“Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again” (John 3:3, NIV).
“Please be prepared to share a brief testimony next week about how you came to know the Lord.” Our Bible study leader looked around our small circle of women and smiled. “I’m sure we’ll learn some interesting things about each other.”
I was quiet as I gathered my things and put on my coat. What could I share the following week? I did not have a dramatic conversion story to tell.
Because I was born into a Christian family, my first memories of church were flannel board pictures and wearing a white gown with tinsel in my hair as an angel in the church pageant. We attended church throughout all our growing-up days, and membership at an appropriate age was an expected transition.
Later that week after Bible study, I sat down in my living room with a pen and opened my notebook to a blank page. Having walked with the Lord for many decades, I scoured my brain for memories of the beginning.
When did You come into my heart, Lord? Was it when I joined the church?
A picture came into focus. I sat in our living room with my parents and my twin brother the spring of our eighth grade year. Our pastor, a gentle gray-haired man of God, asked questions about our beliefs. Did we believe in God? Did we know that we had sinned?
Oh yes, I certainly knew that I sinned. A perfectionist at heart, I tried so hard but could never do everything right. And even if I did nine things right, my father had the knack of noticing the one thing I did wrong and pointing it out to me. Some of my attitudes and behaviors were certainly not godly or holy.
Did I believe that Jesus died and rose again? That He paid the price for my sins? Yes. Were we willing to be baptized and join the church? Yes, we both agreed.
The following week my twin brother and I went forward to declare our faith. The pastor sprinkled us with the waters of baptism, and we were welcomed into church membership.
Life seemed to go on just as before. No strong emotion or changes. Was this all there was?
I thoughtfully gripped my pen and gazed out the window at white-crowned sparrows fluttering around the bird feeder. Indecision flickered within.
Hmm . . . could this really be when Jesus came into my life?
Another scene flashed into my mind, a time of doubts and indecision.
I was in college, my freshman year. Serious conflicts in my relationship with my parents had arisen over the years. Doubts about my faith came to a head that fall as a close friend explored another religion and my sociology professor expounded on evolution, scorning beliefs about creation.
Confused, I questioned much I had known and believed. I walked the campus one night with tears on my face, looking up into the starry heavens, and begged God to guide me to the truth.
A required class assignment to write about family caused repressed feelings of hurt and anger to surface, leading me into counseling. The holiday break brought an opportunity for a painful but necessary reconciliation with my parents.
A nurse who had been our youth group advisor in high school wrote me a long letter about her own season of questioning and the answers she found. I talked with my pastor and studied the Scriptures. Gradually God guided my heart to the healing and spiritual answers I needed.
Springtime came. One week at church, I walked down the aisle to rededicate my life to Jesus. On a sunny April day I was baptized by immersion.
The following morning as I showered, I experienced a moment of overflowing joy. As water cascaded over on me, internal waves of ecstasy brought tears streaking down my cheeks. An indescribable touch of the Holy Spirit confirmed . . . I was His beloved daughter.
This must be when the Lord came into my life, I reasoned.
Suddenly, a Voice spoke in my heart. What about the campfire?
Startled by this question, I closed my eyes. A long-forgotten memory surfaced. I sat on a wooden bench with all the other campers, gathered around a blazing campfire by the lake. Crickets chirped.
It was the summer after fifth grade, the last night of a weeklong church camp.
A young man, one of the youth counselors, stood before us with the light of the campfire flickering on his face. He spoke about how much Jesus loved each of us and how He had died for all our sins, His blood paying a price we could never pay.
He told us the story of Nicodemus, a learned teacher of the Jews, who came to see Jesus at night. How Jesus shocked him when He stated, “You must be born again.” How could that happen?
The counselor continued. “In Revelation 11:3, Jesus says He stands outside the door of our heart knocking. He promised that if we open the door, He would come in and live in us. Do you want to be forgiven and ask Jesus into your heart? Just repeat after me.”
I bowed my head and prayed that prayer. Sincerely repenting and believing, I asked Jesus to come into my heart and be my Lord.
The memory faded, and I slowly opened my eyes.
The King had come in.
I had forgotten, but Jesus did not forget. He knew the exact moment He entered into the heart of a little ten-year-old girl. And even as I doubted and searched and walked my own way at times, transformation happened as I grew in knowledge and in faith. He had never left me. He had never given up on me.
Yes, I did have a story to tell.