Let me tell you of a boy named Adrian,
What exactly does it mean to be “saved”? As a Christian, a child of Christ, we use it to name an experience we had with God. When we asked Him into our hearts and he “saved” us from our sins and “saved” us from spending an eternity in Hell. To non-Christians being saved means something totally different, although much the same. It might mean to be “saved” from humiliation, or “saved” from death.
I think as Christians we sometimes forget what it was like to be saved and what salvation truly is. I became a Christian, or was “saved” at the age of 9. I grew up in a Christian home, was forced to go to church every time the doors were open (a practice I will continue with my own children one day) and was told Jesus loved me every night before I went to bed. To me, becoming a Christian was easy. I asked Jesus into my heart, prayed the prayer with my parents sitting on their bed, and went before the church that Sunday to be baptized. I didn't have any inner demons causing me to doubt my decision or family members criticizing me for it. It was an encouraged, lifted up, and celebrated decision. However, over the course of my teenage and early adult life I began to doubt what it meant to be saved. I couldn't remember ever having that life changing, mind blowing transforming moment that I had always heard about people having, and I couldn't remember my life changing all that much. I do remember how excited I was and how I went to school the next day and told everyone I could find that I had made the most important decision in my life. I knew that in high school I had led a prayer group every morning of my senior year trying to lead my friends to Christ. I began to struggle with the phrase “I was saved at the age of 9”. One night, after dealing with some family illnesses and trials that I had never had to deal with before, it clicked. Even though I believe that at the age of 9 I became a Christian and that my sins were wiped clean and I had my name written in the Lambs Book of Life, I realized that I had never once allowed God to actually “save” me of anything in my life. What did I need to be saved of at the age of 9? I was an innocent child who had no problems or fears of my own. Those things came later in life, specifically during the years that I began struggling with my salvation experience. I realized that never once did I allow God to save me from the specific things I needed saved from, fear, anxiety, insecurity, jealousy, trust issues, and regret. Once I got down on my knees and ask God to save me, His forgiven, accepted child since the age of 9, from all of those things that I had been too selfish to give to Him, then I had that moment of freedom, of release from all those things.
I remember trying to explain this moment to people after that night. I was so afraid that they would think that I was just too ashamed to admit that I was never actually a Christian to begin with and had just accepted Christ. That wasn't it at all, in fact I have never felt more certain in my life that I had became a Christian at the age of 9 because I could see all the ways that God had had his hand on my life ever since. I just believe that I had never truly allowed Him to “save” me from anything until that night. The sense of peace that came over my life was overwhelming. No longer did I wake up with a sick stomach every morning wondering if something bad was going to happen that day, or if I was ever going to find a job, or if the next time the phone rang it was going to be bad news. These were fears that I lived with EVERY DAY! I had anxieties that women my age shouldn't have, unrealistic fears that didn't even make sense, but that were ALWAYS in the back of my mind. They were gone! Jesus had “saved” me from them in every sense of the word!
So what does this have to do with a boy named Adrian...
After I made this decision in my life I could sense a change in my heart. I still felt like God had a purpose for my life. I still felt that I was going to do great things and that I had a place in this world if I could just find what it was...but I had a greater conviction to discover it. I began reading the Bible everyday and loving it! I looked forward to my prayer time. I was excited about church again! Jesus truly had restored to me the joy of my salvation (Psalms 51:12)! Then we went to Dauphin Island, Alabama and I was tested.
When we arrived in Alabama we were all so tired, and I think for me it was more of a spiritual exhaustion than a physical one. I had been struggling so hard to find what I thought God's purpose was for me going on this trip. From the moment we arrived in D.I. (well actually 20 moments later) Satan showed that he wasn't going down without a fight. Landen got injured playing basketball and we thought his foot was broken. I had to focus on being the nurturing, compassionate, attentive wife to meet his needs. It was hard, because, well to be honest...Landen never really needs that from me. He loves to be doted on and adored but he isn't one to beg for attention, and he WILL NOT ask for it. So for once he actually needed me to be there and I struggled with it. The next day, I got a phone call that my aunt had passed away and that the services were going to held while I was till in Alabama. Monday, the next day, we arrived at VBS to find that the only kids there were the pastor's kids. That was hard! For the first time all week, I began to question: Why are we here anyway? Then the kids started to arrive!
I had the opportunity to lead the music session of VBS that week. I had always lead the music for VBS at my church back in KY and it was such an excitement to be doing it again! On day one we tried to learn the kids names, we played songs, and we basically tried to get a feel for what was going to take place the remainder of the week. We left that day not knowing what to expect, if anything, that next day. There was less than 10 kids there that day.
On day 2, Tuesday, God started to work, we doubled in size all the way to almost 30 kids! This is the day that I met Adrian Simpson. Adrian is one of those kids that you know is happy with his life! He always had a hug ready and a smile on his face! Most of the kids that week were that way. You could tell they were just happy to have someone pay attention to them and something to do! Music was a blast as we learned how much “God Cares” for us and began to really drive home the gospel of Jesus Christ to these kids in Mobile Alabama.
On Wednesday we were amazed to see even more kids at VBS! Now we were up to almost 40! God truly was at work in this neighborhood and in our lives as well! We learned about the ABC's of Salvation and told them that each of them has a chance to know Jesus as their Savior! In music, “Tumbleweed” was a hit!
Thursday was the day that absolutely rocked my world! At the beginning of VBS that day, Eric Clarkson, our student pastor, shared the gospel to all of the kids in a group setting. He told of a story of forgiveness and mercy in his own life between him and his dad when he was just a little boy. The way he was able to relate to these kids was amazing. At the end of morning worship service he asked for the kids to bow their heads and than began to lead those who were ready to make a decision in the Sinner's Prayer. Because of certain circumstances we didn't do an alter call but instead posed a challenge to the kids there that day. Eric challenged them to find one adult leader sometime that day and tell them that they had prayed that prayer and had decided to give their lives to Jesus.
Now, stop right there...
That's a HUGE step! Most of us church going folk struggled with stepping out of the pew and telling our own Pastor, someone we KNEW! There's no way that kids were going to be brave enough to go tell complete strangers that they had prayed some prayer and then give us contact information...right?
Adrian's class was the first class I had that day. As usual I was greeted with hugs and smiles and I knew in my heart that I needed to set aside a time during the 20 minutes I had with these kids to give them a chance to talk to one of us four girls who were leading the class. So after we learned how to be “Like Jesus” I instructed them to have fun dancing to “Saddle Ridge Ranch” and that us leaders would be sitting in various places throughout the sanctuary if any of them needed to talk. The kids had a great time talking and dancing and singing but no one was really making an effort to move towards any of us. Then I noticed Adrian, who had been sitting by himself most of the morning begin to move towards one of the other leaders. I watched as he got up, sat back down, stood up and moved closer, sat back down, and finally with a look of determination on his face...stood up and almost ran towards this leader...only to almost be pushed down by another kid...this time he just sat down and didn't get back up. By this time the next group was ready to come in and I was talking to someone else so I didn't get a chance to go up to him. I wondered if I would be given another chance.
During my break I went to Landen and Betsy's bible study class to see if I could be of any assistance to them. We serve an amazing God because guess who's class was in that bible study...Adrian's! I sat in the class for probably 5 minutes and then decided to leave. As I was walking out I felt a hand grab my arm and when I looked down Adrian was looking up at me. He asked if I was leaving and when I replied that I didn't have to if he didn't want me to he said these seven precious words “I just want to talk to you.” I took him outside and with excitement on his face he informed me that he had “prayed that prayer but couldn't get to anyone to talk to them because he kept getting pushed around and he just had to tell someone!” Excitement isn't even the word! I prayed with him and walked him down towards the sanctuary to get some contact information. When we got to the sanctuary Eric was there so I told him the good news and asked if he would pray with him again and answer any questions that he might have. Eric did just that and after he was through I sat down with him in the front row and got his name and address and began to just chat with him. I asked him about his parents and found out that he lived with his mom, and I also found out that he did attend church with mom sometimes. I asked him if he though she was going to be excited about his decision and he said he hoped so. Then I asked him if he was ready to go back to class. He just looked around and I could tell something was up so I asked him if he wanted to stay there and talk. He looked at me and with fear in his eyes said “If I ask you this you're going to say no, right?” I laughed and said “Well I don't know, you haven't asked me yet.” His next words took my breath away. He said “All I want to do is stay here and pray.” A brand new Christian, having no idea of the expectations the world was about to put on him, of the decisions he was going to have to make, all he wanted to do was bask in God's presence and spend time with Him in prayer! I said of course and walked away. As I was walking away I looked back and I will never forget what I saw. This little precious boy...9 years old (sound familiar)...had tears running down his face and had both hands lifted towards the cross on the stage praying to the God who had just changed his life forever! What a perfect picture of what Salvation truly is! It's not about feelings, it's not about having some life altering supernatural feeling that you are completely transformed! It's about accepting that you are a child of a King! You have communication rights to the Creator of everything! You are SAVED!
I left the church that day with joy in my heart! I knew why God had placed me in Dauphin Island and Mobile Alabama that week. I knew why I had dealt with the things in my life that God had allowed me to give to him permanently. I was content in my relationship with God in a way that I hadn't been in a very long time.
The next day another girl in our group had the privilege of presenting Adrian with is very first bible (which he had boldly asked for himself!). She can tell you of how he dropped everything and ran to find the bible and sat down immediately and opened it and began reading God's word! Later that day he brought it to me in music and asked me if I would hold it for him while he went to recreation. He instructed me to not let anyone touch it! I agreed and inside it I placed a note I had written to him. I told him how I would always be praying for him, and how God was going to do such amazing things in his life. I stuck in on the page that held my favorite verse Jeremiah 29:11.
I had actually forgotten all about the note until the end of the day. I was teaching my last group of the day the last song for the week and all of a sudden I was almost knocked down by Adrian who was squeezing the breath out of me! In his hands he had written a note back to me and glued a peace of bubble gum he had earned during bible study that day to it. It was a 10 second exchange but one I will remember for the rest of my life.
Adrian was a lot like me at 9 years old. The excitement of having made such a huge decision and wanting to tell everyone he knew about it! I pray for Adrian everyday, that God can protect him and given him someone in his life to guide him and show him his great potential. I don't know if I will ever see him again, but I do know that the lessons that he taught me about running to Christ and loving Him and praising Him are ones I will cherish forever.
Oh, and about the rest of the week...13 other kids were brave enough to find someone and accept Jesus as their Savior that week! God is good...all the time. ALL THE TIME...GOD IS GOOD!