“Is that right?” my uncle said, diverting all eyes to my eleven-year-old face. Mama had made the announcement in my grandmother’s sickroom with a tinge of pride. That wasn’t the feeling she had given me on Mother’s Day when I timidly confessed what I had done at church that morning. After the preacher sat in our living room a few days later and told her “I believe Judy is old enough,” she took him at his word.
The uncle, lanky like Abraham Lincoln, stood in my mother’s family as the pillar of religious knowledge and upright character. Looking down at me, he commenced his inquisition. “So you’re going to be baptized. What did you do?
With the crowded room as still as a morgue, I muttered, “Accepted Jesus as my Savior.”
“Uh-huh. But before that you had to do something. What was it?”
What did he want to hear? These relatives stiffly and silently waiting for me to say it must know. Surely, all of them passed this religion test a long time ago. And they would stop looking at me and resume their adult talk as soon as I gave the confirmed answer. But I didn’t know it. Not only that, I couldn’t think of any answer.
“Your preacher didn’t tell you what it is?”
Was he saying something is wrong with my preacher? No one where I lived ever said anything against him. As with all male authority figures, I was scared of him but not as much as I was of my father. Unlike my alcoholic father’s, his voice was kind and gentle and loving and patient. Not wanting to miss a word of his sermon, I sat by myself on the first front pew every Sunday.
My uncle persisted. “Your preacher didn’t tell you what you must do first?”
How I wanted to get away! But the relatives–older and smarter than I–held me in a vice of expectation. This wasn’t like at school where I would feverishly wave my hand, wanting the teacher to call on me for the answer to a question.
With a shake of his head in disbelief and a cluck of his tongue, my uncle stated his ordained answer. “You must first ask God to forgive you of your sins.” Then all the eyes turned toward my grandmother in her bed. And the room again murmured with adult chatter.
Left alone, my heart gnawed on my Mother’s Day decision to come to Jesus. For weeks I had resisted the tug at my heartstrings. Jesus was drawing me to enter His fold, but the decision was mine with no conditions. I never felt a compunction to ask forgiveness first. That would mean I had to do something. There was nothing to do that would make me good enough for Jesus. He had already done the necessary work of salvation–all of it.
On that May 9 in my church, I accepted Jesus’ open invitation for His unconditional love. All the eyes in attendance saw me surrender my life–past, present, and future–to Jesus. You see, I was good enough for God to come to Him just as I am.