My chubby, two-year-old hands were outstretched, palms against the TV screen. I stood alone in my playroom. My head was bowed and my eyes were closed when my mama peeked around the corner to find me praying with "Mrs. Kathy," the host of the Kids Like You TV program I was watching. At the end of each show, she asked the kids if they wanted to pray to accept Jesus into their hearts, and apparently on that day, I had decided I did.
I have no memory of this event, but this is the story my mama tells.
I do remember being six and sitting in children's church watching Gospel Bill. Another invitation for salvation came at the end of this program, and since I had no memory of doing it before, I went forward to do so. My teacher took me and a couple others out to pray, and though I can't remember the words she uttered, I remember she squeezed my hand with fervency!
This was the age at which I got baptized in the lake. A lot of my cousins my age did as well. Our grandpa and uncle took turns dunking us in the chilly water. We all sang "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus." And somebody snapped pictures that we still cherish to this day.
Though I remember details about this event, I will be honest and say I have no idea what went on in my heart. That's no slam on its authenticity. But I was young and I have an honest-to-goodness bad memory.
In college, our student ministry encouraged us to hone and articulate our testimonies. They encouraged us to reflect and pray and pinpoint (with relative closeness) when we were saved so we could share it with others. After all, the Bible says that all were born sinners and that salvation means passing from death to life. (Romans 3:23 & 1 John 3:14) I fully believed that. The problem was that I had no idea when that happened for me. As far back as I could remember, I loved the Lord. I thought and reflected and prayed, but I never overturned any stone that told me any different. I couldn't remember a time when my heart was cold or indifferent to the things of the Lord or when sin didn't bother me. I'm sure there was a time. I just couldn't remember it.
What I know for sure is that I'm saved. I know I love Jesus and I can feel the Holy Spirit inside me. He's always been near and He's never let me go. I think it's great that some people have dramatic testimonies with drastic changes in their lives. That's just not me.
Because of my story, I've come to humbly think that maybe "praying a prayer" isn't so essential to salvation. Maybe the Holy Spirit entered me when I was two and my clammy hands were against the TV, or maybe He entered when I was six and a little too focused on my teacher's strong grip... or maybe He entered one of the other thousand times I believed and confessed He was Lord. Because that's all it takes, right? (Romans 10:9)
So I've thought a lot about how I would approach this subject with my own kids. Loving Jesus is a way of life for us. My kids are in church every time the doors are open. We talk about the Gospel all the time. And they're being raised pretty much the same way I was. At ages 5 and 3, they openly, boldly, frequently declare their love for the Lord. So is it fair or even reasonable for me to push them to say a prayer or perform a ritual just to make it "official"?
I really do not mean to sound haughty. For some people, I believe a prayer is the instrument God uses to transform. But then I talk to my kids and they confirm what I suspected -- that it's not necessary.
On Easter night, I was putting Eden to bed and she began talking about Jesus. She asked questions that were deep and meaningful -- things we've discussed a hundred times but she likes to hear the answers again because she's reflective and she likes to soak it all up.
"How could Jesus pay for my sins if I wasn't alive then?"
"Why didn't Jesus just fight the bad men off?"
"Why does God love us so much?"
She is so interested and perceptive, and I love talking to her about these things. She lights up when she talks about Jesus. I see in her eyes how much she loves him. After explaining again what the Holy Spirit does, I asked her just to see -- "Eden, do you feel like you have God's Holy Spirit inside you?"
"I'm not sure..." she said.
Then I felt silly for asking. Sometimes we adults don't even feel sure so how can I expect more from her?
We talked about baptism and how it's a way to show other people the change that's happened inside you.
"Isn't there another way you can show people?" she asked me. My girl has a fear of going under water.
"Well, you can show people by the way you live..." I told her.
"What if I'm in a crowd of people and I just start blowing kisses up to Heaven to Jesus? That will show people I love him, right?!"
Oh sweet girl. It sure will...
This five-year-old sweetheart shows me in every way she can how much she loves Jesus. Maybe in a few years, her understanding will grow and she'll tell me she's only previously had head knowledge and she wants to be saved. Or maybe she'll go to college and have no idea when it happened because she's loved Jesus for as long as she can remember. I honestly don't know. All I know is that we're taking this faith journey one step at a time, and all I can see is what's right here. And if Romans 10:9 means what it says, my girl is doing just fine.