I sit in church, watching as children file slowly up to the front of the sanctuary. It is Easter Sunday in my parents church and the children are playing in a bell choir.
The strains of “Just as I am, without one plea” begin coming from the speakers and on cue yellow, red, and blue bells begin to chime. I am transported back in time and I shake my head at the mystery of memory.
I am back in Pakistan at my boarding school, listening to a Danish evangelist speak during weekly chapel. He would come at least once a term and present the gospel message in compelling words. The service always ended with an altar call and the hymn “Just as I am.” And we would all go up, repentant, teary, the impact of the words and song hitting our souls with just the right amount of emotion to compel action.
During those altar calls, when all present were singing “Just as I am,” I was acutely aware of my sinfulness and the beauty of God’s forgiveness. For some reason, no one explained to any of us that we needn’t go up to the front over and over again. So every time the evangelist came, up we got and down the aisle we went.
A wave of emotion hits me as I remember that time and my faith, a child’s faith, so easily shaped and molded.The memory is not negative. Rather, it is a part of childhood that I now better understand, a faith journey that has matured and grown.
My faith roots go deep. They go back to boarding school and early childhood. They twist and turn, much like the roots of a Banyan tree. There is something deeply comforting about my roots. The soil where they grew was rich with love and grace. There were mistakes – no life grows free of mistakes. There was sadness. There was misunderstanding. But that doesn’t take away from the deep roots. Adversity made them stronger.
So I sit and I watch small children, the same age as I was in boarding school, play “Just as I am.” They can’t know what it fully means, but that doesn’t negate the importance of what they hear.
We are told to come to God as children, expectant, joyful, and innocent. As I sit and listen to bells chime a song of my childhood, I feel like a child, wrapped up in God’s abundant love and grace.
And I thank God for the mystery of memory and deep roots of faith.
7 thoughts on “When Faith Roots Go Deep”
I probably heard the same evangelist although my similar memory is of a different one! You address some really interesting issues here … “For some reason, no one explained to any of us that we needn’t go up to the front over and over again.” This is true!! I “got saved” every night with my pillow as a witness. Why didn’t we understand the difference between justification and sanctification? Maybe it has something to do with that “faith journey that has matured and grown.”
For me, the words meant nothing, despite the fact that I consider myself a “word person.” I needed a picture. I am a visual learner — you have to “show” me before I really get it. So God in His mercy did show me and that image/metaphor that He used continues to unfold more each day.
Thank you, Marilyn, for opening up all kinds of cans of worms for us MKs so that we can crawl out and eventually find our way to becoming beautiful butterflies!
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I’m so happy to hear from you! I’ve been thinking about you and meaning to email. Thank you, thank you for sharing this. So many memories. Thank you for your words and for helping me emerge from my can of worms through your encouragement of my writing!
Oh, how I can relate to what you are saying. I grew up as an Missionary Kid myself ((Baptist) and now I am on my own Orthodox journey. “Just as I am”. I know all verses by heart. Thank you for letting us come with you on your journey. I know now that I am not the only one who has struggled with leaving the faith in which you were raised. I know I am on the right path, but obstacles seem to always get in the way, but the truth will prevail.
I would love to hear more of your story Bill! Thank you for coming by. The road to Orthodoxy was a long journey for my husband and me. He was patient :) It took 11 years, but we are in the place where we are supposed to be. May you be encouraged on your journey this day.
Hi MariIyn, I grew up in S. Korea where my parents worked as missionaries. So funny how I can relate to so many of your stories. Going over s cliff with your mom, did that with my Dad and another missionary in a jeep! My road to orthodoxy started a few years ago when I was challenged by my wife to explore ancient Christian history. She was raised Roman Catholic. Well, that when I found orthodoxy. I found an Orthodox Church close to where I live and went to my first service. That’s pretty much all it took. They were no rock bands, (always had a hang up on this), and after I left felt as I had entered the gates of heaven for a short time. Then of course, the theology of Mary, enternal security, communion, what? That’s the actual blood and body of our savior??? When’s the rapture? I have prayed and opened my mind to God’s will. I am still on my journey. Spouse is not onboard, so I pray for guidance and peace.
And here is another interesting twist – that song and the children playing their bells also took me back to my childhood. The choir in our small Baptist Church always sang Just as I Am when people were being baptized. It brings back the memory of my own baptism in that church and my Dad’s. The words are just as true today, that God invites each of us to come, just as we are to receive His love and forgiveness. Jerry Bridges writes in his book “Discipline of Grace” that we need to preach the Gospel to ourselves every day*, a bit like your Jesus Prayer, Marilyn, coming to God to ask for His mercy. Thank you.
*No quotes – I didn’t look up the exact wording.
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I had no idea! So interesting. There is another part to my story that is in my next book that involves you :) Stay tuned.