When I was just five years old, I made the decision to become a follower of Jesus Christ. I remember it vividly. It was a Sunday evening at Sky View Baptist Church in Memphis, TN, and I was sitting by my mother. Honestly, I have no idea what Bro. Sonny preached about that night; I just know that God had been working in my young heart for a while leading up to that moment. When the time came for the invitation (as Baptists call it), I didn't walk the aisle. I simply sat down in the pew, leaned my head on the pew in front of me, and prayed to God, asking Him to forgive me for my sins and come into my heart and save me. Then I tugged on Mama's skirt and told her what I had done.
When we got home that night, my parents took me into their bedroom to talk with me more about the decision I had made. I told them that I loved God and wanted to follow Him and spend eternity with Him in Heaven when I die. After we talked, we all prayed together, and then Daddy wrote my name and the date (November 23, 1980) on the inside cover of his Bible. Thus, November 23rd became my spiritual birthday, and I have loved remembering and celebrating it ever since.
My parents began teaching and discipling my siblings and me basically as soon as we were born. We read Bible stories before bed and talked about sin and our need for the Savior, and we prayed together. I saw a genuine love for the Lord in them. While they never pressured us into making any sort of decisions (public or private), they did talk with us about spiritual things on a regular basis. Remembering each of our spiritual birthdays was something I treasured in our family, because it emphasized to me the importance, vitality, and necessity of our relationship with our Creator. It also emphasized that this relationship is something to be CELEBRATED!
A lot of Believers don't have a particular date or time that they nail down as their spiritual birthday or point at which they began following Christ. This doesn't mean that one of us is any more or less saved or certain; it's just a difference. Many people say that there wasn't just one particular time that they decided to follow Christ; it was--and still is--a journey. I agree completely. I personally am just a stickler for dates and times; they mean something to me. So I like having this date on which I can reflect.
My friend's father-in-law makes the comparison to a couple in love. Some people fall in love over a period of time; others have an "aha" moment, feeling like they fell in love at that particular moment in time. I really love that analogy; it makes sense to me. By the way, I had an "aha" moment when I fell in love with the man who is now my husband! Speaking of which, Kevin has another analogy I really like--that baptism is a lot like a wedding ceremony. The actual observance is not the point in time in which you fall in love, because that was decided during the journey leading up to the ceremony. Instead, the observance is simply your statement to the rest of the world that you are committed to this person forever! Such a beautiful picture. And Christ does, after all, call us His Bride.
So the day after tomorrow, I'll be 28! I thank God for my relationship with Him. I have grown and changed--and questioned and feared--and loved and learned so much over these years, and the process will continue until the day I die. Then from that day on throughout eternity, I won't have to struggle with questions or fear or pain anymore; I will be in the immediate presence of God, and it will be beyond what I can imagine.
Sidenote: (I have to add this story for the amusement of my parents and siblings, because they would surely bring it up!) It took me several months to work up the nerve to get baptized, because I was afraid of the water--mainly that it would be over my head. Once I got past that, I walked the aisle in front of my church to make my decision public. Remember now that I was only five years old, so my pastor decided to pick me up when he presented me to the church. When he did this, my dad and older sister looked at each other and expressed a joint concern merely with their eyes: "Oh no," their eyes said. For you see, I was . . . well, stocky. So sure enough, after a couple of minutes, Bro. Sonny's arm that supported me started to tremble, and he finally said, "I'm going to have to put this girl down." Chuckles. At least he was able to pick me up when he baptized me!