Sounds like an odd confession coming from this disciple, pastor, missionary guy, but stay with me….
The lady is an amazing woman who has affected my life in profound ways. I have watched her and learned from her. She has molded me and shaped me in many ways. I listened to her as she told stories, as she conversed with others, as she spoke in gentle whispers and in those rare occasions when deep anger rose to the surface. I followed her at times through great crowds of people…and sat near her around tables, on beaches and in cars. Her songs lulled me sleep…her voice called me to life in the mornings. However, the curious thing is that I never ‘met’ this woman—Mom was just always there.
Having grown up in the Church and in a Christian home, Jesus was just always there. From the Bible stories that my parents read to me at night…to the prayers around the table at meal-times…to the Bibles that seemed to form a part of my parents’ accoutrements—Jesus was just always there, simply part of the very fabric of life.
You should know, however, that the relationship has been in constant flux…both with Jesus and with my Mom. I have grown to know and love my Mom more deeply through the years. In my earliest years (especially those that I have no recollection of!), Mom was there caring for me, meeting all my needs…and I did take her for granted. But, as I grew older, as I matured and began to see the reality of life, I saw that Mom worked very hard cleaning, washing, cooking, taxiing, lobbying…all on my behalf. Now that I am a parent—Wow!—my estimation of my mother has grown even more. I now know not only the joys of parenthood but also the profound pains of parenting…and that gives me even more insight and appreciation for my Mom.
In the very same way, my knowledge of, my appreciation for, my love for Jesus has grown as I have come to know Him in a deeper and deeper way. While there is no time that I never knew Him, I clearly remember when our relationship took decided leaps—in 1972 when I began to understand what His act on the cross meant for me…and I followed in baptism at Central Baptist Church in Georgetown, Guyana; in 1976 when I began to see the scope of God’s immeasurability while sitting on a hill overlooking Mosquito Bay in Grenada, West Indies; in 1983 when the Fatherhood of God stepped in to fill the void left by the death of my father when we lived in Decatur, Georgia; in 1985 when I determined that I, too, wanted to be a real disciple of His as college student at Shorter College in Rome, Georgia; in 1989 when I experienced the very real presence of the Spirit of Jesus in my life in the midst, believe it or not, of a very dry, boring “evangelistic” service in Louisville, Kentucky; in 1992 when I sensed a call to join Jesus in ministering in the Church after joining Mt. Pleasant UMC while teaching in Cleveland, Georgia; in 2004 when my wife and I both heard the “call” to step out in faith to live and serve in missions after having served with the amazing people of Coosa UMC in Blairsville, Georgia. As with any living relationship, mine with Jesus has grown closer and deeper through the years.
Someone not raised in the Church or in a Christian family may arrive at any or all of these points in one fell swoop…and have that “conversion experience.” I imagine and have heard from many that it is an amazing, completely life-changing, joyfully shocking experience. Those, perhaps, cannot imagine coming to Jesus any other way…in the same way I cannot imagine what it would be like not to have always known Him. The Good News is that Jesus doesn’t really care how or when we come to know Him—it only matters that we know Him, whether we meet Him as a Stranger on the way…or whether we grow up and into a life-long relationship with Him. All I can say is…thank you, Mom and Dad, for making sure that I always knew Him, for making Him a bright thread in the fabric of our lives.