Flashback Friday: Early Religious Experiences

Mocha With Linda hosts a weekly meme called Flashback Friday. She’ll post a question every Thursday, and then Friday we can link our answers up on her site.

The question for this week is:

Did your family attend church when you were growing up? What are your earliest memories of church? Did you attend VBS (Vacation Bible School) when you were young? Sunday School? Other church activities? Was faith a Sunday-only thing or did it impact your life and the things you did? If faith and church were not a part of your growing-up years, when and how did you begin and what drew you to God?

I did not grow up in a Christian home. My father never went to church then, and my mother only occasionally did. My mother’s sister and father attended a Lutheran church, and my parents let me attend with them. I do remember learning basic truths and Bible stories and learning in a general way that Jesus Christ died for my sins, but how to actually believe in a way to know that one was a Christian was kind of nebulous idea of having faith of some kind. I don’t remember it ever being brought to a personal level that I as an individual needed to repent of my own sins and trust Christ as my own Savior.

I do remember enjoying Sunday School and VBS. I enjoyed the crafts, singing, activities, Bible stories, and cookies and Kool-aid. 🙂  I only have a few specific memories: one was a craft we made that involved putting one glass upside down over another one with flowers inside and gluing it. I thought it was so pretty and gave it to my grandmother. I do remember gluing macaroni to a box and spray-painting it gold, but I don’t remember if that was VBS or Girl Scouts (what was the deal with macaroni crafts back then?!) I remember hearing in Sunday School teaching on the verse “Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?” (Matthew 6: 24-26) and thinking at the time that that was ridiculous. Money problems were frequent at our house, and I thought, how could you not worry about it? I had a lot to learn about faith, and these verses became precious to me in college years and beyond. I also remember feeling bad one time that I had nothing to put in the offering, so I drew or wrote something on a piece of paper — I can’t remember if it was a drawing of money or an IOU of some sort — and put it in when the offering plate was passed. But my cousin’s grandmother — the one on the other side of her family through which we were not related — was a very well-to-do and proper lady and took my piece of paper out. That made me so sad, that I had given the only thing I could, and it wasn’t deemed acceptable. As an adult looking back, I think the ushers would probably have gotten a kick out of finding that in the offering.

When I was in about the third grade, my best friend at the time invited me to revival services at her Baptist church. My parents did not let me go to every religious event I was invited to (thankfully!), but my dad’s folks were Baptist on one side and Methodist on the other, and my mom’s, as I mentioned, were Lutheran, so they usually let me go to those churches if asked. On the second or third night I attended, the pastor was talking about being “saved.” My friend and another of her friends urged me to go forward at the invitation at the end of the service, so I did, but in later years I couldn’t remember what was said or prayed or who I even talked to.

So I struggled for many years with exactly where I stood with the Lord, and it wasn’t really settled until I was about 17. I’ve told this in more detail in my testimony. Then I still struggled with assurance for many years, but I am happy to say I am at rest in Him now.

As far as faith impacting daily life, my parents had something of a “God-fearing” upbringing, and though neither of them wanted to bring their lives under God’s influence and authority at that time, they wanted their children to be taught about Him and to “do right” (my dad did come to salvation later in his 60s: I have told his story here. Though my mom did not make a clear and open profession, I have reason to hope she believed as well, as I discussed here.) My dad’s two biggest issues were respect and obedience, and I think that and what religious training I did have gave me a good foundation and prepared me for learning more later on. I did have kind of an awe and respect and a childish affection for the Lord, but without a lot of discernment: if anyone from mentioned God, I thought that was so neat, not realizing that not everyone who talks about Him knows Him. I am so glad God protected me from cultist influences when I was vulnerable and naive enough to probably have been taken in by them.

I had thought my mother’s family has always been Lutheran, but a few years ago my aunt told me that her father, my grandfather, had been raised by an uncle who was a “circuit-riding preacher” (like Sheffey, for those familiar with him), and my grandfather had helped him in some of his campaigns when he was a boy. That was neat to learn about. I hadn’t thought I had ancestors who prayed for me beyond my own grandparents, so it’s neat to think that maybe even further back there were relatives who knew the Lord and prayed for their descendants. It will be nice to meet them in heaven!

5 thoughts on “Flashback Friday: Early Religious Experiences

  1. Hi Barbara. Thank you for sharing this with us. You wrote it nicely and everything is clear to me.
    Our stories are similar. The ages of occurences zig-zag somewhat but still the events occured. I didn’t write about my relative preacher or my strict father. He must have had an experience that I didn’t know about but he sure changed. Suddenly and surely to remain that way.

  2. Isn’t it wonderful how something so small as someone removing that note you wrote stuck in your memories!

    I just love how our memories and the things that happen to us shape our lives!

    Wonderful memories!

  3. I already knew most of your story from reading your blog, but iut is always good to reconnect with why we believe and to listen to others tell their stories. I can’t participate this week, but I may do this one later on, like I did last time I fell behind.

  4. i had a preacher ‘great grandpa’…i wish i could have met him…John Henry…can’t you just hear my great, great grandmother calling his name?!! hahaha

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