Bearing in mind that the idea of these reflections is to celebrate and recall my personal encounters with God, I found myself today wondering when I first encountered God’s love. Within my Christian tradition my Sunday school held what was commonly known as “Decision Sunday” twice a year. On Decision Sunday there was always a more sombre tone to the gathering, more reflective songs, and often emotional appeals to invite Jesus into their hearts, (especially to those who had just reached the magic age of 7). There were about six of us who had reached seven together and the next decision Sunday would be our day, although we never quite knew when it was to be held until they we got there.
On this particular Sunday I was unusually absent from Sunday school. I say unusual because I was the little girl who NEVER missed a week. Even on holiday I would demand to be taken to Sunday school because I had to be there. Bearing in mind my father wasn’t a practicing Christian, my mother would always manage to find the local Salvation Army and take me there so I could get my mark in my little attendance book. I really was that annoying and keen.
The following week when I returned, my friends on mass informed me they had given their heart to Jesus the previous Sunday week, and they were to be welcomed as junior church members. Believe me what I felt next was not an encounter with God – but one of exclusion, disappointment and frustration. Following Sunday school that day I approached the Sunday school superintendant and asked if I could give my heart to Jesus and surprisingly her reply was “You will have to wait now till the next Decision Sunday!” I had felt cheated out of an experience I thought I was ready for, and when my entire peer group became junior church members I was denied the privilege of joining them. I think it’s fair to say I was not impressed, and when the next decision Sunday came I sat there and stared at the superintendant with deviance thinking now you can wait sunshine!
I was eight years old when I knelt at the Mercy Seat and said God can have all there is of me. (As I know that’s what William Booth had said when he surrendered his life to Christ). My godmother knelt by my side and invited me to give my heart to Jesus and I gladly did without any hesitation.
The next day something had changed for me and I knew it. After a simple act of kneeling and inviting Jesus into my life I knew things would never be the same again. I may have only been eight but I really began to encounter God in a new way. It wasn’t spectacular but it was real, I knew I was loved, knew I was not alone, knew I was special. Those assurances have never really gone away, and Jesus still lives in my heart, and assures me often of his presence.
One Sunday many years later, in Central Scotland on a decision Sunday my four year old daughter knelt at the mercy seat to give her heart to Jesus. Some said she was far too young, some said she was simply following what the big kids were doing, others said we should just ignore it, but I knew that in her young heart her desire was sincere and I prayed with her that Jesus would come into her heart too. She didn’t hold back and express the stubbornness of her mother, she just followed her heart and in innocence and love responded to the call to follow.
Whether you are 4, 8, 50 we are never too young or old to encounter God afresh!
Thank You Father that you are not a God who is a far off, but one who shares all of life with us.
Jesus – during this Lenten season, remind me of promises made years ago, and the amazing fact that you really are the same, yesterday, today and forever.
Lord hear us – Lord graciously hear us!