[The following is a revised copy of the original post.]
They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.”
Have you ever held a question for which the answer never came? Have you found yourself waxing and waning between certainty and doubt? If so, you’re not alone.
Like the blind man in the Scripture, we find there are things we’ve never been able to see or understand. We’ve learned to hobble along in life, doing our best with our limited scope. But then, one day, Jesus finds us, and we’re never the same.
There’s nothing like a tender, intimate, and deeply personal moment of clarity with Jesus.
Sometimes clarity comes in stages for our questions just like with the blind man’s healing. Like puzzle pieces coming together one at a time, the greater picture is left undone until just the right moment. This has been my case until recently. For much of my life I believed I was a Christian. But I’m not sure I really was. It’s been hard to say. Let me explain.
One evening when I was four years old, my dad approached me and asked what I knew about Jesus. He asked questions like, “Do you know that Jesus is God’s Son?” “Do you know that when you do wrong, you are in sin?” “Do you know that believing in Jesus is the only way to be forgiven?”
As a young child, I knew Jesus was God’s Son and that he died for my sins. And as was common practice decades ago, I repeated a prayer of salvation offered by my dad. A few years later, I was baptized in the church we attended. And at this point, many, including myself, considered me “saved’ or “born again.”
And what I went through is a fairly common practice. Even now as a Bible teacher of small children in my church at present, I’ve asked some of those same questions. These are questions we should be asking ourselves and others.
But for me, years went by. Evidence of being changed, transformed, and hungry for the things of God simply never resulted. Theology textbooks would probably have labeled me as a baby Christian at best or a nominal Christian at worst (This is a “Christian” in name only.) And the more I have reflected, I think can say, I was probably a nominal Christian.
Sometimes it’s difficult to find evidence of salvation in small children. And some scriptures remind us that it only takes “childlike faith” to be born again. (Matt 18:3, Mark 10:14, and Luke 18:17) (The essence of these verses indicates a willingness to believe, someone who is open and teachable, not yet “adult-like” with skepticism and arrogance.) But as I have studied over the years, having faith like a child is NOT the only thing to consider in the process of salvation.
As I matured as a teen, I seemed much more interested in conforming to the world’s ways. I wanted acceptance by my peers and to fit in. However, I knew things weren’t quite the way they should be in my life. I felt guilty for not reading my Bible enough, and I never felt like I could ever become that “good Jesus girl” I knew I should be.
One night during a summer church camp service, several other teens and I professed our sin. We decided that we needed to rededicate our lives to God. I came home, told my parents of my decision, and was then baptized in a different (denominational) church that we currently attended. Again, years went by. Evidence of being changed, transformed, and hungry for the things of God just weren’t the case. In all honesty, the years that followed proved to be quite the opposite.
After I was married, I had hoped to finally get my life on track with God. I figured my husband and I could go to church and learn how to be a good godly couple. We might even start learning how to prepare for parenthood. But after a while, we lost steam to make it to church every Sunday. We grew tired from work and school. And though we would go occasionally, we never could quite get in a permanent groove of seeking God.
After living life for a long time, not really achieving my personal goals of getting “right” with God, I began to slowly give up on Him. I knew He wanted me in relationship with Him. Still, too many things seemed to be working against me to accomplish that, and I just couldn’t make it happen.
Then some tough years set in. We began to hit rock bottom on many levels. We experienced deaths in the family, career changes, babies, and exhaustion. I began to question everything I thought I ever knew about God.
And I became angry. People I looked up to at the time were also struggling themselves. I felt lost in all the heartache and changes. Where was God? Why would he allow everything to fall apart?
And then, one day, I sat outside alone on my grandmother’s back porch. I had recently discovered I was pregnant with our third child. All of the years of struggle and confusion seemed to crest with this moment. At the time, I held vices that would cause harm to my unborn child. And I felt utterly powerless to do anything about them. I was so self-centered that a part of me didn’t even want to change. I was miserable.
So in my anger with God, myself, and others, I finally stopped and prayed to Him. I told God that I was upset about the devastation from the last several years. As things kept falling apart, I now began to understand that I had misunderstood a lot about God up to this point in my life. I think I believed that if we did good and kept the faith, God sort of owed us a happy life or something. And when it all began to crumble, I felt betrayed by God.
(Now I understand that this thought process was rooted in the false doctrine of the prosperity gospel. The basic premise is that God will bless us if we have enough faith or are good enough. But this is not true to God’s character. As stated in Romans 9:15-18, “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” God owes us nothing. His mercy and grace are gifts, and we can do nothing to earn them, nor can we manipulate God into giving them.)
While I prayed, I told him that I knew I could not change. But I knew that I needed to for the sake of our unborn child. I told him that I was not sure about Him anymore and that everything I ever thought I knew about Him seemed to be a lie. I asked Him to help me know whether or not He was the God of the Bible I had believed in all my life. And if He was, I told Him I needed His help to change. I knew I didn’t have the power or even the desire to do any of this on my own. I knew that I needed to lay down my vices and start putting my family’s good before my own. I knew that if I were to change it would be His doing and not mine.
The most important piece to the puzzle of understanding my salvation was established at this very moment.
And immediately, He enabled me to lay down my vices. It’s still astonishing to think on even to this day. Within a week, He set me free from two significant areas of weakness. That same week we had also been packing up to move seven hours away, and I was experiencing morning sickness each day. Stressed and sick, I brought nothing to the table. When I reflect on that extraordinary week, I see His strength functioning in my weakness, and I see His deliverance.
As I have come to think about them, the puzzle pieces of understanding my salvation began with the outer border. Those pieces represented my general knowledge of God and his Son, Jesus. They fit together nicely in that I attended church while growing up and learned a good deal about God and the things of the Bible. The need for a basic understanding of God, Jesus, and our sin is necessary for genuine salvation. These particular truths produce the basic framework for our faith.
But as I have learned about the nature of true regeneration, I just never could find the fruit of my salvation before that special day on the porch. I never could see the initiation of action by the Holy Spirit. The inner puzzle pieces, which would indicate the fruit of a changed life, just never came together for me before that day.
But that afternoon on the porch was like the missing piece that helped the whole picture come together. The Lord met me in my depravity. And He responded to my plea for His grace. I believe I was instantly saved from my sin and justified with Him. With great certainty, I know that day was indelibly marked with the initiation of my salvation by the Holy Spirit. The days and weeks that followed only served to bring about more and more confirmation of His salvation.
After we moved, I found my heart becoming more and more desperate for the things of God. We were still very much in a place of rock bottom, having to start over with my husband’s new job. But I began to pick up my Bible more often. And I prayed. I found myself desperate to come under God’s blessings because I felt like I had been living under a curse. I began to look up every mention of blessing in my Bible concordance. There I learned that I had not been living in obedience to God and that blessings are an outflow of obedience. So I began to repent. This time, I wanted to. The puzzle was being filled in with each evidence of heart transformation.
And still, even more pieces came together. My attention shifted to the things of God and the reading of his Word. After I would read the Scriptures, I often felt compelled to pray. As mentioned, I developed a new desire to repent and to start obeying God. And lastly, I held a new purpose in my life. Instead of doing what I wanted, I felt compelled to do what was best for my young family. To be a mom they could count on. One who was dependable and stable from day to day.
The back porch experience marked my actual deliverance and salvation from sin by Jesus. And every day since then has been marked with a willingness to allow Him Lordship in my life. (This had never been the case before. I had always believed Jesus died on the cross for my sins and that if anyone was to be considered my Savior, it would be Him. But He had not really functioned as my Lord until that day.) I can see that it wasn’t enough for me to just know a lot about Jesus like I did growing up. I needed actual saving from my actual sin, and I was willing to let him be my actual Lord.
What I had experienced and was living out each day with Jesus was what his Word described of one who is in Christ. James 2:14 states, “What good is it, my brothers and sisters if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds?” And again later in verse 17, James states, “In the same way, faith by itself if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” And I will argue that the actions indicating faith come only by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. It’s His salvation. It’s His empowerment. It’s His fruit evidenced in our lives. This is what I had not been able to see in my life prior to the day on the porch. I just didn’t see the evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work. This is why I do not believe my salvation occurred as a four-year-old or as a teen.
And the rest is history. I’ve just absolutely never been the same! He has completely changed me from the person I once was. When presented with the option of going back to my old ways after the baby’s birth, I just didn’t want to! My children’s stability and welfare finally held the proper priority in my life. God had turned my heart towards them.
And He turned my heart to Himself. He showed me how to delight in Him. He also taught me how to seek Him when I am troubled. He has also become my favorite pastime. It’s challenging to keep what I’ve experienced or learned about God to myself. There are days when I feel like I will explode if I can’t talk about Him with someone. My eyes are no longer dull like the blind man in Mark 8. They see the brilliance of Christ in technicolor! I am awakened to God and His kingdom, and folks, it is incredible! It is sheer exhilaration to see the works of His hands. There is absolutely nothing and no one like God the Father, Jesus his Son, or the Holy Spirit!!
My moment of tender and personal clarity began on my grandmother’s back porch that afternoon. While I do not believe salvation comes in stages, my ability to recognize what I went through seems to mirror the blind man’s experience in Mark 8. Parts of the puzzle had been laid out years in advance. Still, it was the Holy Spirit that initiated the salvation and brought along the confirmation and fruit so that I could, at last, see and understand my salvation with clarity and certainty.
Jesus is not just somebody I know about. I have come to know Him, personally. He is not just the one who saved me from my sin; he is now my Lord. I am still a sinner, as we all are. But His spirit living in me is the difference. If I stumble, He is there to help me back up and out of my sin. He enables my heart to not want to continue in sin. He is the one who helps me to conquer it. Oh, what a Savior!!
For many years my spiritual eyes were blind in thinking I could be righteous on my own apart from Him. I was also clouded to presume that God owed me anything in this life. But oh, how I love Jesus! In a personal moment, I’ll never forget, He came to me, and He cleansed my soul and gave me new sight!
And I’ve never been the same.