This post is entitled, “Accidental Altar Call”.
I’ve been a Jesus-follower for about 20 years. I’ve sat through the sermons, the worship sets, “bad” and “good”, left churches, joined churches, judged churches, and blessed churches. From Catholicism to Pentecostal, I really think I can honestly say I’ve seen it all. But that’s not what this little piece of my thoughts is about; it’s about how I responded to an altar call after being a Christian my whole life.
// I think sometimes that it’s because I’ve been in church my whole life that I have so many issues to work through in efforts to live a full and thriving life. This blog has recounted a few generalized experiences of what I’ve been struggling with the past season, all of which [and more that are not included here for all the world to see], are based upon the lies that I believe about God; lies that He is not present in my life, that He can stop loving me, that He is distant and unattached and unfeeling towards me, etc. Slowly, I’ve been identifying these lies, intentionally disagreeing with them, and experiencing the truth about my Father as He and Holy Spirit reveal it to me. It’s been beautiful and difficult. Mindsets and habits can be hard to change. //
Anyway. There I am, sitting in church on a Friday night, and hearing a sermon about believing God’s unconditional love for me. Hearing that perfectionists and performers (ahem–GUILTY.) can find freedom in accepting the truth of God’s love for them. I’ve heard so many sermons like this . . . but that night the timing was right. My spirit was crying out for freedom from the expectations I put on myself in order to please God so that He will love me. The truth is, there’s nothing I can do or not do to make Him love me more or less.
So a leader stands up at the end of the message to transition into ministry time and in the course of his spiel, makes the statement: “If you need grace to cover your life, be bold, and stand up.” And I stood. Because I desperately wanted that. I wanted to believe and receive God’s grace to cover my perfectionism and performance and set me free from their bondage. And my eyes were closed, hands outstretched to receive whatever tangible grace I could get . . . and the man keeps talking and making other statements and I start to pay attention and hear, “If you’re tired of living for another and want to live for the King of Kings, stand up . . .” and it hits me, I think this is turning into an altar call. Ohhhhh.
Let’s be real, people. I am saved. Jesus lives in my heart and has for as long as I can remember. Yeah, I’ve missed the mark sometimes, but I didn’t need those mistakes to provide an awareness of my need for Him. I’ve never ‘needed’ an altar call to ‘come back home to Jesus’.
So I thought for a total of 2 seconds that this was kind of embarrassing, that a room full of about 500 were about to watch a born-again Christian get born-again, again. But my heart helped me get over that real quick, as I realized that there had to be something in it for me. Desperate tears fell from my eyes as I left my seat and walked forward.
// I’ve always understood salvation to be a receiving of grace because your sin separates you from God and you can find freedom in believing that Jesus’ blood was the atonement for those sins. He died so you don’t have to. His grace allows you to be forgiven. Like I said, I’ve heard countless messages on salvation, watched thousands of people choose Jesus and clapped for them and ‘welcomed them to the family of God.’ Where did I miss that Grace covers me, too? Where did I decide that I could get enough Grace for myself by working towards a sinless life, striving for holiness, renouncing worldly ways, setting myself apart? //
Honestly, I’ve been trying to earn what has been mine all along. My whole life.
And all of this is being realized by me as I walk to the altar and I am just desperate to quit the striving.
So I’m down front, feeling funny because I know that even without this experience, I would be in heaven with Jesus if I died tonight, but see that I need to receive more than what I’ve allowed myself to. A pastor approaches me immediately. The small group of us, to the applause of the rest of the congregation, are led through the sinner’s prayer. And I say it, meaning it, but feeling like there’s a whole other level I’m about to reach. The pastor grips my arms and begins to pray for me softly, asks me my name, prays as the Holy Spirit leads her. Thank GOD, He told her somehow that this salvation was different than others, and her prayers began to reflect that knowledge.
And I S.O.B.B.E.D.
Snot pouring, choking to breathe, mascara cascading, staining, I am practically bent over convulsing with the release of all the expectations I have placed upon myself forever.
All I could think was, You’re better than I ever thought You were.
I would write here all the beautiful things that that pastor prayed over me, but it doesn’t seem important. What’s necessary here is to make this mark in my record-keeping place as a significant moment in my life where I chose to let myself off the hook of trying to be perfect so that Papa God would love me.
Nothing I can do can make Him love me more. I believe that for the first time. And it feels incredible.