pregnant was the only way that our parents would consent. I go into this story in detail in my book Hope’s Journey but for now let’s just say that the 1st March 1991 was and always will be the most beautiful day of my life. This is the day that I allowed Jesus into my heart as Lord and saviour of my life. Jesus went from head knowledge to a heart relationship. Everything changed that day.
I immediately started attending church every single Sunday and loved it. At first we found ways to skip the worship and turn up late to hear the preaching only. I felt very uncomfortable with singing out loud as I was extremely shy. I also felt strange during the part where they all started to spontaneously speak in tongues. It freaked me out a little so for at least 6 months we tried to avoid that part of church. In time I settled and became ravenously hungry for preaching and teaching. I also joined in the tongues and loved it! I attended Bible school, ladies Bible study, cell group, church twice on a Sunday, devoured every book I could get my hand on and my Bible. I LOVED church, Jesus, Christianity and who I was becoming as a result.
I will continue my story in the next post as I need to get to work now! It would be great to hear your stories too so I don’t feel so alone on this journey. How did you first find church and where are you at in your journey now? In the meantime, enjoy this video of one of my favourite songs from my childhood.