One of the interesting problems of growing up in a devoutly Christian home is that I am unable to remember a time in my life when I didn’t know about Jesus and who He was. You might not think this is a bad problem to have, and I suppose in the grand scheme of things it really isn’t … but somehow it did end up causing me years of worry. In the end it was a simple story about an airplane that helped me figure things out and make sense of my relationship with Jesus.
From a very young I knew all the Bible stories, from Daniel in the lions’ den and David fighting Goliath to Jesus being born in a stable and dying on the cross. Once my mother told me that my paternal grandmother enjoyed asking me show her friends how I could sing Jesus Loves Me. I wasn’t even two years old at the time.
Knowing who Jesus was and all about His life was not a problem.
But for a long time, I didn’t know if I was really saved from my sins.
And I knew enough to know this was a huge problem.
You see, I could go back in my childhood and remember a couple of specific events that led to my salvation experience.
When I was six or seven, an elderly lady who lived across the street passed away in her sleep. I remember feeling greatly concerned over her death for she had seemed well enough when she rode to church with us on the previous Sunday. I was further shocked when my parents remarked about dying in one’s sleep was such a peaceful way to go to be with the Lord. After this, I began to have trouble sleeping because I feared I might not wake up. Although deep down I wanted to go to be with Jesus, I was afraid of dying.
Several months later, I remember talking to my parents about what it meant to be “saved” and getting baptized. Later my father took me to the preacher’s house for another conversation. I was a little bit scared of that pastor. I recall sitting on a chair, nervously swinging my legs back and forth. I remember reciting John 3:16 for him. Afterwards, I remember feeling as though I had passed some sort of test, though what sort of test I couldn’t exactly tell you.
What I cannot recall is a particular conversation I had with my mother the summer before my 8th birthday. According to my mom, one afternoon in our little garden the two of us had a conversation which ended with me praying to receive Christ as my Savior.
As much as I’ve tried over the past 30-something years, I cannot remember as single detail about that afternoon. My mother is not a habitual liar. I truly believe her recollections of that day.
I just wish I could remember for myself.
By the time I was 13 years old, my lack of memory over my own salvation experience became a huge problem for me.
I had heard preachers say that those who were truly saved would remember the very day and hour that they accepted Christ. I heard other pastors talk of being able to tell of a person’s salvation by the evidence of a completely turned around life.
What did that say about me? I couldn’t remember anything about that afternoon in the garden. And how had my life changed after Jesus? I felt pretty much the same way I always had felt since childhood … a love for Him and His people, a desire to please Him and walk in His truths. I had never been addicted to anything or prone to big and terrible sins.
So I worried silently about my own salvation, ashamed to let anyone know that I was uncertain about the one thing I should know beyond a shadow of a doubt. And as the years went by, the fears grew to plague me more and more.
Until I heard the airplane story.
Fall 2003, Gum Branch Baptist Church near Hinesville, GA.
My family had moved there the previous spring as my husband had been stationed at Ft. Stewart. Over the summer, I had given birth to a baby girl, making me the mother of three children ages three and under. It’s a wonder I ever went to church. But I did, and quite faithfully. Always hoping that I would find some sort of peace with my regarding my relationship with God.
That fall, I signed up for a Sunday night Bible study. I remember thinking that I must be crazy to try to get out at night with three tiny children and go to church. And yet I felt compelled to be a part.
That very first night the small group that had gathered in the sanctuary watched a video of Dr. Adrien Rogers, pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis and former president of the Southern Baptist Convention. His topic: How to be Certain of Your Salvation.
I don’t remember much of that particular sermon except for the airplane story … which goes like this:
Suppose you and I are both in Orlando, FL, and we are going to Atlanta, GA. You drive to Atlanta and I fly. I ask you to meet me in Atlanta and to pick me up at the airport. When you drive, you will know when you crossed the state line. It will be obvious because there will be a sign that says, Welcome to Georgia. When I fly, I will cross the same state line, but I will not be aware of it. But I will land in Atlanta. We meet in the Atlanta airport, and we are both there. I came in an airplane and you came in an automobile. You give your testimony and say, “I remember exactly when I crossed the state line.” I give my testimony and say, “I don’t remember when I crossed the state line, but I know I did because I am in the Atlanta airport. The important thing is since I am in the Atlanta airport, I know I must be in Georgia and did cross that line.”
If you are trusting in Jesus, you did trust in Jesus. The real test is not whether you remember the time or the place, but that you are this moment putting your confidence in the Lord Jesus Christ.*
After the video ended, the pastor asked several people around the room if they would share their personal testimonies of salvation. Two or three people shared, and then the pastor said, “We have time for one more person. Paige … why don’t you share with us?”
With tears in my eyes and not a single doubt in my mind, I answered, “Pastor, I got there by airplane.”
And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. ~1 John 5:11-13
This post is part of the 2015 A-to-Z Blogging Challenge. If you are visiting due to that, thanks so much for popping in to read today’s post. I hope you will leave me a comment so that I can return the visit to your blog. I love to connect with other bloggers and readers. If you are a regular reader, I hope you’ll stick with me during April when I blog about the stories of my faith.
*excerpt taken from What Every Christian Ought to Know: Essential Truths for Growing in Your Faith by Dr. Adrian Rogers