As a child, I was quiet, obedient, respectful – all that a young girl raised in a Chinese home should be. I don’t think I ever gave my parents very much trouble at all (you can check with them, of course). I remember being slapped on the hand only once. That was it, because a piercing look from my mom was enough to get me in line.
I share this not to brag. In fact, I share this to demonstrate just how hypocritical I was even at a young age. You see, my obedience wasn’t true obedience – an obedience out of love and respect for my parents and for God who placed them as my authority. Rather, I only obeyed to avoid punishment and to gain their approval.
I didn’t realize that my outward actions did not match my inward motivations.
Thankfully, God began to change that, starting by putting me in Awana. Awana is kind of like a Christian girl/boy scouts. We got a vest with badges that we can put on. We were rewarded for memorizing Bible verses and winning games. I got to go with friends each week, so I really liked it. Plus, I got real good at memorizing the verses (again, wrong motivation…). =P
Anyway, one night, a teacher spoke to us about Jesus and how He loved us so much that He came to earth to die on the cross so that we may go to heaven someday. He explained how nothing we can do in and of ourselves would get us to heaven, because we were all sinners; but, if we believed in Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf, we would be saved from punishment.
I think I was 8 years old at the time (see above picture…don’t you like my dress?). I didn’t have a very deep theological comprehension of salvation, but God allowed me to understand the basics: my outward obedience wasn’t good enough; I was going to hell; I needed Jesus to save me from hell.
That night, I raised my little hand when the time came for all of us to bow our heads and pray to God. One of the counselors took me into the church kitchen and sat me down by the stainless steel table. I told her that I wanted Jesus to be my Savior, and she patiently asked me a few questions. I don’t remember what they were, but I’m sure they were to check if I knew what I was asking for. Then, she helped me pray to God, asking Him to save me.
After Awana was over, my dad came to pick me up. I distinctly recall my thoughts as I was holding my dad’s hand and walking with him to the car. I thought, “I need to obey dad differently now – not to avoid punishment, but to please Jesus, who saved me.”
It was God’s grace that He revealed to me that night the basics of my own depravity and His redemptive plan. As I got older, He gradually built upon my simple understanding of these doctrines. He has and continues to employ various people and situations in my life to teach me about Himself and His will for me.
It amazes me how rich and deep the gospel can be, but I praise God that the gospel can also be so simple that a little child was able to grasp it! That little child is now forever grateful.
“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.” – 1 Jn.4:9
“And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” – 1 Jn.5:11-12
“Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.” – 1 Jn.4:15