For this month’s God Story we’re privileged to hear about the foundations of Cindy Cain’s, my mom’s, God Story. Some of these stories from her childhood I didn’t even know! I really enjoyed learning about and learning from this snapshot of her walk with God, and I hope you will, too!
My God story starts when I was born. I was blessed to be born to a young couple who were God-followers, so I was raised with Jesus. We were part of a small conservative church in the eastern U.S. My parents lived what they taught and that was the most powerful influence on me. In our family, Jesus ate supper with us each night. Jesus was part of our family celebrations, so when it came time for me to leave home, it never occurred to me to leave him behind.
The social network my family and I were part of came from church, plus family. I remember Sunday School, sitting in the little chairs in a basement classroom, which smelled slightly moldy. The teacher was a cheerful lady, a family friend who helped and encouraged us to learn our Bible verses. Much of my foundational Bible knowledge came from these years.
Some Sunday afternoons, during the time when hospitals were not so child friendly as they are today, Mom and Dad would go to visit a church member who was hospitalized. MaMa would sit out in the car with us kids. If the weather was good, we would play on the edge of hospital property. It was also the same time that hospital lawns sported the “Keep off the Grass” signs, so we had to be sneaky and on the lookout. On those afternoons, I learned that visiting the sick was important enough to inconvenience an entire family.
Then there were the times we kids tagged along to the funeral home with Mom and Dad when they went to visitation when elderly friends, family, or church members died. We kids would wander quietly from room to room, gazing at all of the folks who had passed and had visitation that evening. We would end our patrol at an amazing carved wooden house which was at least three feet long and two feet high. It had intricate carvings, turrets, and staircases which kept an active imagination occupied for a long time. During these visitations, I learned that death was a normal part of living and that we should comfort those left behind.
Fast forward to late elementary age/early junior high school. I remember going to seasonal/holiday parties with kids from church. We played games and ate yummy food[, while laughing and joking. During these times, I learned how to socialize and that having good, clean fun was just that – a lot of fun.
When I was eleven, I realized that I wanted to go to heaven and knew I could not get there without Jesus. I told my Mom and that Sunday when the invitation was given at church, I went forward, confessed that I believed Jesus was God’s son, and was baptized. Like any relationship, mine with Jesus has had its moments of exhilaration and also moments of rage!!! (me toward him). Sometimes I have stuck it out simply because I did not like any of the alternatives, but I have found this relationship a safe place to be myself and through both the delightful times and the grievous I have learned, grown, and changed.
However, becoming a Christian did not automatically make life easier for me. In the ninth grade the teacher divided us into teams for a project. My team was having trouble getting the work done because one of the guys was joking about farting and the other guy in the group was going along with him. I was so mad that when I got home, I wrote all about it in the journal the teacher was having us keep for class, saying that the boys had been using bad language (to an innocent early teen growing up in a conservative church, it wasbad language). I meant to erase it later, but you got it. I forgot to erase. When the journal was turned in at the end of the year, it felt like things exploded. The teacher was MAD!!! All of us on the team were called into the principal’s office to give our version of the story. Many classmates were angry with me. I’m pretty sure the boys I wrote about hated me. Pretty bad deal for just about anybody. But it was mortifying for an introvert who worked at being invisible. I went home that evening, shut my eyes and opened my Bible. It opened to Hebrews 13:5, 6 which I memorized and claimed as my own: “’Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’” So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’”
A few years later when I was 19 years old, My dad died suddenly.. t rocked my family’s world. My brother and I were still living at home at the time. PaIn!!! I had never known such deep emotional pain. The church people surrounded us, walked with us through the darkness, and helped keep us from losing our way. I wondered frequently during those times how it was possible for a family to survive something so devastating without God. Also during that time, I learned that it is possible to live through pain that feels like it will kill you, and that even though I might have differences and disagreements with some of my church family, when it came down to it, they had my back, and I got a glimpse of the love of God through them.
These times are the foundation of my God story. Up until now I had not given the whole story much thought and found writing this part of my God story to be a challenge!
I have heard it said on occasion that those who are converted out of the world appreciate the gift of salvation in a way that is not possible for those growing up in a Christian home, but as I review this part of my God story I strongly disagree. Life happens to all of us. We all have a story. We all have a desperate need for God. Simply because someone comes to Christ at a different point in their life-story than someone else, does not mean they will appreciate their gift of salvation more than someone else. It is not a matter of degree; it is simply different because stories are different and individuals are different.