Not too long after I “got saved” my family stopped going to church. I don’t think my parents intentionally quit attending. Our pastor had retired and the man who took his place was… how can I say this? – not someone my parents trusted. Yeah, I’ll just leave it at that. Additionally, my parents were remodeling our old late 1800s mill village house and preparing it for the real estate market.
The next summer we sold we sold the house and temporarily moved in with my grandparents. My grandmother was a typical Southern lady. She cooked the best corn bread and pinto beans and went to church every Sunday. I sometimes tagged along. My grandfather always stayed at home. After his death a few years later, I learned that church terrified him. Thankfully, just before the leukemia overtook his immune system, he became a believer.
As I grew up and became a teenager I desired to get back in church. I often hitched a ride with a friend to her church’s Wednesday night service. Then, when I was 17, my parents finally decided to “get back in church.” We joined a small Baptist Church that was popular at my small rural school. The next month I joined the youth group on a winter retreat to Gatlinburg, Tennessee. It was there I learned that I had not been living like a Christian.
The last night of the retreat, the evangelist gave us a good talkin’ to. His focus was on sexual purity and being equally yoked. This felt like a stab in my heart. The guy I was currently dating was not a Christian. Actually, of all the guys I had previously dated, only one seemed to be a Christian. That youth evangelist made me feel like dirt. I still had my virginity and all. But it was clear I had been doing the dating thing all wrong. I had not set up any boundaries. I wasn’t sure if I would have premarital sex or not. And I surely didn’t screen potential dates with a Jesus litmus test.
But it was there at that retreat, at that alter call, that I rededicated my life.