Every Christian has at least one story they can tell - the story of Jesus and them. I have often said that very thing. It occurred to me that I had never told the story of Jesus and Jim. What follows is that story, told in fits and starts. My prayer is that the grace of God will shine through the story of Jesus and Jim.
Every great love story has at least one song. The first one for this love story is “Love Lifted Me”. While a great old hymn, you won’t find it in The United Methodist Hymnal. You have to wander a little farther afield, perhaps to the Baptist Hymnal where you find the refrain:
Love lifted me!
Love lifted me!
When nothing else could help,
Love lifted me.
While the words have an inescapable impact, it is the circumstances surrounding a particular singing of that song during my childhood that has made it one of my most memorable. The church was celebrating The Lord’s Supper as it is referred to in the tradition in which I was raised. I desperately wanted to participate. In keeping with the traditions of that particular denomination, my mother did not allow me to participate. As I recall, though the years have dimmed the memory, this resulted in some childish tears.
It would be years later when reading about the doctrine of prevenient grace that I would flash back to that time. I have an intellectual understanding of what my heart had reacted to so many years before, for as a child, I certainly had no theological understanding of who or what Communion was about. I was ignorant of the biblical underpinnings of the doctrine that denied me participation. I only knew that this was something special, a wondrous delight that called to me, and in which I wanted to participate.
The next event was, once again in keeping with the tradition in which I was raised, the altar call. The time when, at whatever age, one stepped forward in front of the church to declare that Jesus was “My Lord and My God.” I often described this moment as being like a metal filing trying to resist the pull of a powerful magnet. It simply could not be done. Years later, I would read Calvin’s discussion of God’s overpowering love. A love that can not be resisted. Now that bright, stellar moment in my childhood has a description.
In that moment, I did not reach theological clarity. I did not suddenly become familiar with every doctrine or every passage of scripture. Nor did this event bring me to Christ in any manner that I can reduce to an intellectual formulation. Decades later, I can still not reduce that moment of faith or all those after to a simple formula that satisfies the world but denies the wonder and grace. With the same kind of absolute certainty by which I know that my wife of 24 years is still the prettiest girl in the room, I know that I have met the Jesus who loves me.